After Joseph bought some fine linen, he took Jesus down and wrapped him in the cloth. Then he placed him in a tomb cut out of rock, and rolled a stone against the door. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching. They saw where he was laid.
Jesus’ death has weighty theological meaning, but when all is said and done, it is also, simply, the death of someone we loved. That’s why Joseph, who gives Jesus’ body a decent burial, is remembered so affectionately in Christian tradition.
We care about the way our beloved dead are treated. We attend devotedly to the practicalities of their deaths, performing for them the last loving services affection requires. Because Joseph does these things for Jesus, all four gospels make sure we know his name.
But Joseph isn’t alone. Two women who loved Jesus watch where he is laid. They take note. They remember the place. They will come back with spices in the morning.
Jesus’ death was cruel, but at least it was noticed and mourned. Countless other deaths, the expendable refuse of indifferent empires, go unnoticed and unmourned. Deprived of the loving obsequies of friends, no one knows where their bodies are. No one can come back to them with spices in the morning.
On this holy Saturday, Jesus sleeps like a seed in the earth. We know where they placed him, and we’re keeping vigil there. It’s a good day to ask who is keeping vigil with the rest.’
Who is taking note of bodies not interred with tender care, but flung aside by hatred, power, and pride? Who is tracking down the precious places where they sleep? Who is brave enough to go there, resolute enough to stay, witnessing, until the dear Life that tomorrow raises Jesus from the grave summons them up also from the dead?
Remember the dead, known and loved, O God; and the dead injustice casts aside and willfully forgets. Make us watchers with you over every body, finders with you of every grave, life-givers with you to all who lie unnoticed behind such heavy stones.