Monday, 2 April 2018

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Three pyramids dominate the Cairo skyline, each the tomb of a pharaoh. The ancient Egyptian kings who built the pyramids stocked them with precious artefacts and gold, as well as servants and food intended for their afterlives. Each was already ancient history by the time of Jesus.
     Throughout history, people have built tombs to house their bodies after they die. The more powerful the ruler, the bigger the structure. Think of the Taj Mahal. We also see many examples in Britain — think this time of the chantry chapels in our cathedrals and maybe Stonehenge. The idea of building these structures is simple enough: even when a person had died, their influence continues. We remember the person because we see their tomb. It’s a signature in stone.
     There’s no evidence that Joseph of Arimathea intended Jesus’ tomb to become a memorial of that sort. The Jewish people generally did not build tombs, though the Bible does mention a few. Joseph wants Jesus’ body because he wants to show respect to it, and maybe a place in which to commemorate the man he regarded as an inspiration.
     There are many definitions of being a Christian, but the Bible is surprisingly silent. It does not say ‘A Christian is …’ The closest comes from St Paul when he says, ‘Those who do not possess the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Christ’. The idea is simple: if we are his, genuinely seeking to follow, he allows his spirit to live inside a human soul — yours or mine; and, while there, he motivates and changes that believer to become increasingly Christlike.
     Pentecost remembers the occasion when the Holy Spirit first came to the Church; and he still comes into the lives of believers. He does not sit in a soul in a passive sense. God does not lay out his Spirit on a catafalque inside a human soul. This is not a dead spirit, not a former being laid out in a cold mausoleum. This is life.
     Jesus’ dead body is laid in a tomb, but he comes back to life. That’s why we do not remember him through a mausoleum. We don’t remember him by looking up to see a stone structure. But Jesus does have a resting place of sorts: we are the structure in which Jesus resides. We are a Temple of the Spirit.

No comments:

Post a Comment