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 NIV)
This is the last thing we hear before the Resurrection – the burial of Jesus. John goes from here to the first day of the week and Easter.
John alone talks about a garden – the garden where Jesus is betrayed (18:1) and a garden where Jesus is buried and the first witnesses to the Resurrection see him.
The emphasis on secrecy is real here: Joseph goes to Pilate privately, Nicodemus was the one who went at night to see Jesus in John 3. And the burial seems to be one of convenience – do it quickly so no one will notice or know?
John says nothing about Saturday here. Matthew tells of the chief priests and Pharisees going to Pilate too but nothing about the disciples. Luke tells us the women make ready on Saturday to return on Sunday to finish the job of preparation of Jesus’ body.
I’ve realized how hectic this day usually is for me. Things to be done before Easter morning. Sermons to finish. Family plans to make ready. Most years, including this one, there are events at church on this Saturday between the cross and the empty tomb.
That day on the first Easter weekend was a day of Sabbath – a day for rest, for reflection. The hurry to bury Jesus is part of that reality. I wonder today if we don’t need a rest , too, today instead of how most of us spend this day as Christians. To rush from the cross through the day to Sunday is to miss something. To miss the enforced stillness and quiet. To miss the pain, the grief, the loss, that comes following death.
Today will have little Sabbath for me. But it should. Perhaps it must for tomorrow to be what it should be too.
O Lord of the Sabbath, on that Sabbath before Easter morning Jesus’ friends rested but perhaps knew little rest. On that Saturday they waited anxiously for what was to come yet with the enforced day of retirement. Force me today to pause, to rest, to wait rather than to rush through this day and into and over the day to come. Amen.