Death & Burial: Mark 15:33-47

Day 39
Good Friday in Holy Week,
March 31, 2018
“Death and Burial”
Mark 15:33-47
From noon to three in the afternoon, we get darkness across the land. There’s a supernatural claim of divine intervention – the whole creation pauses. Later gospels will amplify that a lot. Like the baptism and the transfiguration, this exceptional moment frames Mark’s story.

 Jesus quotes a psalm, ‘why have you forsaken me’ in Aramaic – addressed to ‘Eloi’, bystanders thought they heard him calling for ‘Elijah’ 

They offer him a sponge with sour wine – another biblical reference, and another pain relief gesture – no word if he bit down on the sponge in Mark. Later, this will become hyssop, to emphasize the biblical allusion. 

He dies with a loud cry.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two.  That’s as likely as the darkness at midday – a cosmic claim, that the boundary between the holy of holies and the rest of the temple is no longer intact. Do you think that is historic and factual? I don’t. But I do believe it’s true.

Mark tells us lessons with actions, not just words. Do we get it yet? 

The centurion, Roman soldier, does, and affirms that Jesus was God’s Son.  Just as the demons recognized Jesus before the disciples, the goyim, the Gentile outsider, working for Rome, is still eligible to ‘see’.

Finally, linger to acknowledge the women. Mark’s version includes by name Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. What else do you know of these women from Mark? Me neither! Let’s not cheat and conflate them into tropes – or into trollops!

Salome is the name tradition gives to Herodias’ daughter, but Mark’s gospel doesn’t say so. Mary Magdalene is a name to which other gospels and long traditions attach many tales and characteristics, often misogynist and lascivious, but not in Mark. We also hear that lots of other women followed all the way from Galilee. 

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, part of the body that approved Jesus’ lynching, gets his reputation back, another in a chain of characters inviting our empathy and identification. He asks Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate confirms the death, then Joseph wraps the body and places it in a tomb to begin putrefaction down to bones. He rolls a stone against the door of the tomb, and two of the women saw where the body was laid. 

No guards, a stone that one effete council member can move. That’s it. Later gospels will elaborate this story, too, eh?

When it was noon, 
darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon. 

 At three o’clock
Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
 ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ 
which means, 
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 

 When some of the bystanders heard it, 
they said, ‘
Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ 

 And someone ran, 
filled a sponge with sour wine,
 put it on a stick, 
and gave it to him to drink, 
saying, ‘
let us see whether Elijah will come
to take him down.’ 

Then Jesus gave a loud cry
and breathed his last.

 And the curtain of the temple
 was torn in two, 
from top to bottom. 

Now when the centurion, 
who stood facing him, 
saw that in this way
he breathed his last, 
he said, ‘
Truly this man was God’s Son!’ 

There were also women
looking on from a distance; 
among them were Mary Magdalene,
 and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, 
and Salome. 

These used to follow him
and provided for him
when he was in Galilee; 
and there were many other women
who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

 When evening had come, 
and since it was the day of Preparation,
 that is, 
the day before the sabbath,

 Joseph of Arimathea, 
a respected member of the council, 
who was also himself
waiting expectantly
for the kingdom of God,

 went boldly to Pilate
and asked for the body of Jesus. 

 Then Pilate wondered
if he were already dead; 
and summoning the centurion, 
he asked him
whether he had been dead
for some time. 

When he learned from the centurion
that he was dead, 
he granted the body to Joseph. 

Then Joseph bought a linen cloth,
 and taking down the body, 
wrapped it in the linen cloth, 
and laid it in a tomb
 that had been hewn out of the rock. 

 He then rolled a stone
against the door of the tomb.

 Mary Magdalene
and Mary the mother of Joses
 saw where the body was laid.