Apr. 6, 2012
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.
It was now late Friday afternoon. Jewish tradition believes in burying the body as soon after the death as possible, as a mark of respect. With Jewish Sabbath began at sundown on Friday, there was not enough time to completely prepare the body for burial. Luke’s gospel tells us the women knew where the tomb was and would wait until Sunday morning to deal with it.
In biblical times, burial was often in tombs. Often more of natural cave, first century tombs were natural locations within rock structures for families to be buried together. These natural caves were covered by placing large rocks in front of the entrance to the cave.
Jewish tradition encourages mourning, and discourages efforts to cheer-up the mourners. For Jewish families, Shiva is a seven-day period of mourning. Friends and community members bring prayers, condolences and support. All normal activities are suspended in order for the mourners to fully concentrate on their grief, so that they will be better prepared to re-enter life at the end of this period.
Immediately after loosing a loved one, there usually is a mixed bag of emotions. You missed your loved one and yet there are various arrangements to take care of. While the women were dealing with a full range of emotions, they also want to take care of the proper arrangements and the proper burial. It’s a way for survivors to honor their loved one. It’s a way for survivors to keep moving. It’s a way for survivors to begin the long process of adjusting to a new reality of life without their loved one.
Making funeral and/or burial arrangement isn’t something family members look forward to. It’s often a lot of decision made in a relatively short period of time with consultation with various people. For some survivors, having something to do is therapeutic and important.
This is how I imagine the women. They just need to do something for their special Jesus. They could not reverse the events of the previous days but they could give them a proper burial. It was probably the only thing that made any sense for them to do.
Let us pray: We buried him, not knowing that on the third day morn a risen Christ would greet us and hope would be reborn. Though evil had extinguished the life that burned so bright, the love of God would triumph like dawn that ends the night. Amen.