Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Black Sabbath.

As the rumbling died down, Nicodemus, the man of faith, the Pharisee who had questioned Jesus concerning the mystery of being "born again", was the first to react. Seeing a prominent believer, Joseph of Arimathea, he appealed to him to use his influence to secure possession of the broken body. Joseph knew at once what to do. He hurried to Pontius Pilate and appealed to take possession of the body, in order to bury it in his own tomb, as the carpenter prophet had none that was known. Pilate, eager to see the deed done, and respectful of the distinguished businessman Joseph, agreed at once. Joseph hurried back to the scene, where the soldiers had just finished taking down the body. Showing them the order with the seal of Pilate, he and Nicodemus gingerly lifted the body with the help of the dead man's disciple John.

They carried the body to the nearby tomb with haste, as the setting sun warned of the imminent Sabbath hour, when their work must cease. Arriving at the tomb, they laid the body on the stone and with all the care of a loving servant, they cleaned and wrapped the body in the expensive linens brought from Joseph's warehouse of goods. Nicodemus had ordered a hundred pounds of precious myrrh and aloe on his account, and these were laid with the cloth; but as Sabbath was upon them, the final preparation of the body was left to be done later. In the final moments of sunset, the men rolled the tomb stone in place, as Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene sat opposite and cried.

Sabbath prayers were hard to come by. For the followers of Jesus, it all seemed to be over. Jesus had made occasional references to his suffering, but they had not expected anything like this, so soon. The Sabbath food held no appeal after the gore and anguish of the preceding hours. Most retired early to try to forget.

In the temple, the priests were preoccupied with the damage wrought by the freakish earthquake. The curtain of the temple had been torn and half lay across the floor in a heap. Nothing like this had happened before; what was to done? Should the curtain be repaired, or should a new one be made? What had scripture to say about it? And what offerings should be made in this occasion of relief, when an impostor and son of the Devil had been sent to his dark grave? Deliberations were serious but muted; this confusion had not been expected. What was there to do?

The dawn brought no relief for anyone. The chief priests first thought upon gathering was that those zealots might try to steal the body, as the impostor had claimed that he would rise from his tomb. They hurried to Pilate, who impatiently heard their complaint and ordered guards to the tomb. As they turned and shuffled away, he warned them that this was the last he wanted to hear of the affair. He feared the whole thing would somehow get back to Caesar. That he could not allow. What must he do now?

John had not slept. He had tried to sleep, but it seemed that Jesus was still there with him. He could see His face, telling him to mind to his new "mother". He thought back to previous night...why had he fled in fear and shame? He should have stayed and stood in Jesus' defense. Perhaps he could have reasoned with the priests. Why couldn't they see? Why did they have to kill him?

He rose, but the morning sun shared no warmth with him. As he stared out over the city, it seemed dead to him. There was no future here...he must get away. But his responsibility to Mary clouded his thoughts, his plans. What was there to do?

Simon Peter couldn't rise from the floor. He had no strength in his limbs. The events of the past day seemed a blur to him...all except for one moment. In that moment, a rooster in the distance had crowed and his conscience had been seared. He had denied knowing Jesus, denied being his follower. He had gone everywhere with the Master for three years, he had believed Him to be the Messiah, the Deliverer. And yet, he had denied it all in the last moment. He couldn't even bear to watch the crucifixion; he just wanted to stay away. But as he lay there that morning, he knew he couldn't escape the memory of Jesus. He knew His words would sear into his mind for the rest of his days. Why? None of his expectations had come true...Jesus had not been able to defeat the Sanhedrin. They had won, Jesus had lost; and now he, Simon, had to live the rest of his life in a lost cause. A lost cause! How could that be! Hadn't he seen Jesus walk and talk with Elijah and Moses? Hadn't he seen him command the long-dead Lazarus out of the tomb, and watch that same Lazarus return to life a new man? But now, now all that meant nothing, nothing! Jesus had been killed! What was there to do now?

Jerusalem was strangely quiet. Few were in the streets, and Sabbath activities seemed lifeless. The crucifixions yesterday had been terrible, and there was that earthquake...and the darkness of the afternoon. Was God angry? Was He about to move against them? What would He do? What could they do?

This was a black, black sabbath. This was a day without God.

Next: Later, on that Black Day...

1 comment:

  1. Sir Chuck,

    That is beautiful. Did you write that?

    Sir John