Finally, we have reached the last Station of the Cross, the burial of Jesus. The Message says:
Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off.
And the NRSV reads:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.
Intentionally, the Stations of the Cross end with the burial of Jesus, with that great stone sealing the tomb. We know now that this is not the end of the story, but Joseph of Arimathea and Pontius Pilate and Simon of Cyrene and Mary and Peter and John and all the other disciples and friends did not know this. They were in a place of pain, of fear, of anguish, of loss, of absence. They had lost — some of them had even betrayed and abandoned — their teacher, their master, their lord, their savior.
At this Station, we are left standing, looking at a stone. It is grey: hard, grey rock. Grey is a good color for this Holy Saturday, this day of emptiness and absence between Jesus leaving the world on Good Friday and re-entering the world on Easter morning. Grey is a color of between; it is not stark black nor crisp, clean white. It is fuzzy. And we’re not walking in the footsteps in Jesus any more, either. Now we are standing, still and quiet, like that stone. There is no place left to go. Where would we turn, without Jesus to guide us?
I will confess to harboring a secret delight at this Station. It just bubbles up in me, and I can’t help it. I know that Jesus is gone, and that we are in this between-time of absence and greyness and loss. But at the same time, I know that marvelous and awe-some things are happening behind that great stone. I can’t tell you exactly what those things are, because none of us gets to see the process. We see only what goes into the tomb, the broken body of Jesus, and what comes out on Easter morning. And right now, I look at that hard, grey rock, just imagining the wonders taking place inside the cave.
This year, this season of Lent, has been the best Lent I’ve ever had. It feels so strange to say that — we don’t usually think of a season of prayer and fasting and penitence and discipline as good, much less as better or even best! But despite the burial ceremony for my grandfather, despite being so sick I couldn’t make it to church or our special Lenten discussion series after Ash Wednesday, until the fourth Sunday of Lent, despite never really settling on a personal Lenten discipline… this has been a very holy and fertile season for me.
In prior years, I lived in the house of a very controlling and abusive man, one who could not understand faith, could not come to terms with the idea of having faith in any being other than oneself. I know that he lives a life of loneliness and fear, because he isn’t even able to have enough faith in other people to extend true trust to them. And so, living in this house, any expressions I made of my own faith were insulted, mocked, threatened, shouted down. I learned to try to keep my faith quiet, so as not to rock the boat, not to provoke rage and insult and abuse. Jesus may have said that we are blessed when we are persecuted for our faith, but when you’re in the midst of it, that persecution feels like anything but a blessing!
This year, my life is completely different. Being married to maplestar — a lifelong Christian, a cradle Anglican, a man of deep and abiding faith — has meant that we have been able to share our Lenten journey. We have sat together in worship, have said the prayers, have sung the hymns. We have taken part together in the Lenten discussions, even sharing leadership of one of them. We sat vigil in the silent church this morning, as the disciples did with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane — though we did manage not to fall asleep. This Holy Week has been the first when I’ve ever been able to really immerse myself in the story, to watch with the disciples, to walk the Way of the Cross with Jesus. Last night was the first Good Friday liturgy I’d ever been able to take part in, and Thursday was only the second Maundy Thursday liturgy I’d been part of. Tonight will be the first time I’ve ever gotten to participate in the Great Vigil of Easter, the joyful welcoming of the Christ-light back into the world.
So today, as I sit in the garden outside Joseph’s tomb, as I look on the large grey rock, I am waiting with delighted anticipation for the miracle to be revealed. I hope you’ll sit down and wait with me, here in this beautiful garden, in the silence of nature. And we’ll watch the great stone, until it is rolled aside.