My wife never could quite understand my obsession or urgency with the tomb.
Our garden was an oasis of sanctity and cessation from a city that feeds on frenzied pilgrims. We traded the noise and dirty streets for flowers, butterflies, gravel pathways, and stone steps. Many a late afternoon Seudah Shlishit on Shabbat had been eaten under the shelter of our olive tree. Where my preoccupation came from, I didn’t know. But carving out a tomb long before it would be needed became my passion. The obsession confused and irked my wife to no end. And to be honest, my own rush to finish also confounded me.
But now I know why.
Growing up in one of Jerusalem’s wealthiest families, I lacked nothing. When I was seventeen years old, I felt Jehovah’s hand on my life to search and gain insight into the laws and customs of the three sects of our nation – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes. I adhered to the former – “one who is separated” – addicting myself to great austerities. Hearing of Malachi, a holy man, who dwelt in the desert, and lived an austere life, I went and sat at his feet, and imitated his course of life for four years.
Returning to Jerusalem I met and married my wife settling into life as a Pharisee and became a member of the Sanhedrin. We received the backing and goodwill of the common people, in contrast to those aristocratic monarchists, the Sadducees. We were eclectic and more democratic. I might even say “popular”. We preserved the oral tradition of the Talmud against the ridiculous literal interpretation of the Sadducees, even though they were among the high priests.
When Yeshua of Nazareth began to take upon him the great work of public teaching, I was enamoured with his holy life, pure doctrine, and supernatural miracles. Many Jews embraced what he taught them, and I too became a great admirer of his preaching. I became a sincere convert and followed rabbi Yeshua in all the journeys, which he took throughout the land of Judea, and Galilee. At first my association was without concern.
When Yeshua ran afoul of the Sadducees I aligned myself even stronger with him. But when my brothers took offense at his declension of certain Levitical ritual laws, my standing was put at risk. As a respected member of the Sanhedrin it would not be taken lightly to be seen consorting with him. And so I followed from afar.
The late night summons aroused me from a deep sleep. The Council was meeting. Some urgent judicial decision needed to be rendered. Arriving at the gathering I was shocked to see Yeshua, under arrest, chained and bleeding from a beating. “Blasphemy.” The charge was unfounded and the witnesses unreliable. But my brothers were devoted to seeing him guilty. I was silent. I could not consent to their decision and action. They led him away.
The next day was agony. The Romans scourged Yeshua, and now the crowds had turned against him and called for him to be crucified. Chaos reigned. The city had gone mad. At three in the afternoon the sky went black, an earthquake shook the city. The world was coming to an end. My world was coming to an end. Golgotha was frenzied. With Sabbath approaching, the Roman soldiers had broken the legs of the criminals to expedite their deaths. Yeshua was already dead – his pierced side with no reaction was evidence of his mortality. What now? The sun was setting.
“Why would you, a Pharisee, want the body of a blasphemer?” My petition to Pilate brought about confusion with the authorities and consternation with my peers. The time for secrecy was over. And now my obsession with a tomb made sense. The linen shroud, the burial spices, a quick anointing and an unexpected friend – Nicodemus – another Pharisee, and silent follower. How many more were there?
We rolled the stone across the face of the now occupied tomb. The sun disappeared. The garden was silent.
My heart was as cold as the stone.
Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.
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