This morning, during my time of prayer, I was listening to my friend Paul reading chapters 18 and 19 of John’s Gospel. Listening to the story being read is a different experience from reading it, and thoughts occurred to me that were new to me. I heard that after Jesus’ death Joseph of Arimathea and a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for permission to remove Jesus’ body and was obviously given permission to do so, for he with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had visited Jesus by night earlier in John’s story, took Jesus’ body and laid it in a new tomb at considerable cost and no doubt some risk to themselves.
I found myself asking “What would have happened if they hadn’t?” Jesus’ Galilean family and friends would not have had the necessary access to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body, and would have had nowhere to lay it if they had. They could hardly have carried it all the way back to Galilee for burial. Presumably the body would have been dumped in a common grave reserved for criminals and the poor. The potential symbolism of such an action is not lost on me. But that isn’t what happened. For Jesus had some powerful friends and supporters in Jerusalem who did have access to Pilate and could make a burial place available.
But then I asked “Why did these powerful friends and supporters not intervene earlier and seek to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion?” We cant answer that question, of course. Maybe they did and failed. Maybe they didn’t try. Or maybe they knew that they wouldn’t be successful and accepted their helplessness. But rather than sinking into despair, they decided to focus on doing what they could do rather than on what they couldn’t, and so they gave Jesus a decent burial. And that is what they have been known and honoured for ever since.
Which takes me to a prayer which might have been theirs, and could certainly be ours in these times:
God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference. Amen.