Thirteenth Station – Body of Jesus is Removed from Cross with Pietà
Fourteenth Station – Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb with Jewish Burial Customs
It is best to consider these last two Stations together. In turning to the scriptures here you will find first the Gospel account of the caring for the body of Jesus; then an earlier Gospel account of Mary holding Jesus in her arms. They both open the scriptures to what took place immediately following the death of Jesus on the cross.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down….
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
All these actions and events were determined according to the scriptures, i.e. according to God’s covenant love and plan. It was Jewish preparation day and they did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one [Passover]. This also explains why there was a providential pause in the burial rite — sunset on Friday to Easter dawn. The burial was not complete and the finding of the empty tomb and resurrection appearances of Jesus happened before his followers could do all they intended in a human way. Their weeping at the empty tomb on Sunday morning were partially perhaps because they were stopped from completing the traditional rituals. This attests to the depth and strength of their faith. They rigorously observed the Sabbath out of reverence for God and his ways — their faithfulness to his covenant. So look at the people involved and their love of God and love of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea saw God’s presence in Jesus and his work. The puzzle of why he, though innocent, was crucified was not yet solved. He still trusted in God. He truly loved Jesus and took the responsibility to care for him at his death. Nicodemus, cautiously a disciple for fear of the Jews, now willingly steps forward and puts his reputation on the line in the Council by getting involved in the burial — he put money into the project, a large sum out of love and respect. Mary Magdalene was right there and made sure she knew where he was being entombed. John stayed close to Jesus’ mother in faithfulness to promise to take care of her. All of this stems from loving Jesus in God’s name, the God of unmatchable covenant love and mercy.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, had made a promise to God, too, when she answered his call by saying: I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Then Elizabeth confirmed the holiness of Mary when at the Visitation she told Mary: Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Mary then praised God in the Magnificat: The Almighty’s faithful [merciful covenant] love extends age after age to those who fear him (Luke 1). Mary had a good memory, she kept all these things in her heart, and as she embraced the body of her son Jesus there on Calvary all these events and all these words came back to her. She certainly thought: The Lord has something more to reveal about this, it is not the end. She had pietà — loving compassion for the son of her womb given her by God. Michelangelo and other artists captured this in stone and entitled their works Pietà. This expresses very well Mary’s love of Jesus and love of God.
[You will find links to all 14 Stations at the bottom of the Blog page.]