The Stations of the Deposition Jesus’s death on the Cross and his burial
These ‘stations of deposition can be interspersed with music from Faure’s ‘Requiem’
Looking at the Cross Mark 15:33-41
33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ 40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Watching someone die in agony is awful. Yet the crowds would have been out in force that day to see Jesus and the two criminals executed. The local populous were so wound up by Jesus’ trial and the fact that they had chosen to see him die rather than Barabbas that they would have been very excited, encouraging the Roman soldiers in their work. Work that would have been both quick and painful. He deserved to die, anyway. All those things he said and did were against God’s Law and good Jews do not upset God and get away with it. How little did they know or realise that in crucifying Jesus, they were in fact killing God.
As Jesus hung there he was taunted; get off the cross if you are truly the King of the Jews, you saved others now save yourself. They tempted Jesus just as the devil did during his 40 days in the wilderness but Jesus remained true to his calling and did not yield to temptation. He dies to prove the greatness of God. The noisy crowd were no doubt hoping for a painful and long-drawn out death for Jesus but they did not get it, Jesus dies quite quickly and in doing so silences the crowd. It is only then in his death that he is recognised for who he truly is and then it seems all too late.
The centurion was converted as Jesus died. Suddenly as he looks to the cross and in the man dead upon it he sees who that man is and how his death is proof of God. Christ on the cross is a powerful image and an image that cannot fail to stir emotion in any humane human being. The sight of Jesus, of God crucified can break your heart but it should also give you hope.
The faithful women watching from a distance probably did not have a great deal of hope left. What had their eyes seen, how could the lovely, gentle man they loved and followed be dead? How had things come to pass as they had? So they look on in stunned silence.
What do you see as you look upon the cross?
Is the sight you see one of horror or one of hope? Silence
Lord, as we look upon your broken, dead body help us to look beyond what we see and to perceive your purpose for humanity. In your death give us hope, hope that in our deaths we may live in you. Bless all those who watch their loved ones die, all those who will die this day and all those who will die alone; we ask that they will know your loving and gentle presence. Amen.
Jesus is taken down from the cross Mark 15:42-47
42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
You saw him die and yet you cannot even claim his body to bury him. He is regarded as a criminal and therefore not worthy of a decent Jewish burial. He will be tossed into the pit along with the other crucified wrongdoers. How can a mother bear that thought? How could Jesus’ friends let him be cast away as though he had never existed?
It was risky and it was unorthodox but Joseph presents himself before Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body, so that he can bury him. Pilate could have just laughed him out of court but he does not. Perhaps he remembers his wife’s concerns and the fact he really could find nothing to condemn the man, at least nothing that deserved his death. Perhaps to assuage his conscience he grants Joseph’s request and allows Jesus to be given a decent burial.
Joseph returns to Golgotha and with help begins to take the lifeless body of Jesus off the cross. At this point we can imagine his mother and followers rushing towards the cross to help and what does his mother do? She does the only thing a mother can do; she cradles him in her arms just as she did at his birth. The ‘Pieta’, Mary nursing the body of her dead son has long been an inspiration for artists and their work is always both touching and chilling at the same time. Chilling as it brings home the barbarity of Jesus’ death and touching as it shows the depth of a parent’s love for their child.
At least they had his body. He would not be left in some anonymous pit forgotten and unloved and they had the comfort of a place to visit and to be alongside him in the coming days, months and years. The tomb gives a focus to their grief and a resting place peaceful and secure for the man they love.
you are with us in the daylight and the dark. As this our brother goes from us,
may your love be with him in the shadows, and lead him to your presence
where the life that began with you
is sustained for ever. Amen
(from the Scottish Episcopal Church Revised Funeral Rite 1987 amended)
Matthew 27:62-66 Guarding the tomb
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” 64Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ 65 Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Pilate must really have been shaken by ordering Jesus’ death. For even in his death Jesus is still able to be a threat to his position. To do nothing is to appear weak in the eyes of the religious leaders and the vassals cannot be seen to have
any hold over the overlord. To give in now would thoroughly undermine his position, so Pilate sends guards to seal the tomb in which Jesus’ body has been laid. Those that loved Jesus must have been thoroughly frustrated. He is dead, what more can he do? Can they not even leave him alone now that he is gone? Yes, he said that he would rise again after three days but honestly is that really going to happen? But if you do not have a body can you say that he is truly dead?
The authorities were worried. Their power base was threatened and for the next three days they were going to make sure that nothing happened to Jesus’ body - nothing that could be used by his followers to suggest that he had risen from the dead and would come back to overthrow them. As far as the authorities were concerned that body was going nowhere and as far as Jesus’ followers were concerned they wanted his body to rest in peace.
We commend Jesus to your care O Lord;
giving thanks for all that he brought us.
Though now taken from us,
let him not be parted from you.
May your servant, set free from the bondage of earth, be changed into your likeness, from glory to glory; Amen.
(from the Scottish Episcopal Church Revised Funeral Rite 1987 amended)
John 19:41-42 Alone in the tomb
41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Did the women actually get to wash and anoint Jesus’ dead body? They may have tried but if the guards were already in place they would not have been granted access to the tomb. So Jesus’ body probably lay in the tomb unwashed, unkempt and seemingly uncared for, despite the best efforts of his followers. Those that loved him could do no more, especially as night was falling and the Sabbath was upon them. Jesus is left alone in the cold, dark tomb.
What actually went on in that tomb? This is a question that many have pondered, considered and debated for two thousand years. Something happened; something that would suggest that Jesus was true to his promise of rising again after three days. The tomb is guarded, no one could gain entry or exit, there could be no cloak and dagger charade, with his body being removed and hidden to suggest that he had risen from the dead. BUT something happened while Jesus lay dead and alone in his tomb. But what happened?
None of us know what happened. Perhaps none of us can ever know what went on in Jesus’ grave. This is part of the mystery of our faith and the mystery of God. All we can say is that nothing is beyond the power of God even if that is beyond our understanding. All of us struggle at times to comprehend the ways of God and all of us have our faith tested by our experiences of life but if this time in the tomb teaches us anything it is that God is bigger than we are and that in all things his will, will be done.
who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
‘What next?’ is a good question? The women had obviously been thwarted in their desire to cleanse and care for Jesus’ dead body and have returned the next day to perform that last act of love. They believed that they could do nothing else for Jesus. Yet when they arrive at the tomb, the stone is rolled away and two young men tell them that Jesus is not there. No wonder the women were terrified, where was Jesus’ body? Were they going to get into trouble? Would they be blamed? What must their emotions have been like? They must have experienced everything from despair to joy with a lot of anger in between.
But what next? This could have been the end of the story. Jesus’ body could have just disappeared or if as he said he had risen from the dead he could have walked off into a new life -a life away from his past and a life that would become anonymous. We are privileged to know that he did not just disappear one way or another but those woman did not and neither did the disciples. Chaos must have reigned that first Easter morning.
When we are lost, confused and perplexed be with us Lord. When we are worried, frightened and in despair give us hope and clarity of vision. When we need comfort and support let us be aware of your loving arms around us and support us as we step forward into the unknown of each day. Amen.
Music and silent departure