Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 19:41-42
Here is the end. The last day of Lent, and the last Holy Walkabout post. And it’s an interesting place to be, just that Saturday before the big day. Good Friday had past, Jesus was dead, the followers were scattered, and emotions were all over the place. There was the tomb sitting there with Jesus inside.
With today’s passage, the Gospel almost takes on that tone. It’s an awkward time, an in-between time, so John gives us these details about the tomb. It was awkward for the Jews that day; their great mission was accomplished, and they were finally rid of Jesus. Some who witnessed everything were probably shaken, and wondering and even doubting what they already conceived of Jesus; hopefully even the priests and crowds that had condemned him. With earth shaking, and darkness, and the Temple curtain’s tearing, hopefully, like the Centurion, some started to wonder if this was indeed God’s son.
We don’t find out here, or in any Gospel. Right away, it’s just like awkward silence, and practicality sets in. There was such a rush and push to kill Jesus, did everyone forget it was Passover time? And that the day of Preparation was upon them? So they scramble and cut the Messiah down, and take that holy body to a quick-fix, the nearby garden tomb that was empty and ready to roll.
Maybe this scene is a good metaphor for what goes on in our own hearts. In our sinfulness, our wrongdoing, our harming of others and ourselves, we take part in the crucifixion of Christ; we, probably all of us in our guilt at one time or another, do betray him or want him to go away and leave us alone, so we share in the sentiments of those gathered. In other moments, we feel just like the faithful followers that were there watching, hoping God will do something and starting to doubt what we believe completely. When all is said and done, sometimes we’re left walking off in our own thoughts, wondering what we’ve just been a part of, and what we’ve done, and what we’ve wished for, and what has happened. It’s a flood of feelings, from guilt and shame to bitterness or heart-hardening; grief; or even sometimes repentance and hope. And all the while, God is still advancing God’s mission, and the little details are handled. Jesus’ body ends up in a perfect spot, sealed into that rock, from which to return to life in the world.
Today, take it as a day of different feelings. As Christians, or not, we carry probably some great mix of joy and celebration but also practical guilt and feelings of penitence, and who knows what else. Know that while you’re wrestling with your own heart, with your own thoughts, God is at work. We know already how tomorrow morning goes, and how the tomb will be blasted open, so take heart that a living Jesus is at work on your behalf. And prepare now for what tomorrow will bring. Come, Lord Jesus!