Tag Archives: Mary Magdalene

Matthew 27: 57-66 The Guarded Body of Jesus

Wall Mosaic of the Entombment of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Photo shared by Antan0 under CC.

Matthew 27: 57-66

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir,[1] we remember what that impostor[2] said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guardof soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

The conclusion of the crucifixion scene brings before Pilate two very different appeals: one comes from a rich disciple of Jesus requesting the body and one comes from the religious leaders to ensure that the elimination of Jesus’ power is completed. Ironically, it is the chief priests and the Pharisees who have understood the words that Jesus speaks about rising up while many of his disciples remained unable to hear and understand these predictions. Also, the religious leaders’ actions to prevent a deception by the disciples of Jesus will require their own deception after the resurrection.  Now a rich male disciple, two women, and a guard of soldiers will witness a sealed tomb with the body of the crucified Jesus placed inside.

Joseph of Arimathea is both a disciple of Jesus and wealthy. The challenge to the rich young man in 19:21 is not universalized in the gospel for all followers of Jesus. Yet, like the woman who anoints Jesus at Bethany with a very costly ointment (26:6-13), Joseph uses this wealth in the service of preparing Jesus for his death. He provides the clean linen cloth and his own new tomb in service of Jesus. As Warren Carter notes, Joseph’s act is a courageous one. The eleven disciples presumably fled to avoid guilt by association with Jesus as he is crucified and Joseph’s request for the body to provide a proper burial could stain him with association with a crucified criminal. (Carter 2001, 539) Like Joseph the son of Jacob in the Egyptian court he refuses to be swayed by the imperial power and like Joseph, who fulfills the role of an earthly father to Jesus, he seeks to be faithful to God’s ways rather than the ways of those reigning at the time.

Two women disciples also remain keeping watch, and their mention on either side of Joseph of Arimathea strengthens the link in Matthew that these women are considered disciples as well. There is the possibility that Matthew understands these women as awaiting the resurrection, but they may also, like Joseph, be giving a final offering to the one they have followed since Galilee. Their position at the tomb at the time of Jesus’ entombment prepares for their arrival after the sabbath going to the tomb.

Even if the women are not waiting in expectation of the resurrection, the religious leaders are anticipating some action by the disciples of Jesus to fulfill their leader’s words. The chief priests are now rejoined by the Pharisees who have been absent since Matthew 22-23. Both groups of religious leaders have dealt with Jesus at various points in his ministry and attempting to ensure his legacy is ended brings these often-opposed groups together. Although the main disciples of Jesus have scattered, the religious leaders fear some or all of them returning to perpetuate the legacy of Jesus. As mentioned above, their actions to prevent deception require a new deception and their guards will prove one more witness they will need to silence. The tomb is sealed, the body prepared, and the guards and the women will wait with all of creation for the first day of the week.

[1] This is the Greek kupios which is translated Lord throughout Matthew when referring to Jesus. Although it can be the simple honorific ‘sir’ it is significant that the religious leaders now use this same address for the representative of Rome.

[2] In vs. 63 and 64 the Greek planos as a noun means deceiver or deception. It is the same word in both verses and instead of imposter I would translate vs. 63 as deceiver.

Three Days- A Poem

Statue of Mary Magdalene in Mission Santa Monica

Statue of Mary Magdalene in Mission Santa Monica

Three days has my master been gone
Three days since those he loved scattered
Three days since receiving his pierced and battered body
One final gift from the hands of our oppressors

Three days of mourning and preparations
Three days of weeping and working
Three days of trying to hold on to a man who is dead
The tomb awaits the payment of grief

The first day of the week has come
A time of new beginnings, of beginning anew
Yet I find myself walking towards the end, towards death itself
As I walk towards the gaping and devouring maw of the tomb

O tomb, you who could devour life itself
Who hold within you the remains of one who lifted a child from your jaws
One who denied you your prize, who snatched youth from your hands
Now perhaps you can laugh as you hold the one who denied you in your craw

Three days you have haunted me O death
Three days have I journeyed into your home
Three days have I tried to ward off your foul stench for this man’s sake
This man who made me a human and no longer a walking corpse

Three years did I journey with him,
Three years ago did he free me from the demons who tore at the corners of my mind
Three years of freedom and of being a human and not an object of shame
This man who I followed out of Magdala

Three days and I confront once again my fears
Do my demons lurk within this tomb?
Does my fragile self find itself destroyed by maw of death?
Yet, through my fear, for the memory of this true person I defy you.

Three of us walk together, three women, three lost ones
Three and yet incomplete without the one who lies behind the immovable rock
Three unable to pry open the jaws of the grave to snatch his life out of it
Uneasy, uncertain we walk towards the heart of the earth

Yet, as we approach you in the cold dawning of the day your mouth lies open
What has happened, have our oppressors taken away the one last gift we had
Have they shamed him even more, have they taken away our wrestling with death
Can we stand at the gaping maw of death without his presence?
Yet within the tomb sits a young man, a man in white
In the darkness, in the midst of death, youth that will not die sits
Our search ends with his puzzling message,
Our search begins with words that cannot breach our deadened senses
“Fear not, the one you seek is not here, he has gone ahead of you”

Fear not, and yet fear—a fear greater even than my fear of death overwhelms me
Who is this sitting here, who was the Jesus who lay here, what is he?
Is this the first day of a new creation, or is this truly the end?
How do I go home, how can I move, how can I tell his shattered disciples this?

Could I bear the rebuke of being a foolish woman whose dreams are shattered again?
Could I turn back home and tell what I’ve seen, do I even believe it myself?
Could I make the journey back to Galilee and wait for the Lord who lay in the tomb three days?
Or does fear reign in my body and in Mary and in Salome?

O tomb I taunted you, O death I defied you, but you I knew.
But now you stand open while my mouth is sealed shut
I feared your presence while you contained my Lord, now I cannot stand in your presence at all
Fear, confusion, amazement, wonder, silence
I run away

Perhaps the day will come when the stone over my own mouth is rolled away
Perhaps it too will take three days, or three months or three years
Perhaps it will take me finding the Lord who has been spirited away
“Fear not…he has gone ahead of you.”

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com

La Magdalena

Guido Reni (1575-1642)-The Penitent Magdalene

Guido Reni (1575-1642)-The Penitent Magdalene

A poem inspired by Michael Parkes’ picture La Magdalena and by extension Mary Magdalene. La Magdalena is a copyrighted image but click the link at the name to see the image that inspired the poem.

The cards of destiny were stacked against me
No hearts or diamonds, only clubs and spades
The scars of my past and the demons of my present
Howl for my skull in the fish town of Magdala
Outcast. Harlot. Sinner. Prostitute. Pariah.
The names and titles I bear before the world
A lover, unloved.
A heart shattered under the weight of misdeeds, real and imagined
No longer whole, but made to be defiled
Invisible to all who might help, a face unseen and a voice unheard
In the dust-filled wilderness of my captivity
No sun or moon or stars to light my way underneath the brimstone skies
A future damned by the past which forced itself upon me and violated my soul
No way to master the rock of my shame
Liberated from the demonic debris of my desolation
From the top of the boulder of an identity I could not remove
I let the cards of destiny fly in the wind
The darkness of the night gives way to a new dawn
Death dies to make way for the fecundity of a new creation
The sinner becomes the saint. The outcast becomes the sister.
The harlot is drawn near by the friend of sinners and tax-collectors
The pariah becomes the disciple
The unloved one will see love itself die and be reborn
For no tomb can contain love
I will be the first, but not the last, to weep tears of joy for a tomb opened
The gates of Gehenna shattered and the prisoners of Hades set free
Freed from having to seek a better past I sit upon the rock of eternity
Watching the beginning of the life of the new eon
Leaving the wastelands behind, I journey towards the horizon

composed Neil White, 2013

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com