So Jesus’ wealthy friends did prove useful in the end. All four narratives seem to agree on this. Joseph, after all—the one from Arimathea, not his Dad— Joseph pulled strings with Pilate. Did he have to call in a few favors earned in questionable ways so he could claim possession of the corpse? Old Nicodemus too, Jesus’ night-shift friend from the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus makes his own fleeting reprise, carting along a ton—almost—of fragrant spices, nard and myrrh (again!), for preservation purposes. Although where he got such pricey stuff, late on a holiday Friday afternoon, is never quite explained. And that convenient, fresh-hewn, garden tomb; even back in the day, sepulchres such as those did not come ten-a-penny! Add in all the hired help they must have needed to get stuff from here to there and, of course, to roll and seal that massive rock . . . Whole thing makes you wonder—doesn’t it?— wonder if that narrow needle’s eye got prized wide open— camel-size, at least—to accommodate these late allies.
Holy Week and three buffleheads on the cold river practice the rite of baptism. Their preference: complete immersion. Again and again they duck and disappear into ice-cold darkness, then emerge, shaking a zillion stars from their feathers. As if there is never enough purification, they plunge down deep and rise and dive and rise again. The week winds down, down down toward Friday. Temple draperies are torn. Darkness enfolds the earth. The dead in their stone tombs have begun stirring as if, like the sun in the morning, they will rise.
I was in love with God for one afternoon. Twenty, alone on a beach, I dropped rocks by the edge and watched the ocean wash gray into blue, brown into red. An hour of my crunching steps, the clack of pebbles, the water’s rippling response. Never mind invisibility. We were the only ones, and I so intoxicating—sand-blown hair, denim cut-offs, no reason to believe anyone’s faith could dissolve. My prayers were as certain as the stones I threw, the answers as sure as the cove’s blue floor.
My teenage son gestures towards his jacket, asks me how to clean out pockets and I realize he’s never had to turn anything completely inside-out before, never had to take something that was designed to serve a good and useful purpose and pull at it, tug until it’s wholly reversed from its original fashioning so that every lost oddment, every needless irritant is set loose and finally it’s empty. It’s not a pocket anymore; it can’t hold anything but the buzzing light from the kitchen and these softly flanneled regrets.
If God is my key witness, and ready to testify on my behalf while still fully aware of the charges against me, yet hoping I am innocent of them all, or most, or surely some, or certainly the worst; If God is my key witness, then it seems strange when Next witness! is called and my chief counsel goes searching, that he is nowhere to be found and when asked, a guard admits he saw him leaving when the vesper bells began at St. Mary’s, saying something about waiting as long as he could, and was sure I would do just fine on my own, but if I should lose, he would send comforters who will stand in the cold at midnight with placards and crepe-draped crosses to cry out at the gates, Shame, Shame!