Whenever Easter rolls around, I have a ritual that I do. I place myself into the story, imagining the resurrection day like a scene out of a movie. I usually pick a character, and I try to imagine that glorious day through that witness’ eye. Over the years I’ve imagined meeting Jesus through the lens of Mary Magdalene in the garden where she mistakes him as the gardener. I’ve imagined myself being stirred and moved while listening to the stranger on the road to Emmaus. And of course, I’ve placed myself in the shoes of St. Peter, as he jumped out of the fishing boat excited and anxious to meet his risen Lord, who we know was waiting to redeem him on the shore. But there’s someone else that I love to imagine the resurrection day through and that’s… Joseph.
We all know Joseph the patriarch, we are familiar with Saint Joseph, but I’ve never really paid that much attention to Joseph of Arimathea. I remember the first time I gave him any serious thought. It was when I was reading a children’s Bible to my elder son. As we recounted the resurrection story, my son and I noticed that Jesus’ burial tomb was actually identified. It belonged to Joseph of Arimathea! “Who is this guy?”, I wondered. Why is he mentioned in all four Gospels! He was definitely worth looking into.
Here’s what we know.
He was the one guy who was sure that Jesus died.
He was the one guy who held Jesus’ dead body.
He was the one guy who sealed the tomb.
Place yourself in Joseph’s shoes (sandals) for a second. Imagine after having prepped Jesus for burial, after having carried him into your own tomb, and after having sealed the tomb yourself, hearing only three short days later, that Jesus is not there!
The Apostle Paul later goes on to report that over 500 of his followers got to see the resurrected Messiah. I often wonder if Joseph was one of the 500 that got to see the resurrected Christ.
What could be running through his mind as he witnessed Jesus walking around, having just touched his dead body, having just smelled the body, having just carried his body!
And after having seen the ascension of our Lord, what did it feel like for him to try to go about his life again? What was it like to pass by his tomb (that was nearby) daily?
I realized as I was reading to my son
after the resurrection,
would probably have a different perspective about his tomb… about everything.
I bet that every time he passed by his tomb, it would mean something else for him.
Instead of the inevitable, instead of death and grief, I bet it reminded him of the resurrection.
And when his family finally places his body in the tomb,
I bet that they too would be reminded of that day
when Jesus came out of their father’s tomb!
Can you imagine that? What was once a symbol of death, now has become a symbol of hope. Not because Jesus redefined loss and death, but while in it (the tomb) he defeated death altogether.
Something else is now inevitable.
What was once the place where all things end up,
has become the place where all things are being made new!
This Easter, I invite you to enter the story yet again. Let’s take stroll with Joseph and pass by his tomb. Let’s feel what he’s feeling as he stops to remember that glorious day, when his Savior came out of that tomb. And with him, let's celebrate the fact that nothing will ever be the same again... not even the tomb.