Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. – Mark 15:42-16:2 (CEB)
Today, I’m finalizing worship for both Maundy Thursday and Easter. As I wrote earlier, I feel as I’m in some sort of twilight zone. I don’t know why the juxtaposition is so sharp this year.
I’m preaching from Mark on Sunday, and I’m beginning on Friday afternoon (chapter 15) rather than beginning with Easter morning. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the women going to the tomb with their spices early on that Sunday morning. But I’ve also been thinking about them going home to eat the Sabbath dinner on Friday after they see where Joseph of Arimathea puts Jesus’ body. They were with Jesus all day. Who prepared the meal? Maybe it was a night of leftovers. This must have been bitter after the intimate time at table with Jesus the night before.
I just sent an email to a member of my congregation who has been struggling with health issues with no answers for sometime now. When we talk, I think about the woman who bled for twelve years. Her struggles over the last six months bring the impossibility of twelve years of suffering in the midst of countless doctors and tests and no answers into sharp relief. How maddening the Palm Sunday crowds are when you just want to get close enough to Jesus to touch his cloak.
But even in the midst of this, life goes on. Even as we struggle to touch Jesus’ cloak, we are laying our own on the ground. Even as we prepare a meal for the Lord, we are preparing spices for his burial. Therefore, in the same breath that we lift prayers for healing we also discuss the preparations for tonight’s meal. I closed this email saying,
“See you tonight as, like the women in the Gospels, we tend to the Lord.”
2,000 years after the Resurrection, I cannot truly separate myself into a time before it. Maybe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter are not such juxtaposition. Rather, they are our single act of tending to the Lord in the midst of every circumstance we find ourselves. And so, even though it is Maundy Thursday, I offer this proclamation of the Resurrection as we tend to the Lord today. Whatever they are, may all of your circumstances be holy in these last days of Lent.
The day always begins with the night, and so it was on the third day. In darkness, the world began to stir. Those exhausted by grief rose for the day, knowing that the sun would not chase their darkness away.
But God said, “Let there be light.” And so the light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3-4 CEB
In faith, the women went out to complete the rites of death. The spices may have been a heavy burden, but even more so was the stone that separated them from the body of their Lord. Who would roll away the stone? How could they complete this last good work for Jesus?
The LORD God says: Look! I’m laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a valuable cornerstone, a sure foundation: the one who trusts won’t tremble. Isaiah 28:16 CEB
It was the Lord who rolled the stone away. And it was the Lord who said, “Do not be alarmed” as the women entered the tomb. And it is here that we hear the Good News for the first time: “Jesus has been raised! He is not here!”
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Lord, you have turned our mourning into dancing; you have taken off our sackcloths and clothed us with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:5, 11-12 (NRSV)
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!