Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Mark 15:43:46 ~ “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom fo God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he earned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Joseph’s hands were red. The linens on his table were stained with blood. Jesus’s body laid on the table, half wrapped and half exposed.
Every time Joseph wrapped a new piece of linen around Jesus’s body, he felt how cold Jesus was. He forgot how heavy a body felt when all the life was gone. He could barely even recognize his Messiah.
His hands were shaking. He was halfway finished, but he didn’t feel like he could keep going. The farther he wrapped Jesus’s body, the more he was reminded of each brutal injury.
The scourge tracks in his back. Deep and jagged, tearing his flesh with something like barbed wire.
The holes in his hands, straight through the skin.
The hole in his side, still wet from water pouring out. That hole went straight up to Jesus’s heart. It was gaping and wide and Jospeh didn’t want to look at it.
The splinters digging into his back from the heavy cross.
But while every injury and graphic detail was hard to stomach, it was Jesus’s face that Joseph couldn’t bear to see.
He kept wrapping Jesus with trembling hands. Each layer of white linens turned darker and darker with blood.
Hours passed as he bent over Jesus’s body, gingerly lifting and rolling and wrapping.
And then all of a sudden there was his face.
Joseph looked down at Jesus, unable to tear his eyes away.
The thorns had ripped into his forehead and blood was dripping down his face and over his eyes. There were black and purple bruises along his jawline where the soldiers had beat him over the head. Smudges of dirt and spit remained along his cheeks where the Sanhedrin had taken turns spitting on his face. And beneath his hair were the marks of a brutal beating.
Joseph hid his face with his bloody hands and started sobbing.
“I was wrong!” he screamed up to God. “Who is this dead man if he is not your son? Who is this teacher if he is not the Messiah?”
Jospeh pounded his fist on the table.
“Where is the kingdom of God? How can your kingdom come if its steward is dead?”
He glared up at the rafters of his home in rage. God’s only answer was silence.
“I loved this man!” he screamed. “Why did you let him die?”
There was a stillness in Joseph’s house. And for a moment he thought maybe God himself died the night before, too.
All his hopes he placed in Jesus. Jesus was supposed to bring the kingdom of God. Jesus was supposed to defeat the Romans! And it was the Romans who killed him?
How had he been such a fool to believe a man destined to die would save Israel?
And now it was over. Jesus was dead.
This is how the story ends.
Mark 16:6 ~ “‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!‘”
A week of tears. Joseph knew moving on from Jesus’s crucifixion was the only way to stop feeling this pain, but something in is heart was still breaking from those moments when he wrapped Jesus’s body.
Life was the same, but Joseph was not. He hadn’t been the same since the day he started following Jesus. And now ~ it felt as though the day Jesus breathed his last on the cross was the day Joseph himself died, too.
His eyes were red from crying each morning, begging God to give him the answers. But the answers never came.
He thought getting outside might refresh his soul. So a week after Jesus’s death, Joseph went out to walk the country of Arimathea.
He had traveled back to his hometown from Jerusalem shortly after he wrapped Jesus’s body and placed it in the tomb ~ he couldn’t stand to be reminded of his dead Rabbi anymore. He hadn’t heard from the disciples or Mary Magdalene once, but he hadn’t really given them the chance.
It was bright and hot outside. Joseph pulled his robes around him as he walked down the dirt road toward the sun.
A figure rose on the horizon down the road. It was a man walking toward Joseph. He didn’t recognize him from a distance, but as he approached, Jospeh felt his stomach churn.
Eventually, the man passed Joseph. Joseph smiled and kept walking, expecting the man to go on, but the man stopped walking instead.
“Jospeh,” the man said.
Jospeh turned around and looked the man in the face.
The man held out his hands. There were two holes straight through them.
Joseph’s eyes grew wide and swelled with tears. He ran to Jesus to wrap his arms around him, but he didn’t even take two steps before falling to his knees, overwhelmed. He knelt at Jesus’s feet and dared not lifted his eyes.
“Rabbi!” he sobbed.
Jesus bent down and lifted Jospeh to his feet. He looked Joseph in the face. And looking into those eyes, Joseph felt something shift in his heart.
“Rabbi, I am so sorry for doubting you. I am so sorry for running away. I denounced you, I didn’t rescue you in your time of need, I–“
“Joseph,” Jesus said. “You are forgiven.”
This is obviously a work of fiction, but I hope it puts the gospel into perspective for you this weekend.
Read the gospel story tonight. Let the words roll off your tongue and paint a vivid image of what Christ did for you. It’s hard to stomach. It’s uncomfortable. And it takes intentional time and humility to let the colors and smells and feelings and scenes of Good Friday and Easter Sunday wash over you.
But don’t ever forget the taste of grace.
Don’t ever forget you wear grace every day.
Don’t ever forget what grace did to you.
Don’t ever forget how your life looks radically different now.
And don’t ever forget that grace has a name.
Happy Easter and God bless. He is risen!!