April 20, 2019

Joe of Ari

Icon of Joseph of Arimathea

MATTHEW 27:57   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. The Guard at 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, we remember what that impostor 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 guard of 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.

After such a hellish week, Joseph allowed himself a massage, before going home to Arimathea for the Passover Feast.  His youngest had invited a young man for the first time. When did she get old enough for this?”   The banter in his head was interrupted by the voice of the older man lying on the next massage table.  “Can you believe,” he said with a sharp intake of breath. “Not so hard, Granicus, I’m old. Where was I?  That Nazarene Rabbi that Pilate crucified. You should have seen the look on the High Priest’s face when he learned the Governor, put a placard on top with, “King of the Jews” on it.   Joseph interrupted, “what about him.” “He’s dead already.  I lost the bet.  Given his age I would have expected him to last for a couple of days at least.

 Joseph sat up, called for his clothing. Dressing quickly, he walked out escorted by his servants.   It didn’t take long to arrive at the Praetorium (Pilate’s residence).  The place was deserted. By now even the worst procrastinators hurried to finish the last details before dusk. At sundown the Passover would begin.

Joseph of Ari

Sitting on the Council as he did, literally opened doors for him to meet Pilate.  He asked for the body of Jesus. “Very well, if you want to tend the Nazarene’s body, welcome to it.  I know you Jews want all three buried before sundown. I’m not sure why you are doing this, but thank you, though you are not doing it for me. It make my life a bit simpler. Bad business this.”  And so it happened.  In a hurry to get things done but with dignity,   Joseph of Arimathea placed the ruined body, wrapped in fine linen, into his own, newly completed tomb.  He rushed off to arrive home for the Sedar.

Some were surprised at Joseph’s actions.  He was a quiet man and while he was convinced that Jesus was Messiah, he had made no public pronouncements. Such was not his way.  It was a little odd, when later someone pointed out to Joseph a verse in the fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah.

ISAIAH 53:9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Joseph was too modest to consider that his name came in Isaiah’s prophecy.  His family, on the other hand, believed it, cherished the story for as long as they had a collective memory and so do we.

In hope, in spite of the facts.  John


April 20, 2019


Matthew 27; 57-66

Verses 57-61   When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph,

Joseph of ari

Joseph of Arimathea

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.


A cadence is a stopping place in a piece of music. There is a full cadence at the end. The movement of the chords tells our ear that the end is come. There is also a plagal cadence.  Basically it states that the end is coming but not just yet. We are half way home and rest before moving on.  In Western music the piece moves to the and with a full cadence says, “Done, over, finished” and every ear agrees it is so.

By that rude definition, Holy Saturday is a plagal cadence. The awful Friday finally ended.  Jesus is mercifully beyond pain.  Sometimes contrary to our deepest hope, we are glad that someone is dead.  If for no other reason than an ending of suffering.

Jan Henyk de Rosen - Joseph of Arimethea

Jospeh of Arimathea Chapel, Washington National Cathederal – Jan Henyk de Rosen

 Joseph from Arimathea, a wealthy aristocratic disciple came forward and did for Jesus, what perhaps no other follower could have done that day.  His connections opened the Governor’s door and Pilate released Jesus’ body for burial.  Joseph cared for our Lord’s body tenderly, spared no expense and contributed his own, just finished mausoleum as a burial place.  Having accomplished his mission, rolling the great stone into place, he went away. There was nothing else he could do. The gang of Mary’s, led by the one from Magdala,  sat down keeping vigil, as if by staying it would not final. It is a way of facing loss in increments rather than being overwhelmed by the flood at high tide.

What seemed a final cadence to everyone that Saturday, was in fact a plagal cadence instead.  The end was coming but not yet. When it did come it was a symphonic glory.  Let us watch, wait and faint not.   Despair says, “God can do nothing.”  Tis not so. God will act.  Wait and pray.

In hope, in spite of the facts. John

Pilate Was a Man with a Future

pilate jesus

Sunday after Sunday in the Creed we say, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” 

Who was this man?

  • He was a member of the Pontii family
  • The Pontii were a second tier elite, equestrian order. 
  • The Equestians or Knights as we would call them – are largely military officers of the middle rather than general level.
  •  Pilate was a nickname meaning “pike man or one who throws a javelin.” 
  • Perhaps he was known as an jock,  
  • or it may have described his drive to succeed. 
  •  §  Pilate married well by marrying Claudia Procula, the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus Caesar. 
  • §  He was politically well connected being the protégé of Sejanus,  the favorite of Emperor Tiberius.
  • §  When he appears in the Gospel he was in his early thirties.

 This young, ambitious, proud and hot tempered Roman Aristocrat arrived in Judea, accompanied by wife (which was most unusual) to become governor of Judea in 26 A.D.  He governed there for ten years.  

 Immediately his temper got him into trouble.  He brought the Imperial Standards into Jerusalem.  The standards had the image of the Emperor on them.  Jewish law forbade graven images so bringing them into the holy city provoked a riot. 

Then Pilate took money from the temple treasury to finance the building of an aqueduct to bring water into the city.  The temple authorities complained to the Emperor. 

*  Another complaint was made to the Emperor when some Galileans were killed with their sacrifices in the temple.

 §  These issues alone would not have been too much trouble

§  These missteps coupled with the fact that Sejanus had fallen from power and could no longer give him political cover. 

§  Pilate was in the precarious position being squeezed between Rome and the hostile population in Judea.

In April of 33AD, the eighth year of Pilate’s administration, he met a young man without much future.

Jesus did not have much family background. 

He was not wealthy.

§  He was from a poor part of a poor province. 

§  There were questions about his legitimacy and

§  He had no wife

§  No political connections

§  He had powerful enemies: the Pharisees, the priests and the Sadducees. 


Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, healed the sick and cast out demons.  He said things like, “They who try to save their lives lose them and those who lose their life for my sake will find them.”  He entered Jerusalem before Passover amid the crowds proclaiming him Messiah, the anointed one.  There was a scene in the Temple where he publicly took the High Priest and his family to task for their corruption.  The police arrested him.  The supreme council, the Sanhedrin, tried him finding him guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense.  Only the Roman Governor could condemn someone to death. So off they hauled Jesus before Pilate.

 The young Roman with a future met the man from Galilee who had no future.

 As the examination proceeded Pilate realized that Jesus was no terrorist.  So he tried to do the right thing and free Jesus. But the rulers pressed him.  When he offered to let him go with a flogging they said no.  When he tried to let him go with the special Passover pardon, No, they wanted Barabbas, a terrorist released instead.   They wanted Jesus crucified.

 Claudia, his wife, sent a message to Pilate warning him, “Have nothing to do with that just man.” She had been troubled on his account in a dream.

 A later legend has it that the Pilate & Claudia had a son who was very ill and that when requested by Mrs. Pontius, Jesus healed the boy. (That is interesting but un-provable, although there are letters purported to be from Claudia Procula to a friend named Flavia dated some years after the Gospel accounts.

The authorities said, “If you do not crucify him, you are no friend of Caesar’s.”   Pilate was caught.  Jesus was innocent.  He had some sense of fair play.  But if Jesus was released another critical report would go the Emperor.  He had his future to think of.  He had to protect what he had worked so hard to gain.


Non-dual Thinking: 

§  The Cross is a sign of non-dual/paradox. 

§  A means of death has become a sign of blessing. 

§  Christians believe that the future is not based ultimately on anything we do. 

§  The future is based not on what we know but who we know!


That Good Friday morning two young men met and parted:

§  one to life and

§  the other to death. 

Jesus died on the Cross. 

Pilate continued his career only to be recalled to Rome in disgrace where

One version says he committed suicide.

Another source reports that he was exiled to Vienne in Gaul/France where he died.

We all have a future,






Pontius Pilate, Portraits of a Roman Governor (Interfaces Barbara Green, editor)

§  I was only doing my job

§  I was the wrong  person in the wrong  place at the wrong  time

§  I did the best I could

§  The priests made me do it

§  I did nothing wrong

Pilate did all this in defense of his future, not realizing that the future is NOW!

Our Future is NOW.

We are busy.  I am a descendent in the Sewell line from Henry Sewell who arrived in Virginia in the early 17th Century.  He is my grandfather 11 generations removed.

§  I believe that if Grandfather Henry were plopped down this morning with us that he would be psychotic within 36-48 hours, why, because he would simply be unable to deal with the amount of stimulation that we consider normal. 

§  I also believe that given all the demands this stimulation makes of us that if most of went to Hell it would be because we had been too busy to make other arrangements.

§  If I may borrow from Saint Paul, “Beloved such things ought not to be!”

I am determined to the degree that I have influence, that we take time to recover from the mild psychosis we call our schedules, take stock of our souls, and move to do what is needed to do the most important work that a Christian can do.

Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal


Pilate had no idea that on that day in April 33, that what he did that day would format the very calendar for evermore.  I don’t know if he ever believed on Christ.  But what I do know is that we do know who Christ is and that the most important thing we can do this week is to come to this place to experience the love and acceptance of God.

If not now, WHEN

If not here, WHERE

Our very future depends on it.