The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross
+We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“Now since it was the preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath day of the week is a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. For this happened so that the scriptures passage might be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of it will be broken.’ And again another passage says: ‘They will look upon him whom they have pierced.’ After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial clothes along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.” John 19:31-40
How is it that the same men who have no hesitation in condemning and arranging the execution of an innocent man can be so zealous over keeping religious laws? Do they truly think, after knowingly having an innocent man killed, that God will be pleased with their devotion to the Sabbath? Such zeal for the sanctity of the Sabbath, and such disregard for the dignity of innocent human life. Talk about having your priorities confused!
St. John places the crucifixion on the day of preparation, when the Jews would bring the lambs to be sacrificed. One can imagine the priests dispatching the lambs and pouring their blood on the altar in atonement for the sins of the people even as Jesus was being nailed to the cross and dying for the sins of the world. When God provided Moses with instructions for preparing the lamb for the Passover meal, he told him that none of the lamb’s bones were to be broken. Jesus is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. His sacrifice is not merely for certain people for the year, but for all people forever.
They pierced his side with a lance. The prophet Zechariah proclaims the Lord’s promise of the Messiah: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn” (Zech 12:10). Water and blood poured out of Jesus’ side. His heart, its sack filled with water, was pierced. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Joseph and Nicodemus, secret friends of Jesus, take responsibility for caring for Jesus’ body. Taking Him down from the cross, they care for Jesus in death as He had taken care of so many during His life. Extending His healing hands to the multitudes during His life, those nail-pierced hands now lay crossed over His chest in death. His beaten, mutilated body now rests in linens and spices. It is accomplished. The cup has been consumed. The will of the Father is done. Soon, comes the promise.
Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, the Pieta, depicts the moment the dead body of Jesus is placed in the arms of His Mother, Mary. The look on her face is sublime, peaceful. The sorrow in her heart is so deep, there is no expression that can communicate it. There is nothing left but to hold her Son as she holds on to the hope that the promise of God will be fulfilled. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Father, Jesus’ dead body taken from the cross testifies to a love so great that He was willing to give all for the sake of our salvation. May we be willing to give the last drop, the last ounce of life in our efforts to be true and faithful and obedient and to join our broken hearts to those of Jesus and Mary while we place our hope in the promise that will surely be fulfilled. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.