After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
~ John 19:38-42
The story of Christ’s passion and death is a very surreal one for me. It keeps on shifting between the human and the divine, between the mundane and the mystical, between the realistic and the mythical, between the tragic and the ecstatic.
He twitted the powers-that-be. So, it was natural to expect they would want to eliminate Him and they did. His followers expected Him to work His miracles to save himself; that His angels will come for His final victory. They did not and He suffered an ignominious death. He was crucified like a common criminal. And only a few days before that, the city of Jerusalem came out in droves to welcome Him with songs and branches. He had the city then at His feet. And now even his disciples have scurried away and some even betrayed and denied Him.
And today, we commemorate these events as salvific events. That Christ went through them to save us. Men long for a fullness of life but because of their imperfections (sins), they often end up disappointed, disappointments, or even wretched. Christ showed us that there is a better and fuller life in store for us. There is the promise of the Resurrection after the agony of Calvary. That is the ending I would want to stay around and see.
But sometimes I imagine that the story is more important than the ending. I think of Jesus going through all His agony and sufferings and ask what if the ending was not the Resurrection? Could I still face up to the challenges, the pain and the sufferings of life even if there were no heaven to follow? It seems Christ would have. Would I?
What if there is no reward for loving unconditional except for the fact that loving id its won reward? Would I still love my enemies even if my loving them would not at all change their anger and hatred towards me? Christ did. He asked forgiveness for those who tortured and murdered Him. Would I?
What if heaven is just a myth and we are forever condemn to a mundane earthly existence? Would I still strive to do good and make this place a better place to live in? Would I still care for others and share with them the goodness and beauty I am capable of doing? Christ did. Would I?
Between the human and the divine elements of the Passion Story, I cannot miss the hand of God at work here. What Christ bore was beyond what is human; it could only be the work of the Divine.
Between the mundane and the mystical in Christ’s Passion, I keep on sensing the Presence of God who speaks to us in the ordinariness of our lives but also through the many things about life that we do not fully understand.
Between the realistic and the mythical in Christ’s dying on the cross, I can see the senselessness of it all and yet in that very senselessness I can understand why God even bothered to create the universe.
Between the tragic and the ecstatic of Christ being laid in the tomb, I can catch a glimpse of the helplessness of the baby lying in the manger being help in the palms of the Creator and showing us a path to our eventual coming home to Him.