devotion 9-27-14

Good Morning!

Mark 15:40-47

40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

42When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

The disciples had gone into hiding, but the women were there, watching from a distance, keeping the death watch for one they loved. It was what women did. These women had followed Jesus, and provided for him as he traveled about Galilee, and had come with him to Jerusalem.

It was a Friday when they crucified Jesus – at sundown, the Sabbath would begin. The body needed to be taken down from the cross before the Sabbath began – otherwise, he would remain there for another entire day, for no one would touch a body on the Sabbath. It often took days for a person to die on the cross, if he started out strong and labored to continue breathing; but Jesus had died in 6 hours. He had been weakened by the flogging and the resulting blood loss. He had died at 3 PM the same day. The Romans, of course, did not mind a body hanging on a cross – they often left them there as a warning to the populace. But, at the time, Pilate was trying to mollify the Jewish religious leaders, and they would be insulted by a body hanging on a cross on the Sabbath.

Not all of the members of the Council, the Sanhedrin, agreed with the high priest’s actions. One, a wealthy man named Joseph, from Arimathea, went to Pilate and requested that he be allowed to take the body of the man Jesus down from the cross. Joseph would have been wealthy and influential to have gained an immediate audience with Pilate – and Mark says Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead. He sent for the Centurion to confirm this, but when it was confirmed, he gave Joseph permission to bury Jesus. Joseph brought linen cloth to wrap the body, and he took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and placed him in a nearby tomb hewn from the rock. This was likely a tomb that belonged to Joseph’s family – other gospels say that it had never been used. It had to be nearby, as sunset, and the beginning of the Sabbath, was rapidly approaching. And he rolled a great stone over the entry. This would have been a large carved disc of stone, which rolled in a carved channel.

And the women watched. Do you notice – Mark has once again sandwiched story within story. The women watched the crucifixion, Joseph went to Pilate, requested the body, and buried Jesus in the tomb, and the women watched the burial. They are faithful.

Are we faithful, as the women were? Do we stay with Jesus when times get hard and it seems there is no hope? All of Jesus’ followers had come to a place they had never really believed would come. Jesus had always been there, calming the storms; what, now, were they to do without him? Where was his love? Where was his hope? Most of them ran away, gave up, lost hope. But not the women. Even in their grief they remained faithful; they would love him even in death.

the shrine over the traditional site of the tomb, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
the "Garden Tomb" – an actual tomb carved from stone on the hillside near the "Place of the Skull"

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