March 23, 2021

Thirteenth station: Jesus is taken down from the cross

What love does

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. (Matthew 27:57-58)

There are always those you do not see. They labor behind the scenes or in the shadows doing what needs to be done long after others have returned to the warmth of home or the embrace of friends to release the burdens of the day.

Joseph is there, doing what love does, unnoticed, except for Pilate’s minions shuffling about the foot of the cross, impatient to be released that they might drink away the grisly duties of the day.

When Joseph appears they depart, and he does what must be done.

Pulling at Roman nails, ragged and thick, he pries them from Jesus feet, having been nailed atop each other to the splintered wood. Finished there, he works on the hands, wresting the nails from between major bones in Jesus’ wrists, blood staining his cloths, if there was any left to flow from the wounds that drained Jesus dry.

How did Joseph do it, his heart wrenched by the disfigured form of his friend? Surely, tenderness marked his movements as he removed the tortured body of his teacher mutilated beyond recognition

And he must have had help. A different telling of this story mentions Nicodemus who lent a hand, gently bearing the body to earth, as if any further hurt were possible.

They work silently in the darkness after everyone else had gone home. Their stomachs in knots, unable to speak, nodding back and forth to guide their actions, doing what love required them to do.

Like millions before and after him, Jesus was deemed expendable by the heartless and powerful who ate their dinner that night and retired into the evening, ignoring what Joseph was doing out there in the darkness.

But isn’t that the way it is? The truly important things, the gestures that make life graced and beautiful so often happen in the shadows where no one sees or is watching … what love does.

Pr. David L. Miller

We adore, O Christ, and we bless you.

By your holy cross you have redeemed the world