Like one from who we hide our faces…

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Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.   He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.   

Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:38-42

How many times have I read John’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus, and passed right by these verses? And why, this time, did they stop me and bring me to tears?

Joseph of Arimathea, who has been a secret disciple – afraid, hidden, always listening while keeping his head down and his mouth closed. Joseph, who has listened to Jesus and felt his pulse quicken and turned his face away so no one would see the longing there.

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.

And then he went and got it – in broad daylight.

He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night.

Nicodemus, who also listened to Jesus and felt something inside him wake up. While the men around him schemed to kill Jesus, Nicodemus hid his face.

And now, in broad daylight, Nicodemus comes carrying seventy-five pounds of spices (probably with help…), and linens to wrap the body. Anyone who saw him would not doubt what he was going to do.

The narrative tells us that the next day was a “special Sabbath” (v. 31). And Nicodemus and Joseph will make themselves “unclean” by touching the body of Jesus.

They are not hiding now.

I step into the story, and as they move away with Jesus lifeless body, I follow them. My heart is broken. I want to be with Jesus, even now.

We come to the place where they will prepare the body.  I step forward. I say, “I would like to help.”

The two men look at one another, and then give a nod. They have abandoned proper form and custom. Their deep sorrow has given them a clearer view of Jesus, and of me.

I step forward and take my place at Jesus’ side.

Tenderly and carefully they lay Jesus out on a table and we begin to clean away the blood and sweat and dirt that cover him.

I wet a cloth and begin to wash his face.  Today I am every woman he has honoured and respected and healed and elevated and invited into his presence and his work.

Joseph and Nicodemus are humming and murmuring prayers…

“Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan…”

I know the words and I join in,

“May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel, to which we say Amen.”[1]

My hand is on his brow as I grieve and try to remind him, with my will, that as we are part of him, he is part of us.

Every part of me is designed and created, imprinted and reflective of my Creator – the Word who was with God and is God, Jesus (John 1:1).

I say to him, Jesus the Christ, “I am here.”

I am your grandmothers… Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth… Strong. Brave. Demanding justice, and offering strength and compassion, in a world that diminished their value and gave them very few options for survival.

I am Tamar, forced into an untenable situation in pursuit of justice for my cause.  And granted a place in your lineage, and eternal memory of my name (Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3).

I am Rahab. I risked all to save your people. And I too was granted a place in your lineage (Joshua 2-6; Matthew 1:5). 

I am Ruth and Naomi – destitute and desolate (Book of Ruth; Matthew 1:5).

I am Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11; Matthew 1:6). I am Hagar – the first to give you a name – “El Roi” she said, “for I have seen The God Who Sees Me” (Genesis 16).

I am the bride whose wedding and reputation was spared with the generous gift of wine (John 2:1-10).

I am the widow whose son was returned to her alive (Luke 7:11-14).

I am the woman with the hemorrhage who touched your robe, and received healing and grace. You called me, “Daughter…” (Mark 5:21-32).

And I am Martha, who prepared your meal, and ran a household, and reproached you for the death of my brother. And I cried out, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:21, 27).

I am Mary who sat at your feet as a disciple.  You told me I had chosen the better part.  I, too, reproached you for the death of my brother (Luke 10:38-41; John 11:32).

I am the woman at the well, whom you engaged in a theological conversation and did not talk down to, or answer with condescension (John 4).

I am the woman caught in adultery, brought to you in shame – accused and tried by the mob who would stone me to death. But you offered me respect, kindness, and value – things I had ceased expecting from men (John 8:1-11).

Your limbs are clean, and Joseph and Nicodemus begin to wrap you with linen and spices.  Your lifeless body feels heavy, and the smell of the spices is both welcome and disturbing.

I am all of these women. I begin to clean the blood away from the wound in your side, and I am the woman who cleaned your feet with my tears and wiped them with my hair (Luke 7:36-50).

I am every woman – powerless, often humiliated and ill-treated by a society that did not see my value – you made our names known as “Eshet Chayil”, women of valour.

Desolate, we step away and the tomb is closed. We do not yet know that we will see you again.

But I know this… You, Jesus, changed everything for women, for me.

We are not hiding now.

That’s what I would have said…

Inhale:  You are good.

Exhale: Your love toward us endures forever.

[1] Mourner’s Kaddish. https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/sitting-shiva/kaddish/ accessed April 14, 2022.

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