It had been a long day: the council had been up all night at an furtively-convened midnight trial. The accused had been shuttled from governor to king and back to the governor again. A shouting mob was appeased. An execution hastily arranged.
As the members of the ruling Jewish Council argued, rallied and victoriously shouted judgment over the accused, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were silent. Both knew this Jesus.
Joseph was a secret disciple. The Sanhedrin were unaware one of their own had himself been captivated by their captive. Nicodemus had once stolen away at night to question him. The young Rabbi had said such confusing things about being born anew, even when one was old. “But if you believe in me, you will not die but have eternal life,” he had said. Confused, Nicodemus had retreated into the shadows and slowly digested Jesus’ words.
Throughout that nights’ proceedings, they had said nothing. As their fellow Council members accused and attacked, they remained silent. They thronged to the Praetorium. Pilate passed his sentence, and they were silent.
And then there were crowds. Some mocking, some weeping, some watching at a distance in horror. Too weak to make the journey himself, they saw a rugged Cyrene drafted to help him bear his cross.
And then there were nails. And a hoisting. And a jeering thief silenced by a penitent one.
And then there was darkness: three hours of eerie noonday darkness. A heavenly shroud, oppressively heavy.
And then there was a cry, a heartbreak shouted to the heavens, a yielding of his spirit.
And then there was an earthquake: and people they had wept over and buried in years past were seen walking out of tombs.
And then there was silence.
They were silent.
Watching the sun make its dive for the horizon, Joseph quickened his pace to Pilate’s residence. There was no time to lose if he was to be buried before the Sabbath began. Breaking the silence, he addressed Pilate: “Can I have his body? For burial. It is our custom.” Pilate sighed. The day had been too long to try this Jew with the crime of being associated with a condemned man. “Take it,” he ordered.
Nicodemus met Joseph back at Golgotha. Finding new strength in old limbs, they lifted Jesus and carried him to Joseph’s family tomb. Racing nightfall, they worked deftly. Eyelids closed. Nakedness covered. Balms uncorked, cloths tightly wrapped, myrrh applied. This was not the anointing he deserved. Unable to honor him as they ought in life, they honored him in his death.
“We will be shunned when the Council expels us,” said the older.
“Yes,” replied the younger, “but we could do no other.”
Nodding at the weeping women who sat across from the tomb, they made their way home as the sky drained pink.
Their thoughts turned homeward. How would they explain to their wives that they would likely be ousted from the synagogue? The Passover Seder was to begin in just a few hours. How would they explain that they could not join the Passover feast that night, being ritually unclean from cradling a dead man?
But how could they not have done what they did? They had seen how he died. Surely, he was the Son of God.
They crunched towards the city gate without speaking.
Silent, but having confessed with their deeds. The time for speaking would yet come.