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Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2010. At the request of several readers, it is being reprinted this Easter season.
I didn’t make it to Good Friday church services last week. But watching a few good men remove a dead man from a truck served as good a reminder as any of not only Jesus’ death but those who freed him from the cross.
I was watching TV over a bowl of cereal when my scanner reported a two-vehicle accident on Indiana 37 north of Interstate 64. Two trucks had collided.
I arrived about half an hour later, after learning the driver of one of the two trucks had died, and kept my distance as state-police troopers documented the scene. It’s not uncommon any more for police to leave a person who has died in a motor-vehicle accident in place while photographs are taken and distances recorded.
Watching members of Perry County’s rescue squad and others keeping vigil near the scene, I found myself thinking of the respect we give to those who have died. Most of us pull over briefly as funeral processions pass us on roadways and we regularly visit the graves of veterans and others, many of them strangers, during the year. On this Good Friday, volunteers from the rescue squad, as well as police and paramedics, were called from their beds or jobs to help save a life. Sadly, there was no chance to do that. But those who willingly risk their own lives to help others stood by the mangled truck, waiting for the police to do their jobs.
That task done, they freed the body from the metal, laying the man on a clean sheet. I couldn’t help but reflect on what the process of freeing Jesus from the cross would have looked like. More chaotic, certainly, and perhaps less respectful.
The Bible shares much about what happened that day, the taunting Jesus experienced from the crowd, the jeers from onlookers and the aid provided by a man forced to help him carry the cross. Jesus pardoned one of the two men dying with him that day and asked that the sins of those crucifying him not be held against them.
The gospels speak briefly about the burial of Jesus and the role of Joseph of Arimathea and his gift of a new tomb. The identities of those who removed Jesus from the cross, however, aren’t provided and I suppose those people may have included Jesus’ disciples or other friends, Roman soldiers or maybe men conscripted to do the job.
A sudden death serves as a shock to us, even when it’s a stranger, and while few of us are called to help those who have died, I’ve always been impressed with those who do respond when deaths happen, serving both the person who has passed away and those who survive.