It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. – Mark 15:42-47
Walter Wangerin writes a powerful allegory, The Ragman. Check out his book by the title, The Ragman and Other Cries of Faith (New reissue version available here). He provides and engaging allegory of Jesus’ vicarious suffering, death, and resurrection. Here is he takes us to today…Saturday, the Sabbath of the Jews:
And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.
I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.
The little old Ragman — he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I wanted to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.
Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope — because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know — how could I know? — that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.
So this is where we are now…Saturday. Tomorrow we’ll share the rest of the story. For now, however, we rest, and wait…
Today, God, I ask that You would teach me to mourn. Don’t let me rush to Easter Sunday too quickly. Give me grace to linger here, in the place where sorrow meets redemption. Make Your death as real to me as Your resurrection. Keep me always near the cross.
As I wait at the foot of the cross, God, reveal to me again the costliness of my sin. Don’t let me live in an imaginary world where Easter’s happy ending makes my selfishness irrelevant. Remind me that Your all-consuming grace came at a highest price. Forgive me for the times I’ve lived as if sin is no big deal, as if Good Friday never really happened.
Fill me with the joy and sorrow and reverence and gratitude that befit a Good Friday funeral: joy for Your victory, sorrow for Your death, reverence for Your holiness, gratitude for Your grace. Don’t let me settle for just one of those emotions at the expense of the others. Give me a heart big enough to hold them all in tension. Make me bold enough to search after a truth that’s really true, not just a truth that fits easily in the palm of my hand.
Give me eyes, God, to see the triumph of the cross. Even when all seems lost, even as I mourn Your death, remind me that You conquered the grave by sneaking inside of it and unraveling it from the inside out. In the midst of defeat and disappointment, sing songs of victory over me. Turn my world on its head so I can recognize the upside-down Kingdom of God at work.
Jesus, You tell me to take up my cross and follow You. Today more than ever, I remember what a weighty invitation that is. You won by dying—and it’s only by dying that I can follow in Your footsteps. It’s only by dying that I’ll ever truly come alive.
Teach me, God, to mourn and celebrate Your death. Then take me by the hand, lead me into my own death, and teach me to mourn and celebrate that death too. Amen.
Author – Gregory Coles