A Difficult Task

Golgotha: The Place of the Skull

It was finally over. He had watched from a distance when the crowd was full. And as they slowly dispersed, he moved closer, until he stood at the foot of the cross. Tears filled his eyes and he reached up to touch the feet of this gentle man.

He knew his crying would serve no purpose. It was nearing sundown and there was much to do. So he wiped the tears away with the back of his hand, took a deep breath, and went to work. He found the ladder and placed it gently against the crossbeam. He slowly climbed to its full height. He worked in silence. He worked in reverence.

Joseph removed the nails and untied the arms. With the help of some who remained, he lowered the teacher’s body to the earth. Hurrying down the ladder, he came to the side of this one who had peered into his heart and his mind. He cradled the prophet in his arms. He pushed back the hair from his battered face and looked at the swollen eyes, the bruised lips, the limp frame.

The sun was getting low in the sky and Joseph returned to the task before him. He quickly laid out linens. This was a ritual performed for centuries but usually in the quiet of a home, on a bed or a table, rarely on the side of a hill at the edge of the city. But there was little time and he proceeded in haste. Several women standing near watched him awkwardly folding the sheet one way, and then another, fumbling with the edges and tucks. They stepped in and silently offered their service, ensuring this one they loved would be prepared properly.

When the work was finished, Joseph lifted his friend into his arms and began to walk. No one knew where he intended to go but in silence, they followed. He stepped quickly down the hill and onto a well-worn trail. He followed it into a garden. His steps were sure and even under the weight of his burden. As the parade of mourners rounded an ancient sycamore tree, they came upon a freshly prepared tomb in the side of the hill. Stone chips were scattered around its entrance. Freshly hewn, it bore the marks of wealth well spent. Joseph entered into the growing darkness of the cave and lovingly laid out his friend. His teacher. His prophet. His Savior.

As he left the tomb, he felt the stares of those few gathered. He stood for a moment, as the events of the day passed over his mind’s eye. He blinked, straightened, and began to cry. Ignoring those who watched, he put his back against the huge stone, rolled it across the tomb entrance, and closed the grave. With his head hung low, chin against his chest, he walked quietly from the garden.