There. I have to admit it looks impressive, even though I say it myself. Imagine, Nicodemus, six weeks ago this was a mere rock-face – a very picturesque rock-face – but nothing more, nothing less. The sealing stone takes four men to put in place, so you better make sure I’m dead before you put me in it.
No, I’m not ill, but when you get to my age, you have to be circumspect. And these are difficult times with all the unrest – every week we’re called at the Sanhedrin - always some Galilean or other. Deluded mostly. You know my views: there’s only Jesus the Nazarene who has any real clout - he raised Lazarus from the dead, didn’t he? - and he’s too clever for us – baruch Hashem. When the Kingdom of Heaven comes, he’ll be right there, mark my words.
Yes, I know it’s dangerous talk, but there’s no-one near. Just us and a great hole in the rock which cost me more shekels than would feed a family for a year. But what else should I do with my money – it’s not going to bring Moshe – alav ha shalom - back from the dead. Just think – he’d be about the same age as the Nazarene if he’d lived. I wonder what he’d have made of him. Probably given up all this to be one of his followers, impulsive little fool. He was braver than I am – otherwise he’d never have survived in the leper colony so long.
I wish he could lie in there with me instead of in that terrible place outside the city. It’s a sore thing to bury a son, but worse when you can’t even give him the proper rituals.
He used to play on these rocks with his friends – and some of the servants’ brats. They thought we didn’t know. Couldn’t be seen from the house for the olive grove. Not that I minded. I wanted him to be happy, that’s all, and if it meant playing Romans and Jews in and out the boulders, it was fine with me.
That’s why I had the tomb hewn out of this rock. He was happy here. He used to come here when he was older too, to sit and think, he said. If I can’t lie with him, I may as well be where his happy memories are. It’s a good place.
Come and look inside. It’s quite easy – I’ve had a path made, see. I want you to be able to carry me without tripping over stray rocks. There. I had them put the shelf for the body at a convenient height. That way you and the others won’t get back-ache when you’re attending to me. There’s seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes in the store under the house, so that should be enough to make sure all’s as it should be.
Why am I telling you this now? Who else am I to tell but my old friend and colleague? Who else will bury me? Moshe’s gone, Evie’s never recovered, she wouldn’t know if I’m alive or dead.
I’m tired, Nicodemus. Tired of all the hypocrisy. Giving alms with one hand, taking bribes with the other; fleecing the poor folk who’ve trekked miles to the temple every time they change their money to buy a couple of scrawny pigeons. It’s not right. We blame the Romans for all the ills of this world but we’re as much to blame. We don’t help ourselves. I’ve talked to Pilate – he’s not a bad chap, a bit wishy-washy for a governor, but fair enough. He reckons we’ll never get out from under Roman rule because we’re too busy fighting among ourselves. He has a point.
And Jesus the Nazarene, he hobnobs with tax-collectors and Samaritans – even lepers! And gets away with it. When the Kingdom of Heaven comes I shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves rubbing shoulders with them too. If he’s right – and my money says he is – the time is coming when people like you and me are going to be no more or less important than old lame Jacob at the gate. That doesn’t go down well with the others, but I welcome it. It means Moshe and I can be together again in death at least.
Don’t look so shocked, Nicodemus – you must know what I’m saying. Everyone’s talking about the new way. It’s about time we had another prophet to sort out this mess and I believe the Nazarene is it. I’ve heard he’s on his way to Jerusalem for Passover. I’d like to invite him to eat the meal with me, but to tell the truth I get a bit maudlin remembering Moshe asking the four questions and hunting all over for the Afikomen when I’ve hidden it under his little discarded coat, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself. Anyhow, I expect he’ll have made arrangements.
Well, my old friend, much as I’d like to stay in this cool cave all day, you and I have our obligations, don’t we? I’m glad you approve of my choice of resting place. It’s nothing but a hole carved out of rock, but it has an atmosphere and I can feel my boy very close by in the peace of it. Shall we say Mincha in here before we leave? I’m sure it’s allowed. Jesus would tell us to pray in secret, not to make an exhibition of ourselves. Let’s do it here. In Moshe’s rock.