A Borrowed Tomb

It is finished. Good Friday is always a day when we have our faith shattered. God is dead and yet, God is alive. The oxymoron makes faith an interesting proposition. God’s human life is exhausted; but could we ever extinguish divinity? God’s love is deeper and stronger than death and so we don’t ever believe that God is dead because today, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, is remembered for taking that final step in defeating death and giving us eternal life—and that of course is why this is “Good” Friday.

But God gives us all that he is and what might we be able to offer to God, knowing what we know. Nicodemus, a secret disciple comes out of hiding and offers Jesus, a poor Nazorean, now without even the dignity of a proper burial, is given a borrowed tomb.

There are no tabernacles of honor today. Jesus is buried in a borrowed place, a place reserved usually for some other purpose. A disturbing thought, the Christ is not where he usually is, or even where I’d like him to be.

Would you ever ask to “borrow” a cemetery plat?

I’ve always been uncomfortable when someone dies and nobody comes to claim the body. Didn’t anyone care? Jesus’ friends probably could have banded together and worked something out to bury Jesus somewhere appropriate but they were too scared to even busy the dead. Would they be buried next? The horror of Auschwitz, not so long ago, actually, was not only the extermination of Jews, homosexuals, Gypsys and a lot more people who Hitler discarded. The horror continued as bodies were just thrown aside into a mass grave—even in death, dignity is not provided, bodies strewn across bodies like a garbage heap.

Who do we stick in that borrowed grave today? Who do we not honor? Who do we cast away, not bothering to care or even know the names of?

Whose crucifixion are we ignoring today? Who have we ignored, so much that we don’t even know where they have been buried after it’s too late to care?

When we realize our fault, we recognize Jesus once again–wounded, destroyed and discarded. We see his passion and we renew our passion, the passion that we often know exists but often forget about in favor of other passions that never satisfy us completely.

The borrowed tomb is even more disgusting to me than the bloody cross. Jesus was so poor and his disciples so afraid that they didn’t even “prepare a place for him.” A place where they could be where he is lying, where his body could be anointed and kept safely and discretely. A tabernacle for God’s body then, was an empty cave given to him by a secret disciple, who is now not so secret.

Who are the secret disciples today? Who carefully must believe in Jesus because of fear of their own death? In Iran, in Pakistan and in many more places we still have secret disciples today. They are Nicodemus because of Jesus and we need to tell their story so that they are able to worship in freedom.

And they tell us that we are free. But are we really? Because often I know I’m not free from my own addictions, my own preferred passions that I choose instead of Jesus. The things I do in secret that causes Jesus to be buried in a borrowed tomb instead of a place of honor.

There are no tabernacles of honor today. Jesus is buried in a borrowed place, a place reserved usually for some other purpose. A disturbing thought, the Christ is not where he usually is, or even where I’d like him to be.

Instead Christ lies today and often with those who I discard. Those I need to be with more often or even realize that they are in the world suffering and dying on their own cross. A cross that I don’t look at often enough to see Jesus again crucified for my sins.

We pray to be able to recognize that cross as Christ and pray that we never need to resort to a borrowed tomb again. There are no tabernacles of honor today. Jesus is buried in a borrowed place, a place reserved usually for some other purpose. A disturbing thought, the Christ is not where he usually is, or even where I’d like him to be.

But the truth is that the tabernacle that is missing today, is us.

We need to be the container of Christ’s body and blood that courses in our bloodstream, driving our passion, making us become what we receive here so that we might go out and let others borrow our tombs. To not only be Jesus but Nicodemus, the not-so secret disciple who gives God a final bit of dignity, when all others assume it’s too late.

It’s never too late, for Christ. And that is the good news. For we are an Easter people and we can look to the cross and know that more is still to come.

But if we already know that—then why are there still people in borrowed tombs today?

And to make matters worse, we don’t even realize that those in the borrowed tombs, have also been crucified.

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2 Comments

  1. You may want to fix the typo which says that “Nicodemus” donated the tomb, as it was Joseph who donated it (Nicodemus was of course with him).

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