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Mark 15:42-47

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
(Mark 15:42-47 NIV)

It’s Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Late in the day, Joseph of Arimathea, one of the members of the Sanhedrin, came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Mark points out that this was a bold move on Joseph’s part.  One reason was that this move publicly identified  Joseph with Jesus.  Joseph’s Sanhedrin counterparts would find out about this soon enough and Joseph would likely feel the consequences of his actions.

Joseph’s request was also bold because the Romans believed that people that had been crucified did not deserve to be buried.  The Romans would often leave the bodies on the cross, and the natural elements, wild birds, and animals would eventually consume the body.  Could it be that this place of crucifixion was called Golgotha (“the place of the skull”) because that was literally all that that was left of a person after a period of time?

The Roman view of the deceased was directly opposed to God’s view.  In Deuteronomy 21:23, God had instructed the Israelites that bodies must be buried the same day as the execution.  To leave the body exposed (not buried) overnight would desecrate the land.  To show respect for the dead and to give them a proper burial, even dead criminals, showed respect for God as the author of life and judge of both the living and the dead.

Joseph’s request for Jesus’ body was also bold because the Romans typically did not give permission for anyone convicted of high treason to be buried.  The fact that Pilate did not believe Jesus was guilty of high treason was one of the reasons Pilate granted Joeseph’s request.  Pilate granting Joeseph’s request is also unusual in that family members were normally the only ones that requested and were granted permission to body a body.

Pilate’s biggest surprise from Joeseph’s request was that Jesus was already dead.  Normally it took a person several days to die via crucifixion.  Pilate needed to be sure that Jesus was dead, so he sent his centurion to verify.  After receiving confirmation, Pilate granted Joseph’s request.

As evening approached, Joseph (obviously with help of others) took Jesus’ body down from the cross and gave it a proper burial.  A proper Jewish burial consisted of washing the body, then wrapping it tightly in linen cloths.  All this had to be done before sundown, as the Sabbath started Friday night at sundown and no work could be done on the Sabbath.

After Joseph had prepared Jesus’ body for burial, he laid the body in a tomb cut into the rock.  Joseph then rolled a large stone in front of the tomb to seal the entrance.

In his closing notes, Mark points out that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were still present, noting where Jesus’ body was laid.

One of the perplexing questions some people ask is why did Joseph of Arimathea not stand up in Jesus’ defense during Jesus’ trial?  Why did he wait until Jesus had died to publicly identify with Jesus?  Was Joseph ashamed of Jesus, or was he just a coward?

Or did something truly change in Joseph’s life that caused him to believe that Jesus is the Messiah?

Jesus, in John’s account of the Gospel, said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  (John 12:32).  Could it be that Joseph was one of the first converts, one of the first ones to publicly follow Jesus after Jesus’ death, just as He had prophesied?

It’s still Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Blessings,
~kevin

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