The Way of the Cross, also known as the Stations of the Cross, is a devotion rumoured to have been started by the Virgin Mary herself to commemorate her Son's suffering.
I'm not sure why, but I've never given much thought to Jesus being taken down from the cross. In the Creed, we say "I believe in Jesus Christ... who was crucified, died & was buried...". It all seems so quick & neat, but when you stop to think about it, it really wasn't.
The act of removing Jesus from the cross is the 13th "Station". This scene has been depicted in many artistic mediums over the centuries. Some scenes show us that someone climbed a ladder and lowered Jesus down by hand or with ropes. Other scenes show He was lowered by a sheet. He is almost always surrounded by a few men & His mother, Mary & He is almost always shown virtually bloodless, except for the centurion's lance wound.
But today, I got to thinking about what taking Jesus down from the cross must've been like. Jesus was covered in bloody, gaping wounds. He probably didn't smell too fresh & there were probably flies buzzing around, eager to have a taste. Someone had to ascend to His level & figure out how to detach His hands & feet from the cross. Did they remove the nails? Did they grab hold of His hands & feet & tug His flesh over the nail heads? Did the man who removed Jesus hand Him down via ropes or a sheet? Or did he perhaps allow Jesus' lifeless body to drape over His shoulder as he descended the cross? He must've been a mess when all was said & done. Perhaps there was now blood caked in his hair, his beard, under his nails, in the crevices of his hands & on his clothing.What must Jesus' lifeless flesh have felt like against the body of that man? Was it still warm? Was it eerily cold? Was He heavy?
And what of the people on the ground? Most of us are familiar with the scene of Mary weeping & holding Jesus across her knees. Imagine Mary, who kissed her lifeless Son. Perhaps her face & her garments were stained with His blood as well. Surely John was standing nearby... Who is to say he didn't lay his head on Jesus' breast as he had before?
We're told from the Gospel narratives that it was Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, who actually took Him down from the cross. He laid Him down on the rocky ground, positioned Him & wrapped Him up in a new linen cloth he had just purchased. John probably helped carry Jesus across the rocky terrain to a garden nearby. Joseph had a tomb there, freshly hewn. He seemed adequately prepared. Had he anticipated this moment? We may never know. Jesus was laid down inside & Joseph rolled a great stone over the entrance while the women watched from across the way. That was it. End of story. Those who had seen & touched Jesus that day walked back toward the city, weeping & perhaps even covered in His blood. The next day was a Sabbath. They would have plenty of time to ruminate on the day's events.