“Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took It down, wrapped It in linen cloth and placed It in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.” (Luke 23:53).
I have been reflecting on allegiances, and most particularly, I have been reflecting on the allegiances that are most difficult and most challenging in the face of the demands of the world.
You see, there is a passage in the Gospel of Saint Luke – after the death of Christ – where allegiances are clearly delineated…
“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took It down, wrapped It in linen cloth and placed It in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:50-56).
And I have been reflecting on the actions of Joseph of Arimathea, who boldly approached Pilate to ask for the Precious Body of Christ. You see, I have been imagining that scene in my mind. And the most significant thing that I can imagine is Joseph’s terror that day…
It was no easy thing for Joseph of Arimathea to ask for the Body of the Son of Man. After all, he was asking for the Body of One who had been put to death as the lowest criminal in Roman society. And His execution was designed to be the most demeaning and painful form of torture imaginable. And still, Joseph of Arimathea went to the very man who condemned Christ to die to ask for Christ’s Body.
And I have been imagining that scene. It would have been getting late in the day, and following the death of Christ, darkness descended on the world. So it would have been dim inside the chamber that Joseph of Arimathea stood. There was no electricity and candle-light only lights up a room so well in a dark-storm. I wonder if there were many people watching in that room? Did Joseph of Arimathea wonder if spies of the Chief Priests and Pharisees were watching him and listening to his request? Did he look around him in the room, or was he too heartbroken by the things he had seen? Could he forget the face of the Blessed Virgin – ravaged by grief – as she had stood silently by the Cross? Was it for HER that he made his request? Did he come to love her that day and wish to alleviate her pain by any means?
And I wonder – as Joseph Arimathea stood in front of Pilate and declared his allegiance to Christ before the whole world – did he try to envisage how his life would continue afterwards?
Or – did Joseph realise that in the moment of Christ’s death that he was pledging a new allegiance? Was his heart so broken that no fear, no worry, no stress could possibly overpower the grief and sorrow in his heart?
Did he wonder if Pilate would have put him to death in the same way that Christ had been executed too?
And in reflecting on Joseph of Arimathea, I have come to the realisation that though it is one thing to imagine – theoretically – that I too would form such an allegiance, it is quite another thing to stand sweating and shaking in front of an executioner, and beg for the body of the executed. It is quite another thing to hold in your hands the body and the blood of a dead criminal.
For Joseph of Arimathea was rewarded for his allegiance to Christ – and His reward was great. For He held God in His hands – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. And God allowed him that honour for the allegiance he made.
You see, it was not Saint Peter or Saint Matthew, or Saint Andrew, who held the dead Christ in their hands that day – it was Joseph of Arimathea, who was not even one of the Twelve, to whom God awarded that honour…
Because Joseph of Arimathea declared his allegiance to God in front of the whole world. And upon reflection, I can see the graces that I could merit if only God would give me the strength to do exactly the same thing – declare my allegiance to my Beloved in front of all the world… Imagine the Graces – Imagine the rewards!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.