Friday, April 6, 2012

Joseph of Arimathea Speaks: A Meditation on the Fourteenth Station of the Cross

Joseph of Arimathea Speaks

a meditation on the fourteenth station of the cross
"Jesus is laid in the tomb."
St. Mary's House, Greensboro
Good Friday, 2012

I am Joseph. I asked for the body.

I could not let it lie and be desecrated.

Not on the Sabbath.

Not anytime.

I asked for the body.

I asked for it
from the Romans who occupy our land,
the torturers,
who rule us
and tax us
and make sure
that we are afraid,
even the rich citizens
like me.

I asked for it
from Pilate,
the governor,
who would rather see Jesus,
like the other crucified ones,
rot in the sun,
a reminder to all who pass by
–Sabbath or no Sabbath—
that this is what happens
to insurrectionists: to those who revolt.

I asked.
I, a member of the Council,
I asked for the body.

We know.
We all know.
After the stripping,
the shame,
the beating,
the pain,
the thirst,
the agony,
this is what happens:
the body rots in the sun;
the birds come;
and then, after a while,
sometimes a long while
the soldiers
or their slaves
throw the body in a common grave.

I could not let that happen.

I asked for the body.
I am a Jew.
To us death is the great equalizer.
So burial must happen to all
with equal respect
and to none
with more respect than others.
But there must be respect.

I acted fast.
I know why,
But I am not sure how.
I was in shock.
I did not witness the worst,
not like the women.
I still had a voice in my throat.
I asked for the body.

Often it is the women
who wash a body for burial,
in running water if there is any,
and if not, with water poured
from a jug,
making the body clean
after the often messy struggle toward death,
the last struggle.
But I did the washing. 
I did it fast.
I had help, of course.
I could never have done it alone.

I asked for the body.
I was the one who bought the linen,
the same garment I will wear,
the one my sons will buy for me,
later, if God grants me more years.
I bought it for this man younger than I.
I bought it
as I did years ago for my little girl
when she died of a fever,
long before her mother and I
had met Jesus.
I asked for the body
and I washed it
and I wrapped it.

I buried the body.
I buried his body
in my own tomb,
the tomb waiting for me.
It was the least I could do.

Now I am walking home,
I am not even sure how I got this far on the road.
I had my wits about me, enough of them
to act, but I was acting
as if in a dream
or walking through water.
I only know
he is dead and I had to
I had to ask for the body.

The road is ahead of me
and I am walking.

About the rest of life
I do not know.
I do not know.

Though all four gospels record the presence and actions of Joseph of Arimathea, the Gospel according to Mark is the one on which I focused my meditation during the writing and research for this spoken-word piece.

(c) Jane Redmont 2012 

Last year's Good Friday meditation (also from Stations of the Cross at St. Mary's House [Episcopal], Greensboro) is here.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Wow. This is powerful.

Thank you for this.

Br Richard Edward Helmer BSG said...

Beautiful! Thank you for this gift...

sharecropper said...

Thanks, Jane!

Cameron Partridge said...

Thank you for this powerful piece-- I have not spent nearly enough time dwelling on the actions of Joseph of Arimathea

June Butler said...

Very fine, Jane. An excellent meditation. Thank you.

Jane R said...

Cameron, very glad to discover your blog Peculiar Honors, of which I was not aware! Goody, more reading material and another place of conversation with you.

Mimi, I have barely been reading any blogs the last few months but I will visit yours soon. Blessed Easter! And thanks, all.

Anonymous said...

Suppose Pilate had refused? Or cremated Jesus?
Where would your religion be then?

Jane R said...

In the same place, Turnip Ghost. Resurrection doesn't mean reviving a dead body. It means that death doesn't win out in the end.