January 27, 2021

Stations of the Cross: The Thirteenth Station

A Series for Holy Week.
Thanks to Jeff Dunn for leading us in these meditations.

The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross.


All who had came around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

Luke 23: 48, 49 The Message

It’s over. Finished. The criminals on their crosses are dead. It really doesn’t matter now that the captain of the soldiers who carried out the execution of Jesus said, “This man was certainly innocent.” What good does that do? Jesus is dead. His body is taken down from the cross. The Romans would have tossed the whole mess—naked body still nailed to wood—onto the garbage heap as they did for many criminals who had no family to claim their bodies. But Jesus’ mother and other of his followers—women, mostly, stepped forward to take the body of Jesus from the wood of the cross. It was most likely unrecognizable by now. His beard pulled out, a thorn of crowns shoved into his forehead, back ripped open by a scourge. Nails ripped the flesh of his hands and feet. The Romans even violated his dead body with a spear just to be sure he was dead.

And now it is the morbid job of his mother and friends to pry the nails from his skin, to try to bring some semblance of humanity back to his features. Jesus is dead. It is over.

Does it really matter what a dead body looks like? Cleaning it up will not bring it back to life. Yet it surely did matter to Jesus’ mother and the women who were his followers. But why? What was the use? Did they, unlike his students, his disciples, really believe what he said about rising from the dead? Look deeply inside of your heart right now. Do you really believe what Jesus said about rising from the dead? Is it just a religious symbolism for the rebirth of earth in the spring, or did the mutilated body of Jesus come back to life? This is the most crucial question you will ever be called upon to answer. And answer it you must.

Jesus, we have been so desensitized to cruelty that we cannot relate with what your mother and the women who followed you must have encountered as they took your body from the cross. You endured humiliation even after you were dead. Your mother’s heart was broken even further as she looked upon your torn body. Why would you do such a thing? Why would you allow such horror? Was it for me? For the chance to reconcile me to you? Jesus, this is more than I can bear. I, too, must look away from your mutilated body, for it should have been my body instead of yours. Why, oh God? Why?

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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