Via Dolorosa – Hidden From View

It was probably more physical work and mental tension than these two clerics had ever experienced. As Nicodemus and Joseph went about the sad task of removing Jesus from the cross, they had ropes to unfasten, lifeless limbs to be pulled through the heavy spikes, and the removal of the crown of thorns. The body required a cleansing from the grime and the blood and a closing of the eyes. All throughout there remained in these two – quite divorced from reason – a sense of vicariousness at play. The living carry a disquiet of causing further injury or more pain to the dear dead. I have chatted with first responders about the gentle care and respect they give to the bodies of those who’ve perished during their watch. There is a profound sense of reverence that arises from the recognition that just a few moments prior, a sentient, life-filled human- being inhabited this now, inert body. We understand the concept of “being dead” at an intellectual level. But it is difficult to grasp that truth when we’re handling a body that is still warm and supple.

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. ~Matthew 27:59-60

We’ve all had our imaginations somewhat littered by various portrayals of how the tomb was sealed. Often it is depicted by a large, flat disc that was rolled into place. Those were around, to be sure, but they were actually quite rare. According to archeologists they’ve only discovered four of these in all their many years of digging around Jerusalem. Moreover, those four seemed to be attached to royalty. The more common covering was called the corkscrew stone. They have found this example on hundreds of tombs. It is basically a large stone with a stopper crafted on one side to plug the hole. Think of a wine bottle stopper with a round top attached for the grip. The large stone was fashioned and angled in such a way that with the removal of just a few supports, it would roll down a slight incline and right into place. However, pushing it back out from the inside of the tomb would have been impossible because of both the weight and the incline. Jesus was now hidden from view. He was really dead and he was really buried.

Taking Jesus down from the cross represents the 13th Station on the Via Dolorosa and placing him in the tomb is the 14th. Here we will linger for just a bit. And, there are others who will join us in our contemplation: And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. ~Matthew 27:61