An Invitation to Imagine

The following is a fictional story line that I have written over the last 24 hours as a means of turning all my thoughts to that one weekend in history on which the fate of humankind fell. All four Gospels record a fascinating piece of information that creates as many questions as answers: Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, and John 19:38-42. Read them for yourself before you fall into the storyline and you will be well able to sort the facts from the fiction. Let no one be confused between the two. But, only when we’re seated with the saints around the Table of the Lamb will we hear the hundreds of individual stories told by those gathered in Jerusalem one particular Passover. That is when those living stones will talk. Until then, we are left to imagine. It is, of course, unlikely that the story of one particular man went as follows but of this you can be sure: the actual events exceed all supposition, captivating all the human senses.



“Already? I think not. It’s only been a few hours. He could have a day, even two left to go. But then that beating was –”


“He is dead, Governor.” Joseph fought to keep his composure. Less than an hour earlier, he’d steeled himself and shaken off his fear with all the ease of an ox trying to shake off his hide. But once his courage surged, it blasted like a trumpet and brought forth his outrage. The man standing before him was a coward. And he knew one when he saw one. Shame burned in his throat. They’d all been cowards.


“Guard, send word to the centurion officiating on the hill this afternoon. Have him brought here.” Pilate’s gaze never left Joseph’s face as the guard stepped into the corridor. “So, who are you representing here today that you want the body of the Nazarene? Ah, yes, the Council has sent you to make sure the land is not defiled at dusk, has it not? You people and your peculiar laws. I’d say you’re running out of time for today.”


Joseph’s mind flashed with a firestorm of faces. Red, angry pious faces. He’d known those men on the Council for years. He’d dipped bread with them. Prayed with them. Respected them. Been respected by them. Hadn’t they all been looking for the kingdom of God? And had any of them ever seen a man like this man? If they did not believe his words, how could they not believe his works? Joseph had not seen this coming. He’d heard boasts and threats among them but never imagined it would materialize into this.


He knew there had been others like him who believed but they’d been equally discreet.  Secret disciples. Spineless disciples, Joseph thought to himself. That evening before as men morphed to beasts, Joseph searched the room frantically for expressions of horror, for mouths pinched tightly, withholding consent. He’d known when he’d objected that private interrogations and public insults would come in the aftermath. He’d pay. He knew that. They’d remember. That prior evening, however, there was no debate. No order in the court. Only an ear-splitting mob mopping for blood.


“It wasn’t my doing.”


Joseph stared at the governor but refused to service him with a response. He was the last person who was going to help Pilate swat away his ghosts like flies. They’d all have to deal with the night haunts of culpability.


“It wasn’t. I told them I found no guilt in the man. You saw me yourself. I washed my hands of him. It’s on them. On you.”


The hair-raising chorus of the crowd echoed like a psalm from the abyss in Joseph’s thoughts. “His blood be on us and on our children!” He’d mouthed the words in respondent horror to himself, “On us, Blessed Name. If You must and You must. But oh, that You would spare our children!” Joseph knew nothing of the dream of Pilate’s wife and her icy forewarning to him but the maddening tapping of the man’s stubby fingers on the armrest and the bulging vein on his forehead betrayed an unraveling. Even amid his own frantic state, it was clear to Joseph that Pilate knew more than he was saying. But they all did.


“Governor.” The guard had reentered the room. “The centurion is here.”


Pilate motioned at the guard to send him in. “The Nazarene. He lingers, right?”


“No, Governor. He is dead.”


“You know that yourself? As an eyewitness?”


The centurion’s tongue felt blistered from the words that tumbled from them earlier. Truly this man was the Son of God!  His heart hammered. “I saw him breathe his last.” He cleared his throat. “I heard him.”






“They broke his legs, did they?”


“No, Sir. They would have. He was already dead.”


“So soon? I would have given him longer than that. He had a strength of will about him. Who wouldn’t have begged for his own skin with that coming? Nevertheless, your word is as gold in the crown of the King, Officer.


No answer. Pilate dismissed the centurion and returned his attentions to the Arimathean. “This is highly irregular, you know, releasing the body to someone outside the family. We’d probably have refused it even to them. That’s not the way this is done. This is at my mercy, you know.”


Joseph clinched his jaw until he could make words cling to his thoughts. “It is mercy I am seeking.”


“What on earth will you do with him?”


“I have a place.” Joseph said each word slowly as if he himself were trying to fathom what he was saying.


“The heap?” It was a burial place for executed criminals away from Jerusalem.


“No, Governor.” He paused but could see clearly that Pilate wasn’t going to be satisfied. “It is something I own.”


“Ah, Councilman. You will contaminate the sacred bones of your fathers, will you?”


“It’s never been used.” None of this was Pilate’s concern. If this conversation lasted much longer, Joseph feared that something inside of him would come unhinged.


Incessant tapping. Both hands. The Councilman’s head was nearly splitting.


“Well, what is a corpse to me, Joseph? Have it if you want it.”


And with that, the cancerous guilt of Pilate bore explicit testimony. The crime for which Jesus had been crucified was the exception among all gestures of governing grace. When offenses are lèse-majesté, let the vultures clear the crosses and may their bellies be the tombs.


There was no turning back. Pilate’s permission may as well have been Pilate’s commission. Joseph was bound now and his name would be permanently marked by this action. Some among his own blood would be outraged by this outsider’s body in the new family tomb. Joseph had purchased it and quarried it out himself. It was his to give but they would not see it that way.


He forced them all from his thoughts. Joseph’s determination commanded the full obedience of his mind and body. He knew where he had to go first.


“Joseph! Why are you here?” All of them who’d gotten involved looked to have aged eons, thrown to the elements of a 40-year wilderness in one thunderous afternoon.


“Nicodemus, I need your help.”


“But it’s over, Joseph. There is nothing left to be done. Have you not heard, man? He is already dead.” Nicodemus motioned to his children to back away from the door. The shame bore heavy on his beard.


“He is not buried!” Joseph spit the words out with such slow cadence and fierce anger that Nicodemus steadied himself against the door frame.


Joseph leaned into him and the two men spoke in deep, guttural tones that the closest eavesdropper could not have interpreted. The brief dialogue ended with Joseph’s hands firmly gripping the shoulders of Nicodemus. He neither nodded his head nor shook it in response. He stared wide-eyed and slack of jaw. And, just like that, Joseph spun on his heels and flew as fast as his feet could carry him down a winding pathway to a place he could collect what he needed. He then started up the hill, arms full and an end of the cloth whipping behind him in the wind.


Joseph saw his silhouette long before he reached him. He knew exactly which body was his. He did not know if he had the iron within him to do what this would require. The bones in his neck felt fractured, his chest starting to heave. He chided himself to courage, to do this one thing in his power. Joseph saw two soldiers nearby and knew he’d have to contend with them first. He inhaled deeply, arching his back and expanding his shoulders. He held his head high and mimicked the confidence of the man he’d once believed himself to be.


The elder one shook his head and said, “Not today. It’s too close to dark. What’s left of him tomorrow–”


“Today,” Joseph spoke emphatically. “By order of the Governor.” A nerve came over the Arimathean that he’d never felt before. “And you have been given to me to assist in taking him down.”


Joseph would look back on that moment with wonder for years to come. Heaven alone could have seen to it that they never questioned him. The next half hour would be etched on the walls of his mind like laws on broken tablets for the rest of his days.


Grumbling all manner of protest, one of the soldiers set the short ladder behind the cross and threw out his palm toward Joseph for a piece of the fabric. He then began the gruesome task of weaving it under the left arm of Jesus, across his chest, and under the right arm. The soldier cursed at the mess. “You had to pick this one.”


The other soldier circled around to the front of the cross with a hammer in his hand and bent over toward the feet of Jesus. The bodies of the men who’d been crucified were suspended only about three feet off the ground. Joseph was startled by the callous and carelessness of the men. It was a high price they’d paid for seeing too much. Hearing too much. Joseph impulsively jerked back the arm of the one as he swung the hammer against the grain of the nail through Jesus’ feet.


Irritated, the soldier yelled, “Do you want him off of here or not?”


Joseph nodded and stepped back. With two more sledges of the hammer, the nail gave way and the feet fell free. The body dropped six inches and lurched forward. Joseph instinctively threw up his arms to catch him.


“Get under him,” the soldier on the ladder ordered Joseph, “if you’re planning to catch him.”


And Joseph did. The hammer was handed off to the soldier on the upside. The other held each end of the fabric woven over the chest of Jesus. Joseph’s back pressed to the wood until he could feel the jar of every hit ricochet within his ribcage. The weight of Jesus’ body pulling heavily against the nails in his wrists caused them to give way quickly and brutally.


“You got him?” the soldier on top yelled.


Joseph responded hoarsely. “Yes!”


They let the body of Jesus down gently at first but, just as Joseph struggled to get his grip solidly on dry flesh, they dropped him. His entire weight fell into the lap of Joseph and thorns from his crown tore down the side of the Arimathean’s face. Joseph was making sounds. He could hear himself. Sounds of horror and panic, his mind fighting to flail from his heart.


As Joseph grabbed hold of himself, he saw the soldiers walking off. “Wait! Where are you going? Get back here! I order you!”


The one swinging the hammer as he walked glanced over his left shoulder and yelled, “It’s yours now. We’re finished here.”


“But how am I to get him to the tomb?” Joseph was frantic and his chest felt crushed against the wood.


With one wave of the soldier’s hand, Joseph was left alone on the hill, the living among the dead, suffocating under the weight. He’d failed. There was nothing more he could do. It was an impossible task for one man. He inhaled until every bit of afternoon air seemed swallowed by his chest and he squeezed his eyes shut and let out a curdling scream.


The sobs came like quakes until, exhausted, Joseph leaned his head back on the cross in defeat. If the Merciful One had any mercy left for this Israelite, He’d let him die right there. He was broken now, beyond all earthly mending.


Joseph did not know how long he’d been there when his eyes blinked open. At first he thought he was having a dream. A vision conjured up by a crazed mind. A thirsty man’s mirage in the desert. He mustered the strength to lift his fist and wipe the water, blood, and dust from his eyes.


No. This was real. The colors vivid.


“Joseph, it’s me. It’s okay. We’re here.”


Nicodemus knelt down in front of him and touched his hand. He was flagged on each side by several servants clutching containers. The scent of myrrh and aloes stirred Joseph fully conscious.


They lifted the body of Jesus carefully off of Joseph and helped him to his feet. Nicodemus urged him on. “Joseph, we do not have much time. It will be dark soon. We must work quickly now.”


The small band of men transported the body of Jesus to the cave, stopping only to shift the lifeless weight and regroup. The servants carrying the heavy urns of spices – about seventy-five pounds in all – set them down from time to time, trying to catch their breath. All of them trudged the distance in silence except for an occasional direction from Joseph. There just outside the mouth of the tomb, they laid the body of Jesus. And there in the hush beyond the madness of Pilate and violence of the dismount, two men ministered like priests in the holy place.


They labored in tandem like they’d been trained all their lives to handle the dead. The irony would be wasted on neither of these sons of Abraham, these strict adherents of Moses. It had taken them both to remove the embedded wreath of thorns from Jesus’ head and each were pierced and scathed. That Jesus could no longer feel the searing pain was of no consideration to Joseph and Nicodemus. They treated the body as if they were studied meticulously by guardian eyes and working under a canopy of wide and outstretched wings.


They sponged the body and groaned the torn flesh. They bound it round and round with linen clothes and packed it with spices. They each paused silently at the last glimpse of Jesus’ face. Joseph combed the matted hair from his face with his fingertips and both of them stared. Nicodemus reached over and closed the mouth of the great teacher, preparing to circle the linen under his chin. He could not silence the words replaying in his mind.


Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.


But how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?


Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.


Joseph covered the bruised eyes of Jesus last.


A body you have prepared for me.


The servants helped move the body length-wise to the mouth of the tomb then Nicodemus dismissed them. The small opening only left room for two of them to maneuver the body into its place. Joseph crawled inside then reached for the upper body of the corpse. Nicodemus lifted the lower, crawled in behind them, and together they stretched the body of Jesus on the hewn ledge.


The last vestiges of evening light shone through the opening just enough for Nicodemus to see Joseph’s final nod. The task was done. He stooped and backed out through the opening and waited on the other side. Joseph sat with the body for what could only have been a moment but time seemed suspended in the cave’s thin air. He blew the last bit of air from his lungs and forced himself up. He felt like pottery broken, a century old. Before he departed the tomb, he leaned forward on his knees and kissed the feet of Jesus.


Messiah. Son of David. Kingdom not of this world. What will become of us, God-forsaken?


The precious oil running down on the beard of Aaron and on the collar of his robes had been traded for human tears. And, when they dried, surely the dew of Hermon would dry with them.


Without a single word between them, the two men rolled the stone down the embankment and slid it securely over the opening.


Joseph could not lift his frame for the next 2 days, exhaustion making lead of his bones. But neither could he sleep. The whole family had gathered for the Feast but only a few of them had seen his woeful condition when he returned to the house where they were staying. That he was late for the meal was appalling enough for them for now. The rest would come out soon enough. They supposed him to be sick. And he was.


“Joseph.” It was his wife. “You have a visitor. He’s insistent on seeing you. I have said you’re not well but he is determined.”


Joseph felt disoriented but sat up from the mat. “Very well. I’ll be right there.”


He didn’t have to bother. The visitor pushed his way in and asked Joseph’s wife to excuse them.


“Brother.” It was Nicodemus. The urgency in his voice made the hair on Joseph’s arms stand on end. “He’s gone.”


“What are you saying?”


“Jesus! That’s what I’m saying. He’s gone!”


“The body?”


“Gone. Stone rolled away. Would they have left it open if they’d stolen him? Joseph, listen to me.” Nicodemus crouched down right in front of him and clutched him by the shoulders, shaking him enough to make sure he was alert. “The linens are all still there. Same ones.”


“Are you out of your mind, man?”


“No but they’re saying the women are. But, I don’t think so. They said they saw him, Joseph. He’s alive.




189 Responses to “An Invitation to Imagine”

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  1. 151
    Jody Emmons says:

    1 Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV)

    “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.

  2. 152
    Jennifer Pardon says:

    Jennifer Pardon, Richmond Va
    Philipians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” NIV

  3. 153
    Brittany says:


    “The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God,”
    ~Romans 8:16

  4. 154
    Amy Brown says:

    Amy Brown, New Palestine, IN

    “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”
    – James 1:17 NIV

  5. 155
    Beth says:

    Beth – My 15 year old son gave his heart to Jesus this weekend, bringing a new freshness to Easter for us. He watched “The Passion” at school, realized it was “for him”, heard Andy’s sermon online on Sunday (at the beach) and watched “The Bible” ending. With hearts overflowing with thankfulness, this writing is the icing on the cake!

  6. 156
    Tami Kinkead says:

    Proverbs 29:11 — Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. (NIV)


  7. 157
    Nicole says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. 158
    Becky says:

    Beth – Thank You. Our Easter this year didn’t look like what we’ve been used to. We traveled to be with our elderly moms as usual but spent more time attending to them and weren’t able to enjoy the usual Easter traditions. Since coming back I’ve felt a little cheated, in a selfish way. Reading this not only helped me have that sense of awe and humility that the description of Christ’s death inspires – it was a reminder that Easter is more than a celebration of the Resurrection or the enjoyment of certain traditions – it’s about kneeling at His feet in service and identifying with Him in His suffering so we can truly rejoice in His victory. Thank you for writing so beautifully about this part of the story that many of us never thought about before. Love and prayers for you and all those at Living Proof

  9. 159
    Margaret says:

    Albuquerque NLT V7
    James 1:8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in
    everything they do

  10. 160
    Kathy B says:

    Wow! Thanks, Beth. For fleshing out emotions and helping us enter into the story we know so well and yet potentially miss so much for our familiarity. I found my heart wrenched along with Joseph’s at the horror of what was. The universal remedy of Resurrection Day is so much bigger than I perceive. But when I stop and linger…at Golgotha, at the tomb…my sin sickness takes on its more accurate proportions. Despair looms large.
    Very early in the morning on the first day of the week…

  11. 161
    Martha Helen says:

    Thank you for this.. I cannot wait for heaven and the unveiling of all the individual stories woven into the Kingdom story. Everlasting songs will rise for all He’s done.. Hallelujah!

  12. 162
    Faye jones says:

    Beautiful story. I can see it happening this way. I wondered if many of the crowds felt like they had betrayed a friend. Even though this was God’s plan of salvation – how many footsteps were taken going home with the weight of conviction on hearts –their eyes looking downward. Could they look up towards Heaven? Or did they only see the dust kicking up from heavy footsteps. Fatigue both in body and mind surely made for a miserable trip back. In passover’s in days gone by they would have felt renewed in faith and hope. This time, could they have been heavy in heart and repentance thinking “could I have been wrong about this man. “. Did I have a voice in crucifying an innocent man”. I know to the uttermost the outcome of Jesus, but what about all the people in the crowds who had to travel back home from a festival that turned bloodthirsty. Faye jones cumming ga

  13. 163
    Maureen Chabot says:

    I seem to be at least a couple of days behind on reading your posts…sorry Beth!! This is a long one but I can’t wait to dig into the scriptures and read your story!!

  14. 164

    Wow! Thank you for this! I went to our churches Good Friday service, but missed Sunday morning, still fighting a cold and not being a morning person anyway, couldn’t get myself up and to church. There were other reasons, mostly involving my own stupidity, but we won’t go into that! Anyway, I got to hear the whole solemn, horrifying story of His trial, flogging, and crucifixion, but was left with that, until now. I mean, I’ve read my bible from time to time, since, but not anything of after His death, and especially not of His Resurrection! I felt the leap in my chest I feel every Easter and any time the story of His Resurrection is told when the end words were said, “He’s alive!” Oh, how I love those words! Words of eternal HOPE! It doesn’t get any better than that! Normally Easter is my favorite time of year, but with the cold I had the week before and other things I’ve been dealing with in early sobriety, I really haven’t been my usual self at all this year! Or maybe I should say I WAS my usual, depressive self, instead of having the very unusual positive attitude I usually have at Easter time, this year! (I don’t know if that even makes any sense!)

    My daughter definitely gave me a much different perspective of my life when she came home from a friends house today after spending most of her spring break away from us, including all except Easter Sunday, then taking off again Monday morning and returning again this evening! She immediately threw her arms around me (I was in a funk all day Sunday and not participating in anything with the family!) and told me how much she missed me. I told her she wasn’t missing much, and she totally disagreed with me, telling me that despite all my faults, I was always there for her when she needed me! Largely because I’m not that super successful mom with the great college degree and career I’d always thought spelled success! She said she’d rather have me being at home with her where I can always be there, anyway! It was really different hearing what my life looks like through the eyes of my 12 year old daughter! She may be an overly dramatic, pain in the butt most of the time these days, but she sure knows how to say the perfect thing when she has no idea how perfect it is! She reminded me of a particular moment not all that long ago. when she was particularly upset and I, for a change, was the one who was calm and calmed her and took care of everything. According to her, that’s not really a change. That’s the way it’s always been, when she needed me to be the voice of reason and compassion and anything else she ever needed her mother to be. Apparently, I’ve always been one to put aside my problems and complaints to take care of my kids needs first. It’s good to be reminded that no matter what, I’ve always been a good mom. That sounds crazy to even say, cause I also know how often I’ve failed them, that apparently they have quickly forgotten.

  15. 165
    Sue Smith says:

    Setting here reading this 3 days after Resurrection Day, brought to tears. Sunday was such a wonderful day of worship, but back into the old routine my sinful nature takes over once again. I fail Him everyday of my life, but His love overcomes my failures. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

    Thanks Beth for sharing this story.

  16. 166

    Breathtaking confirmation!!!!! God is pointing me in the direction I should go, who am I to refuse to go!?!

    A word fitly spoken is health to my soul and a breath of fresh air, thank you for this story!

    HE IS ALIVE!!!!!

  17. 167
    Sue says:

    Sue. carmel, IN
    Psalm 145:7
    They will celebrate Your abundant goodness
    And joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
    NIV 84

  18. 168
    Sue says:

    Sue. Carmel, IN
    Psalm 145:8
    The Lord is gracious and compassionate
    Slow to anger and rich in love.
    NIV 84

  19. 169
    Jenn Krout says:

    This is beautifully written in contemporary language so we can all relate. I always am so touched that the Lord revealed Himself to women first upon His resurrection, revealing His love and high esteem for all of us.

  20. 170
    Anna Jones says:

    Anna Jones, Huntington, IN 1 Peter 4:11
    If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides,so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

  21. 171
    Diana says:


  22. 172
    Mary Grace Harris says:

    Mary Grace Harris, Bolivar Missouri
    “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
    Philippians 4:11-12

  23. 173
    Linda Dalton says:

    My group has been doing Beth Moore Bible studies for over 12 years. We are on our second round of ‘A Woman’s Heart”. We are a multi denominational group with many obligations so it takes us a while to get through any Bible Study. We were all richly blessed by the fact that Week 8 corresponded with Holy Week. Page 179 ends with the words “He is risen!” Words we were reading Easter Monday! It just took our breath away. We were blessed so I want to pass that blessing along to you all.
    Alleluia, HE is risen!
    The LORD is risen indeed, Alleluia!

  24. 174
    Pam says:

    Oh Bethie..all I can say is PUBLISH this! I also have so many questions about the tiny details of what you described in Joseph’s loving and committed experience in fulfilling prophecy. I love your heart for the One & Only!

    Pam D.-Soddy Daisy, Tennessee

  25. 175
    Pam says:

    Oh Bethie..all I can say is you have to PUBLISH this! I also have so many questions about the tiny details of that day.

    Pam D.-Soddy Daisy, Tennessee

  26. 176
    Kimberly Striplin says:

    Kimberly from Bloomburg; For I know the plans I have for you declares The Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

  27. 177
    Su says:

    Loved it, Beth. It totally ministered to me. Thank you.

  28. 178
    Julia says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Beth! Tears streaming down my face by the time I reached the end…gave me another perspective on the Easter story. I hope we get to see the whole Bible on Heavenly DVR when we arrive in our eternal home…the scriptures just hit the highlights, and I want to see all the details that weren’t included. :)

  29. 179
    Kim says:

    Kim, Mabank, TX
    “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” Psalm 1:5 NASB

  30. 180
    Brenda Young says:

    Brenda, Greenville SC

    Daniel 2:23 NIV
    I thank and praise you O God of my fathers. You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you. You have made known to us the dream of the king.

  31. 181
    Brenda Young says:

    Brenda, Greenville SC

    Phil 4:13 NIV

    I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

  32. 182
    Brenda Young says:

    Ps. 139:1


    O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

  33. 183
    Brenda Young says:


    Greenville, SC

    Ps. 139:2 NIV

    You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

  34. 184
    Brenda Young says:

    Brenda, Greenville SC

    Ps. 139:1 NIV

    O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

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