And when it had already become late, since it was Preparation Day, which is the day before the Sabbath, there came Joseph, the one from Arimathea. He was a reputable Councillor; and he was also waiting for the Kingdom of God. He was daring enough to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he was already dead (or: was surprised that he should be already dead). And he summoned the centurion and asked if he was long dead. And when he had confirmation from the centurion, he gifted the corpse to Joseph. And he bought a linen cloth and took him down and wrapped him in the linen cloth and placed him in a tomb which was hewn out of rock. And he rolled a stone onto the door of the tomb. (Mark 15:42-47)
As a Christian and knowing the end of the story, I often fail to grasp the gravity of this moment. With so much to distract us in our busy lives and with Easter around the corner, it’s easy for us to find ourselves eager to turn our attention to what’s next. However, arguably no moment in our Christian story deserves our attention more than this one. Now, our hero, who had power over disease, demons, and even death, lies powerless in his tomb. Is it true? The promise of Kingdom of God gone with our supposed savior succumbed to the great equalizer like all others before him?
During my time as an EMT, I have had the unique privilege of accompanying individuals as they journey toward their tombs. Upon reflection, I find several similarities between myself and Joseph of Arimathea in my role in this last service of healthcare. Powerless to stave off death, like Joseph powerless to prevent Christ’s murder, we accept our roles and do what we can as humble servants to provide some amount of dignity and comfort. I often find myself anxious to step into the lives of my patients and their families, especially during moments of such distress. I imagine it certainly was no easier for Joseph to approach Pilate and ask for the lifeless body of our would-be savior. Undoubtedly already devastated and confused by the question we visited earlier, Joseph responded to the call to provide this act of mercy.
In today’s world where Pilate’s infamous question ‘what is truth’ remains preeminent in society and, sadly, within the church itself, we find ourselves living in a moment much like this one. Perhaps we have much to learn from Joseph, who in spite of this confusion, popular opinion and the powers that be, found the faith to act with justice and provide our condemned rabbi a respectable resting place.
How can we find the strength to act with mercy despite the tumult and confusion of modern life?
What is Truth and how can we remain open to it?
How do we remain hopeful and pick up the pieces in our times of despair?
Lord, Your suffering is over. You have triumphed, though in the eyes of men, you may seem to have failed. Sin, death and hell have been conquered. The world is Yours, I am Yours. Be the King of my heart. I surrender myself to your Holy Will. May Your kingdom come.