(Stained glass panel from East Window, St. Andrew's church, Soham, Cambridgeshire, England)
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
Leader: O holy Christ, we worship you, we adore you;
People: You were laid to rest in a borrowed tomb.
As evening fell, those who remained looked around at the ground at Golgotha, and the littered bones and skulls haunted them. Surely this could not be Jesus' fate. The scattered bones and rotting human carcasses represented at most, the wicked, and, at least, the unloved. Jesus--even the fallen Jesus--represented neither.
Meanwhile, Joseph of Arimathea had already gone to Pilate and asked for the body. When a detail of soldiers came to get Jesus' body, some must have been fearful. Major criminals were sometimes rendered into pieces and distributed throughout the Roman Empire as a warning, or paraded as trophies. But Joseph of Arimathea assured those remaining with Jesus' body that he intended to give Jesus everything the Chevra Kadisha--the Jewish burial society--provided the community, as well as a tomb--his own personal tomb, newly constructed in a rock.
Jesus' body was prepared in the traditional Jewish way--ritually washed and prepared in burial linens--and placed in the tomb. As Mary silently watched the rock that was the door of the tomb rolled over the entrance, an old, old feeling crept over her. "No," she thought to herself. "This can't be." Something leaped inside her--the same thing that leaped when she knew she was pregnant with Jesus--a feeling of impending joy. The harder she denied the feeling, the stronger it was. Suddenly she realized that somehow, in some way--this story was not over. But who could she possibly tell? Who would believe her? Her heart grieved terribly that her son was dead, and seemingly all he represented was dead, too. What was to become of the disciples? They all seemed so lost, so confused, so stunned. Perhaps more would be taken, and treated as Jesus was. Uncertainty seemed as thick as the blackness of night that was settling in. But as she walked away from the tomb, she thought, "This is not all there is."
Leader: The noise of the stone rolling over the tomb pierced the sky,
People: But did not still the noise of something yet to come.
Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)
Almighty God, designer of all things,
Abide with us in all the uncertainties of our life.
Remind us that death is not the end, it is a beginning,
whether it is physical death or the death of things in our lives
we thought were certainties, or assumed.
Give us the courage to grieve for them without shame.
Yet at the same time, open us to the possibilities
of what lies beyond death, in both the resurrections
within our lives, as well as that glorious resurrection
beyond our earthy faults and brokenness, into the realm
of angels, archangels, and all the company of Heaven.
Holy and Mighty,
Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.
Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched your arms upon the hard wood of the cross in a gesture of love for all of us;
People: Empower us to willingly stretch our arms to the world in love, in your name.
Leader: We thank you, Lord God Almighty, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, who had the courage to endure pain, suffering, and death in order to raise us to eternal joys.
We thank you for your desire that we escape the dominion of sin and death and reside with you in that heavenly country.
We thank you for your mercy in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we leave behind these fourteen vignettes depicting the final hours of our Savior, grant us the knowledge to take these lessons beyond the church door and the world. We ask these things in the name our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever,
Leader: This concludes our Stations of the Cross. Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.