Mark's Passion 6 “Last Rites” 6pm



“As evening approached” Mark tells us; as late as you can get before you have to stop all work. He’s keeping the time sequence before our minds. But now some bits and pieces that we’ve seen before begin to spring into prominence. Remember the shadowy meeting of the “entire high council” in the first painting? That means that Joseph from Arimathea must have been there as well, and he is. And whose opinion does Pilate defer to, to assure himself that Jesus was really dead? “So he called for the Roman military officer in charge and asked him. The officer confirmed the fact.” I had never noticed that before. It’s the Roman officer who was called out to duty with his soldiers before the dawn to control the mob. There he is standing right beside Jesus in the half light. It’s the same Roman soldier who must allow his soldiers to do their soldier thing in their barracks, but watches Jesus and them closely. The same Roman soldier who escorts Jesus through the silent crowd, following the cross now hoisted by Simon. The same officer who controls the execution and observes how Jesus is hated by those who call out from the crowd. The same officer who observes the manner of Jesus’ death, and comes to faith. This is the officer whom Pilate now asks for confirmation that Jesus truly is dead, and releases the body into the hands of one of the high council. And the women still watch and note.


The simplest painting. The tomb is sealed, the rock is cold and heavy. The circle of human life is complete, and those who had hoped, and dreamed, and loved, prepare to fulfill the last rites. I wondered whether I should have put the Roman officer in this painting as well, but decided not to. But he is in the under painting. There in spirit if not in fact. What a long day.


Glory of Jesus
Wonder of Creation