Body Taken Into Custody

“Why didn’t the women go to prepare the body right away?” my brilliant Jewish friend asked me yesterday as I tried to explain what Easter meant to me.

“Huh?” This wasn’t the way that I was trained to think about the three days in the tomb, but it seemed rather obvious to someone who had been educated to understand the Jewish way of doing things and how odd it would be to wait that long. Like leaving the image of God unloved.

I wondered how obvious that would have been to a Womanist theologian… to Mike Brown’s mother… to Sandra Bland’s mother. Of course, no one leaves the body of their loved one unprepared that long… in the street that long… in the morgue that long, unless it has been taken into custody. Unless it is guarded by men with swords or spears or guns. Unless the tomb is sealed with the Roman seal, or the murder scene surrounded by yellow police tape.

“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”

I had never understood Matthew 27:61 until Eri pointed out what was right in front of my eyes. The women didn’t come on the third day – they were there all along. They were there on the first day, sitting opposite the tomb, when Joseph of Arimathea put the body inside. They were merely prevented from honoring the body of Jesus the way they longed to do.

“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”

They did not choose to wait to take him in their arms, to bathe and prepare his body for burial. They were held back. The scene was surrounded by yellow tape, while soldiers stood guard to keep them away, and the male disciples hid in fear in the upper room.

Today, I’m thinking of those who can understand the pain of the Marys as they waited and watched. I’m thinking of those who understand what it is to walk the desert with your baby on your back, only to see her have her life taken by the State. I’m thinking of those who have had to stand back while the bodies of their loved ones are taken into custody as evidence, locked up behind the seal of the Empire.

Today, we wait, to see whether they will be able to hold this body in custody; whether they will succeed in using this Body as evidence of the power of the State… or whether it will become evidence of a power even Greater.

Update: More beautiful thoughts from Eri:

Additional thought on the Shabbat timing: even if a body cannot be buried because of Shabbat, it is not left alone. The body is accompanied by members of the community (seen as an honor for the witness and loving kindness toward the dead —- both protecting their body from further harm and comforting their soul in the hours after their death) until preparation and burial can occur. No matter the day, you can’t simply leave a being made in the imagine of Gd alone and unattended.

5 thoughts on “Body Taken Into Custody”

    1. Actually, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day” would imply that it was the the religious leaders who broke Sabbath by working to seal the tomb (whole other reflection there). As for the women, the reason they didn’t “go to prepare the body right away” was that Jesus was not in their custody. It was given into the custody of others while they watched from a distance. Different Gospels give different framings for the situation. One even portrays Nicodemus and Joseph as having the time to prepare the body themselves before the Sabbath began – because, once again, the body was in the custody of Roman and religious authorities, and they could gain access to it as religious leaders, while the women could not. This post is about honoring the women who can identify with the emotion of having to watch while your loved one is in another’s custody.

  1. Regardless, pepperandru, there is truth and honesty in Bonner’s interpretation of the INTENT AND MOTIVATION of the Marys, and of the contemporary MaryMothers of the Michael Browns, Trayvon Martins, Sandra Blands, and more. Bible as myth, metaphor, and mentor, yes: but not too tight. .

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