I listened to the groans when they whipped him. I heard the thwack of the hammer and the nail. Each, a prominent reminder of the suffering Jesus endured. I watched and was shocked by my lack of emotion. If I am honest, repetition has a way of numbing you. But God, well, he has such a way of surprising you.
It ends with “it is finished.” That’s how this story always goes. But last night, I watched with fresh eyes as Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus. Tears trickled down my cheek. I had never imagined.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a crucifixion scene. But this, this tender behind the scenes moment had me gasping for air. Imagine… not driving in the nails, but removing them. Pulling the nail back out of the lifeless wrist. Imagine the blood stained cross and having to pry your Jesus off to give him a proper burial.
Mark 15:46 tells us this… Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus were looking on to see where He was laid.
But what about the details… Imagine the specifics of this. Do you pound the nails from behind to get them out? Have the holes stretched from the weight of his body? What do you do with the bloody nails? When you are preventing Jesus from falling to the ground, does his crown of thorns dig into you? Imagine…
And his mom… Can you imagine watching this scene unfold with your son? Do you watch the burial process and consider all things you had pondered up during his lifetime. Do you smell the myrrh and aloe and remember the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh when he was a toddler? How do you even begin to hold yourself together?
Joseph of Arimathea feared the Jewish leaders, and because of his status was a secret disciple of Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night for the same reasons. In his death, Jesus hung with common thieves. His burial, tended to by rich men who came out of hiding to give him the burial of highest honor, displaying tenderness and love.
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:38-42
Although it is unlikely that there were more than three hours between Jesus’ death and sunset, because of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ preparations for Jesus’ burial, there was ample time to wash the body, apply the embalming materials, wrap the body in linen, and place it in the tomb before the Sabbath began. They arrive with enough expensive spices to perform 100 or more common Jewish burials. The more respected the person was the more embalming spices were used. A burial fit for a king.
When we hear of Jesus, we tend to think of radiant glory. But the details of this scene…. The brutal process of removing from the cross… The tender process of washing his broken bloody body… The scripture fulfilling process of embalming him to ensure his body didn’t decay… Imagine placing him in the cave. The tenderness of laying him down and covering his face. And rolling the stone and walking away. Walking through scripture and details of his burial show a tenderness in death expressed for him that was so contrary to the death he endured.
I want to love Jesus like that. I want to come out of hiding from fear. I want to undo pain and suffering, to wash away blood stains and prepare people to enter into their glory. I want to do the messy work, the hard work, the tender work.
Today is Good Friday. We will rightly focus on the horrendous death Jesus endured. But, my challenge for myself and for you is to also consider the burial. To imagine grief and honor blended in such a perfect way.