bible blog 1386

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with ahedline from world news:



57 When evening had fallen, there came a rich man belonging to Ramah, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to see Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate ordered it to be given him. 59 So Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, 60 and laid it in his newly made tomb which he had cut in the rock; and, before he left, he rolled a great stone against the entrance of the tomb. 61 Mary of Magdala and the other Mary remained behind, sitting in front of the grave.

62 The next day — that is, the day following the Preparation-day — the chief priests and Pharisees came in a body to Pilate, and said: 63 “Sir, we remember that, during his lifetime, that impostor said ‘I will rise after three days.’ 64 So order the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal him, and then say to the people ‘He has risen from the dead,’ when the latest imposture will be worse than the first.”

65 “You may have a guard,” was Pilate’s reply; “go and make the tomb as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, by sealing the stone, in presence of the guard.

Mantegna: the dead Christ

Mantegna: the dead Christ

The disciple Joseph has no prior and no subsequent part in Jesus’ story. but he and the two Maries would be the only possible source for information about Jesus’ burial. Mark identifies Joseph as a member of the Sanhedrin who lived in the hope of the kingdom, that is, not openly a disciple of Jesus, as here. Matthew’s story about the tomb guards is not given him by Mark and may have been a response of the first believers when accused of stealing Jesus’ body. Whatever its orgin, this material re-enforces Mathew’s picture of Pilate as a weak man manipuated by evil religious leaders.

All accounts of the crucifixion emphasise the real death and burial of Jesus. They all agree that the body was placed in a rock tomb with a stone blocking the entrance. These details seem to belong to the earliest stratum of the gospel tradition. They emphasise that Jesus’ worldly life has come to an end. The stone is a full stop to the Jesus story. If it is true that Jesus shares the identity of God,then God shares in Jesus, the definitively human experience of dying. For Christian believers this is an astonishing and comforting conviction: in some way beyond our understanding God has lived our mortality.

As for Jesus’ mission, it too has come to an end. The son of God has carried out a public mission for three years and the result is rejection by his people, desertion by his followers, his own ignominious death, and burial by a stranger. At the end two women sit in mourning by his tomb. It’s not exactly the scenario depicted in so many blueprints for evangelical outerach. Indeed those churches that employ directors of mission would certainly have sacked Jesus sometime before this miserable denouement. guards

Like many believers I have difficulty in thinking of Jesus as dead. Every day I relate to him through scripture and in my imagination. But if I take his death seriously, I have to think that this Jesus (The Jesus of the gospels) has died and been raised to participation in the life of God who fills all worlds. Jesus is not merely returned to life, but transformed. I have to find him in the church, his body, and in the least important of his brothers and sisters. I have to look for him in the design of creation and the hope of the kingdom. I have to feed upon him in bread and wine. The dying of Jesus which as Paul says, I’m called to share, frees me to share his glory.

This story is however oriented towards the future of Jesus’resurrection. In the darkness of death Matthew wants his readers to hear the laughter of God.

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