Friday, 14 April 2017

The Shadow of Burial

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:57- 61
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

When I learned to read, I found a new world in books and I loved it. They type of book didn’t matter. I loved Jane Austin, L.M. Montgomery and Jane Eyre as much as I loved Harlequin Romances and the tales of the Sweet Valley High Twins. But there were limits. I was not one for suspense. I had to know how the book ended. Every book that I read in those day, I flipped to the back of the book and read the last chapter first. There was no worry I’d be disappointed by a book that ended badly or in a disappointing way. I knew where the book was heading from the very beginning and that was just how I liked it. 
So you know that my younger self appreciates Holy Week because we already know how the story ends. We know, with each candle that is extinguished that even with Jesus crucified and the tomb sealed up tight that come Sunday morning the stone is rolled away and Jesus is risen. We know on already the good news that is waiting for us in three short days. Perhaps it’s like the chorus of one REM’s song “It’s the end of the world as we know it – and I feel fine.” We have the luxury of knowing how the story is going to end. We can feel fine even though the story of Good Friday is far from good. 
It was not fine for the disciples. The disciples, Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, Joseph of Arimathea don’t know what lies ahead. They heard Jesus promise to rise in three days. But they are filled with the sorrow and grief because that his words faded from their memories. They don’t know that not only is it going to be fine, it is going to be glorious. They know the hell they’ve lived and are living through. They know it went from jubilation to terror in a few short days. The distance between hosanna and crucify is alarmingly short.  
Through the whole story, looking on from the distance were the woman who followed Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, it is Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. They watch as Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 470); as Jesus breaths his last; and as the curtain of the temple is torn in two and the earth shakes and rocks split. It is only after all this that the harsh reality of death hits them. Jesus is no longer there to teach or heal or encourage. He is no longer the shinning hope that one day they will defeat the Roman empire that has oppressed them for so long. 
I’m guessing that for the disciples who’d been with Jesus since the invitation to fish for people, that it was like someone turned out all the lights; that hope was lost. Maybe they asked questions like, “How could this happen? How did hosanna become crucify?” Maybe Peter is still angry at himself for denying Jesus three times. While the questions and sorrow lingers, there is no time to sit and wait. 
With death comes things that must be attended to. The Sabbath is at hand and Jesus’ burial needs to happen quickly. Joseph of Arimathea takes charge. He goes to Pilate and gets permission to bury Jesus. He takes a clean linen cloth and wraps the body and lays it in the new tomb.  He rolls a great stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and leaves. Jesus is buried. Mary Magdalen and the other Mary watch it all. Disbelief. Sorrow. Pain. There is nothing more that can be done. They go home to wait for the Sabbath to be over. 

Now we must do the same. Watch, wait, pray until the sun rises on the third day. Amen.