Mark now starts to bring closure to the Passion story. The Centurion confesses, “Surely he was the son of God.” The crowds seem to be gone except for the women who bravely stand a far grieving. Joseph of Arimathea, though, the member of the Sanhedrin who visited Jesus by night to ask about being born again, moves into the place of family and does the audacious deed of going to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus so it can be buried by sunset (Mark 15:42-42).
Rome did not allow the burial of people convicted of high treason! Would Plate have sympathy? Joseph might be considered a friend, perhaps close friend, of Jesus by the Sanhedrin and so loose prestige. Would those friends still accept him? A plea for the body after the crowd had demanded crucifixion, a awkward moment for Pilate, might be dangerous. Would this backfire and endanger him? So many inhibiting doubts! We are seeing people not only deeply affected by a tragic scene but people changed in the core of their being and beginning to act in new ways. Joseph steps forward and asks for the body. The women refuse to run in fear. The centurion professes belief. Lives are changing. The cross, the death of Christ, changes lives.
It reminds me of the blind man who was healed and when cross-examined by the doubting priests who knew a man born blind is cursed, the man confessed, “All I know is that once I was blind and now I can see.” Perhaps there are two miracles at Calvary. Christ dies for my sins and we will see him walk through death and be alive so that as we believe in him, we need not fear death either. But secondly, as I grow in faith, I become a changed, a better person, not because of a shift in belief systems but because a new reality has claimed my life. We call it a world-view shift. Galileo experienced the falling apple and gravity was discovered. Columbus did not fall off the edge of the world and we now know the world is round-ish. Jesus dies but already the story is going on to something bigger.
It is so easy to get in a rut in our thinking and Lent challenges us. Nameless people step forward and become part of an epic experience. Lives are renewed and refocused. A new self, our “better self” as we now say, begins to emerge. The pandemic cannot stop eternal life. The party we don’t like is in power but that does not stop God from working. “Others” move into our neighborhoods and challenge us to grow. In the midst of the crucifixion, God is working. In the midst of our struggles, God is working still, even when we don’t understand. I do not know who your Pilate is or what favor you may need to ask today, but I do know that once I was blind and now I see – because of the crucifixion.