Mark 15:47

Mary of Magdala and Mary, the mother of Joseph, were watching to see where he was laid.

it’s late late afternoon
preparation for tomorrow
will have to take care of itself
while we trail this guy

having watched thus far
we can’t not finish
the movie of a life
without watching the credits

who knows maybe
there might be
an easter egg
still to come

a sequel doesn’t seem likely
so let’s let this settle
ahh it’s a final resting place
now we can get back to tomorrow

Joseph is able to put the tomb behind him—mission accomplished. It is the outsider portion (women) of the insider disciples that are left to perceive where the tomb is.

The word for “saw” is θεωρέω (theōreō,perception). Sabin1196 would say, “spiritual perception”. Mark has previously used this word: when demons perceive Jesus’ identity (3:11), the people of Gerasene come to behold what had happened to the pigs and were as afraid of Jesus as the demons (5:15), Jesus sees through the grief of the Jairus’ household to see life still available (5:38), Jesus discerned the import of the widow giving her last coin to the Temple (12:41), and the two Marys and Salome watching a sign of the beginning of the end—Jesus’ death (14:40).

The two Marys are the last two to have an investment in Jesus’ body. They have come a long way from being supporters in Galilee. They have probably heard the stories of various women having been healed and often tell about the woman who anointed Jesus. This has held them while they watched crucifixions from a distance. Now they are steadily progressing closer to Mark’s end game. Jesus’ resting place in the center of a never-ending wilderness of power and privilege, greed and authority has been noted.

Even these last two witnesses have not run the last of their quest. They are already beginning a turn away—they have identified Jesus’ location as a tomb—a tomb from which none return.

Even as they see Jesus’ dead body closed in by a large stone, they see the sun going down. It is so close to Sabbath—a Sabbath made for them, not them for the Sabbath—they wither and turn away.

Mark 15:46

Joseph, having bought a linen sheet, took Jesus down, and wound the sheet around him, and laid him in a tomb which had been cut out of the rock; and then rolled a stone up against the entrance of the tomb.

the market couldn’t have been
closer to closing
had to bargain
just to begin bargaining

I was over a barrel
and paid for linen
as though it were gold
what am I doing

might as well finish
hey you Cyrene
want to finish the job
I’ll pay you too

rats I forgot
one more payment
that tomb there
that one how much

push that rock
okay job well done
what a strange day
I’ll sleep well tonight

The last time a “linen cloth” was referenced it was in the hands of those arresting Jesus and its wearer was running away. Consider the added irony of Jesus going to the grave wrapped in the garb of one of his betrayers.

If one wants to play with the later mystery of the Shroud of Turin, we might see Jesus transfiguring, blessing, and forgiving all acts of betrayal—an abundance of mercy.

Some commentators argue that this is the original concluding verse. This does end the beginning of the good news promised in 1:1. If anything were added after the stone precludes any further encounter with Jesus, it would become a next beginning of good news. We might speculate what a Markan sequel would look like, compared to Luke’s Acts of the Apostles.

It is worth a pause to look at the Greek behind the English “wrapped”, ἐνειλέω (eneileō). Mann658 writes:

eneileō has a very wide range of meanings, from shackling a prisoner, holding people in debt, or wrapping children in clothing, to the quite neutral sense of “to wrap.”

Shackling would have Joseph closing the action of the Sanhedrin by immobilizing Jesus in a tomb, never to be seen or heard again. This argues his actions are based on piety, not secret discipleship. Holding people in debt returns us to the woman at the treasury putting in her last half-pennies. Wrapping children (swaddling), comforts and protects them as they begin their journey through life. Or, wrapping is just, descriptively, wrapping. What would you pick?

Mark 15:45

and, on learning from the officer that it was so, he gave the corpse to Joseph.

if he’s dead he’s dead
his use to me is done
let his bones be eaten
or grave stone engraved
it makes no difference

it’s your choice
follow me in walking away
or your own bleeding heart
as for me and mine
we’ve got better things to do

y’all are strange birds
always playing both sides
first hurry me to judge
I consider the case closed
and now an appeal for respect

the time/fun ratio
was pretty close
the first time
now at its widest
put it to rest begone

We often talk about death in euphemistic terms. This is a magical protective shield concerned with not drawing the attention of “Death” to our current setting.

It would be helpful to have more words that would better describe various perspectives on “dead”. To this end, LaVerdiere2314 helps us hear some of the nuances that would otherwise be missed if Mark is only read in English.

When the centurion confirmed that Jesus had died, Pilate gave the body (ptoma) to Joseph. Joseph had asked for the body (soma) of Jesus. The word soma which is normally associated with a living person, evokes Jesus as a living person. The word ptoma, associated with something that had once been alive, emphasizes that Jesus, now lifeless, was really dead, and ready for burial.

This distinction can be further drawn as we find the word soma used in relation to Jesus’ body that a woman anointed (14:8) and Jesus uses soma to connect bread with his body (14:22). These associations with a living body as seen by others and by Jesus himself contrast, in an ironic fashion, with Pilate and the centurion so used to and limited by their dealing with corpses. A lack of distinction between bodies in English is one reason the Bible doesn’t connect with lived experience.

One reason Mark emphasizes ptoma is to refute the rumors and accusations already present in his time that Jesus had not died but had a body double on the cross or had his body stolen by his followers so they could make up a story about an empty tomb. Mark uses the authority of the state to confirm that Jesus was completely dead.

Mark 15:44

But Pilate was surprised to hear that he had already died. So he sent for the officer, and asked if he were already dead;

there’s no way
that death
was that quick

I expect suffering
built upon suffering
struggle to the end

let’s await
a coroner’s verdict
before signing off

death is nothing
to play games with
I look for seriously dead

The word often translated in this verse as “wonder” is a variant on the same word heard in 5:20 as “marveled” or “amazed”. The consideration here is wrapped in amazement that Jesus was already dead.

A usual expectation is that it would take a day or so for the muscles to exhaust themselves and the crucified not be able to take another inhalalation and suffocate.

Unless an underlying medical condition exists or the beatings were severe, Pilate is correct to seek corroboration.

Presumably, this is the same centurion who used what could be interpreted as pious words as they saw Jesus die. Without an additional word here, this can add to other reasons to affirm the centurion was, more than anything else, mocking. Jesus died as everyone crucified dies.

There is to be no question that Elijah or anyone else took Jesus’ body before he was well and thoroughly dead. Pilate was to certify Jesus’ death and Jesus’ body was removed by a member of the Council (regardless of his personal hopes).

The principalities and powers have apparently won the day. They remain in charge of the world. At question is whether Jesus’ understanding that the consequence of living as though love of G*D and love of Neighb*r in an economic system that privileges the few over the many would be suffering and death was the end or if there is a rising and what the nature of that rising might be.

So many have lived noble lives, enfleshing good. So many have had their life summarily removed if the authorities feel there is some question of or threat to their rule. Such authority seems to be persistent from one regime to a next. In such rocky and weedy ground, how do we measure the value of a seed that dies?

Questions of liberation are perennial. Evidence of a rising tide continues to be sought.

Mark 15:43

Joseph from Ramah, a councillor of good position, who was himself living in expectation of the kingdom of God, came and ventured to go in to see Pilate, and to ask for the body of Jesus.

no matter one’s rank
or respectability
there is tension
at border lines

will I be received
this time
will this be the time
I’m not

we’re talking bodies here
first theirs
then if time disjoints
mine mine

no matter past privilege
it doesn’t accrue
this risk is this risk
proceed apace

There are questions about whether Joseph was a part of the Sanhedrin testing of Jesus and finding him a blasphemer or having just arrived on other business from Arimathea. This latter possibility seems best for another Markan parallel—with another passer-by, Simon of Cyrene (15:21). Also arguing against having been present in the Sanhedrin is the degree of hypocrisy he would have had to hold as someone eagerly watching for the Presence of G*D.

There are additional questions about Joseph’s motivation. If he were a “secret” follower of Jesus, he would wish to honor his presence with a proper burial. However, the burial is not altogether proper without a cleansing and anointing of the corpse. An argument can be made that the burial was incomplete simply because of a lack of time.

Even with the caveat that Joseph was awaiting “God’s kingdom”, what likely brought Joseph to bury Jesus’ body so quickly was a desire to honor his tradition as found in Deuteronomy 21:23:

…you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight
but must bury him the same day.
For an impaled body is an affront to God:
you shall not defile the land
that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
[The Jewish Study Bible]

There are those who suggest that the centurion and Joseph are a reversal of the condemnation by Rome (Pilate) and the Sanhedrin (Chief Priest). This feels like an attempt to find a blessing in every cloud, an unwillingness to face the ugliness of life eye-to-eye. A narrative line that has a mocking centurion and tradition-bound Joseph carries a stronger consistency.

Mark 15:42

The evening had already fallen, when, as it was the Preparation day – the day before the Sabbath –

awkward time
late afternoon

press on
put off

both right
both wrong

late afternoon
awkward time

Mark is going to pack a great deal into the hours between 3:00 and 6:00 PM. It would be handy to have a deus ex machina such as Joshua’s sun that stopped moving.

Sabbath was quickly approaching in which rest is a key understanding. This includes Jesus’ body resting. It must be noted that decomposition does not rest, Sabbath or no Sabbath.

If Jesus is to be buried within three hours, with no prior arrangements having been made, there is no time to waste.

The first question to be addressed is who will begin filling out the necessary forms to have Jesus taken from the cross. Then comes the adjudication of permission. This is followed by the identification of a tomb that will receive Jesus’ body. At best his body will find its resting place. The likelihood of preparation of his body through cleansing and anointing is unlikely.

There continues to be a bit of confusion about what day it is because Mark uses the Roman day (sunrise to sunrise) but references Jewish markers that use a day that runs from sunset to sunset.

Metaphorically this day of death is Jesus’ Preparation Day for rising.

If we are simply dealing with a timeline, LeVeriere2313 says:

Evening began around 6:00 p.m., before sunset. By the Roman reckoning, Passover had ended that morning, and Jesus was crucified the day after Passover, the day of preparation for the sabbath, which would begin the following morning, Saturday at 6:00 a.m.

By Roman reckoning there is sufficient time to complete these tasks by the next morning. For the Jewish community we are running out of time, which will somewhat account for a lack of a final anointing.

There is not just a time element here. Jesus has died an unhonorable death. All the amenities of a funeral with the usual ritual and mournings are not expected and out-of-place. Time and dishonor will play their part in the next scenes.

Mark 15:41

all of whom used to accompany Jesus when he was in Galilee, and give him support – besides many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

How did Jesus from Galilee
know to go to Jordan John
but by those quiet promptings
a mother’s friend’s whisper
about second birthings
needed in each new year

strange ancestresses send genes
packed with antennae
to pick up soft signals
here now there again
mothers old mothers new
lead support follow

Often times it takes time to let new information filter through systems. In this case, the system is patriarchy and we are finally finding out that the disciples and the Twelve overemphasized males. This has had an impact to this day.

We are again revisiting the word diakoneō(deacon, minister, serve. And, again, this word is translated into English in its weaker form of support rather than minister. Even as women are acknowledged, they are reduced in importance.

The same diminishment happens with the word ἀκολουθέω(akoloutheō, accompany, join as a disciple). This is not just trailing along, but significant accompanying. There is here a feel of escorting or being the patron of an artist.

Sabin2148follows up her comment about the equality between Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary with:

It is striking that Mark does not single [Jesus’ mother] out; he treats these women as a generic group. Yet Mark suggests that this generic group of women, in their “following” and “ministering” and, above all, in their watchful “seeing,” act in the ways to which Jesus has called all his disciples.

A perspective not often noted regarding the valuing of women in the church is held within these two verses (40–41). Myers202states it well, “In others words, from beginning to end these women, unlike the men, understood the vocation of discipleship as servanthood.”

This understanding is set over against Peter’s refusal to allow servanthood to contain suffering and death as well as rising (8:32–37). It also contrasts with James and John looking for positions of power (10:35–45). All of the Twelve miss this when they complain about others healing without their imprimatur (9:38­–40). Likewise, they are distracted by money when Jesus is anointed by a woman (14:4–9).

Mark 15:40

There were some women also watching from a distance, among them being Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James the Little and of Joseph, and Salome –

a beautiful recognition
is no less beautiful
for its distance

what has been known
all along
still is

even when we are a tree
walking around strolling
we can see as we’re seen

mothers anonymous is on duty
guarding and guiding
beyond expectation

Watching, even from afar, is a form of wakefulness the disciples were not able to accomplish at Gethsemane. As ineffective as such a watch is regarding changing the arc of consequences, it does witness and learn.

Unlike the anonymous women previously encountered, these women are named (Mary, Mary, and Salome) and parallel the three male disciples of Peter, James, and John.

Mary Magdalene does not here carry Luke’s seven demons. She is important enough to be named. The other Mary harkens back to Jesus in his hometown where he is known as the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. In keeping with Mark’s style, this is a sufficient reference. In keeping with previous comments (3:31–35) about who is family, Mary is not called Jesus’ mother.

Sabin1195, speaks of “theological irony” at this point:

Jesus’ miracles are rejected earlier because he is too common, too ordinary; yet those very miracles, as we have repeatedly seen, are aimed at making the common and ordinary holy. So here his mother, a common woman the homefolks think could not possibly be the mother of a prophet, is shown to be acting with uncommon faithfulness. It is very much to the point that Mark describes Jesus’ mother Mary as neither more nor less than “Mary of Magdala.”

The women play a middle role between the insiders (the Twelve and the Three) and the outsiders (antagonists and mockers). They watch; they wait. This middle position is where the storyline will continue. The disciples are scattered and the mockers have seen the end-of-the-matter. It is in this middle position where what we call hope lives and acts.

Even when powerless, we can witness wrong and attend to common decency.

Mark 15:39

The Roman officer, who was standing facing Jesus, on seeing the way in which he breathed his last, exclaimed, “This man must indeed have been God’s son!”

finally faced
humanity seen

we see what’s always there
an aura more than skin deep

called human
called G*D

death shows life
life anticipates death

between is more than a dash
less than a hair’s breadth

a loud cry a still small voice
are indistinguishable now

once seen can’t be unseen
yet unseen is still present

Mark is probably best heard rather than read. In this light, the question is what tone to use to convey the words Mark puts in the mouth of the centurion.

To have them be an affirmation of Jesus’ “good news”, we would have to presume that at some later date the centurion became involved with a group of people attempting to carry on a Way following Jesus’ chopping at the religious overgrowth clogging travel. He would then be in a position to tell what he saw.

It is more likely that these words are not an affirmation that Jesus was, as the inscription said, “King of the Jews”, or, more generally, was “G*D’s Human”.

This puts mockery on both sides of Jesus’ death. “Yep, died like some sad, foreign god’s offspring.”

Too much has been made of such an affirmation being made by a Gentile, as if no Jew could ever make such a declaration. This interpretation has further divided faithful Christian from blind Jew. In being a Roman, this affirmation mitigates some blame of Pilate’s decision for crucifixion—a Roman is now the first to affirm Jesus’ death as the full introduction of that august title, “Son of God”. Such a Christologic confession would keep the Jews as outsiders ready at any moment to be put inside a concentration camp.

Remembering that there is a question of whether or not “Son of God” belongs at the end of 1:1, means that this may not be intended as another bracket of an announcement of such status and a confirmation of the same.

Did the centurion see what no one else had been able to see? Does a Reader see this as the end of the story and of more import than the response of women flabbergasted by fear/awe?

Mark 15:38

The Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.

torn in two
and by two again
torn open
across and through

first so open
later constricted
again cracked
able to be pried

security breached
alarms ring
rally the troops
Love’s escaped again

metered relationship
standardized through
controlled healings
adjectives sundered

There was a borning cry (1:11) as a spirit of belovedness entered Jesus while he was a stone in the Jordan.

Prior to that, there was a visual of “the sky torn open” (1:10).

We have just heard a death cry (15:37) or closing sigh.

Now, another visual—a curtain torn open (15:38).

Narratively these are brackets of a large story. Before the bracket was the announced presumption that we will be hearing “good news”, a reference to prophets in the wilderness, a description of Baptizer John (an Elijah figure). Included here is an expectation that hearts and lives will change toward forgiveness.

We will see whether the remainder of Mark will see closure in regard to these same components.

For now, we might note that there are those like Alfred Edersheim (Life and Time of Jesus the Messiah611) who describe the curtain in question at sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, and as thick as the palm of a hand. That’s a big tear.

In light of entering and leaving of a spirit of belovedness, we might imagine the curtain being torn by an exhalation that sets belovedness loose into the world. We must, however, be careful that this does not suggest G*D was trapped by the Ark or, later, Temple and now Jesus sets G*D free. This would be a subtle suggestion of prioritizing Christian over Jew.

Mark has certainly been used as part of an anti-Semitic agenda. While Mark’s first Readers have found this to be an acceptable interpretation of Jesus’ death and found blame to be attributable to Jewish religious leaders caught in the tensions of occupation, current Readers cannot with good conscience travel there.

Perhaps it is enough to consider both the Jordan and the Temple as additional creation stories that can change lives.