The Eighth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
April 3, 2015 Comments Off on The Eighth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.
I am so used to mentally separating the Nativity and the Passion. That is, after all, the usual mental habit around Birth and Death. Yet, in this last Station of the Cross, where Jesus is truly and finally dead, I am forcibly reminded of the Nativity. Having entered fully into humanity, a step begun at his birth, Jesus has traveled to all the way to the bottom: both in the sense that he has experienced the worst of humanity (abandonment, betrayal, humiliation, torture, murder) and the full experience of humanity, which ends in death.
But at this Station, after all of love’s failures, still the fact of Jesus’ body allows people the chance to actively love him. The Word has become so fully flesh that it can no longer offer anything in the way of thought or council or comfort–it is flesh that can’t even care for itself in physical ways. It is in that helplessness that opportunities for human love abound, just as they did at the Nativity. Mary gave Jesus a womb to shelter in as he was still becoming; Joseph of Nazareth cared for Mary all the way to Bethlehem and found shelter for her and Jesus there; Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths; Joseph of Arimathea took the body and wrapped it in clean linen, and laid it in his own new tomb. The women who were with Joseph went home and prepared spices and perfumes for that body.
No sooner has human love failed God in the ultimate way, even to the point of torture and death, but there is the chance for humans to love God and be needed by God. Grace is the persistence not only of Love given, but the persistence of Love’s need and desire to be loved in return.
In each of the gospels, the telling of the resurrection seems to be an extension of this moment when Empire and Greed have accomplished their ultimate goal in Jesus’ death. Because as soon as sin wins, it hasn’t. There is immediately an opportunity for humans to be as needed and loving as when Jesus was first born, and a few people answer that need, nurturing Jesus’ body for the coming Resurrection.
Jesus’ body is resurrected and the opportunity to offer love persists until others are ready and able to return to the communion of relationship. There’s the chance for Mary and Jesus to meet in the garden several mornings later; for Thomas to touch Jesus. There’s a chance for Peter, with all his big broken promises, to leap from the boat at sunrise and swim toward the beach where Jesus is cooking him breakfast. There’s a chance for Jesus, ready to be loved again by Peter as much as Peter hates himself, to tell Peter how he wants to be loved: Feed my sheep.
And here we are today, fed and loved, no matter how often and deeply we fail at love. The chance we see for human love and nurture on Good Friday is one attitude of Grace, one very particular way for love to appear when we’d be unable to perceive it otherwise. When we fail love is often the point when we are most convinced we can’t ever receive love again. One of the ways love reaches us in these moments is by giving us an abundance of new chances to offer love. It won’t be the same chance we failed before, because love’s failure is real: Jesus’ friends no longer have the man that was crucified; just his dead body. Even when he’s resurrected, he’s resurrected a wounded man. But the new chances to love just keep appearing. And in the abundance of chances, there is the chance to perceive the abundance of love for us.
– Elisabeth Watson