I’ve only seen three dead bodies in my life. The first was when I was 12 years old and my grandfather died at age 69. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry. At the funeral home, my sister was brave enough to reach out and touch my grandfather’s hand as it rested on his torso. Back in our seats, I asked her what his skin felt like. “Plastic,” she said.
So Jesus’ wealthy friends did prove useful in the end. All four narratives seem to agree on this. Joseph, after all—the one from Arimathea, not his Dad— Joseph pulled strings with Pilate. Did he have to call in a few favors earned in questionable ways so he could claim possession of the corpse? Old Nicodemus too, Jesus’ night-shift friend from the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus makes his own fleeting reprise, carting along a ton—almost—of fragrant spices, nard and myrrh (again!), for preservation purposes. Although where he got such pricey stuff, late on a holiday Friday afternoon, is never quite explained. And that convenient, fresh-hewn, garden tomb; even back in the day, sepulchres such as those did not come ten-a-penny! Add in all the hired help they must have needed to get stuff from here to there and, of course, to roll and seal that massive rock . . . Whole thing makes you wonder—doesn’t it?— wonder if that narrow needle’s eye got prized wide open— camel-size, at least—to accommodate these late allies.
Holy Week and three buffleheads on the cold river practice the rite of baptism. Their preference: complete immersion. Again and again they duck and disappear into ice-cold darkness, then emerge, shaking a zillion stars from their feathers. As if there is never enough purification, they plunge down deep and rise and dive and rise again. The week winds down, down down toward Friday. Temple draperies are torn. Darkness enfolds the earth. The dead in their stone tombs have begun stirring as if, like the sun in the morning, they will rise.
Aristotle writes that we would never go to the theater to see terrible things happen to a good man through no fault of his. Yet here we gather, aching for a good man’s sorrows and turning to him to make sense of our own.