When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
Sometimes we feel there is nothing we can do. In the face of illness, pandemic, and death we feel helpless. Today, the Church has nothing to do – except to watch and wait at the tomb. Today we recall when God died on the Cross and, in the terrible shadow of death, there is nothing, seemingly, we can do.
And yet things happened.
Joseph of Arimathea had the courage to go to Pilate to perform one last mercy for Jesus; to give him the dignity of burial after the indignity of naked crucifixion.
Joseph took Jesus’ body down, tenderly wrapping him in a cloth and laid Him in a newly hewn tomb.
Mary and Mary watched and noted – no doubt planning to come back after the Sabbath to clean Jesus’ body and prepare him for a proper funeral.
There is always something we can do in the face of illness, pandemic and death. It might not seem much but we can chat, offer the shoulder to cry on, look out for each other, find practical ways of support and stand with those who grieve.
Joseph, Mary, and Mary probably felt there was nothing they could do yet their actions – seemingly meaningless at the time – are recorded for posterity and remembered every year as we wait at the tomb wondering what we can do.
O God of our pain, our grief, and our helplessness, hold us when we wait, comfort us when we feel there is nothing to be done, and encourage us in our everyday love. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four churches in and around Glasgow