Week 4, Day 27
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
We may be so familiar with the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that when we read about his burial it seems like just some information to get through. “Of course he was laid in a tomb. Where else would they lay him?”, we might think to ourselves. But this wasn’t a given. In fact, the Romans often provided no burial at all to those they crucified. To add to their shameful death, they would leave them on the cross to the mercy of vultures.
In some cases, they would relent and release them to family members to be buried. Jews at this time, however, would not bury the executed in family tombs for fear of contaminating those already buried there. The most likely resting place was a common grave with other criminals. Imagine if this had been the fate of Jesus.
It might have been except for the courageous act of Joseph and Nicodemus. Both, who ironically, had come to follow Jesus in secret. Even in the midst of his fear, Joseph takes a significant risk. Mark 15:42-43 describes Joseph’s actions this way:
“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 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.”
Joseph was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the leadership council who had just tried Jesus and given him the sentence of death. Luke tells us that Joseph was one of the council members who made it clear that he did not agree with the decision. Think of this: Jesus’ family members didn’t go to ask for his body; but Joseph, a member of the council who sent Jesus to his death, did. That is courage.
Think of how far Joseph had come. From someone who must have been quite skeptical of Jesus at first, given Joseph’s role as a Jewish leader, to someone who takes great risk to ensure Jesus has a proper burial. A burial not in a mass grave, but in a tomb. A tomb which would become empty and reveal a resurrected Lord.
May our lives be so transformed by Jesus that we have the courage of Joseph.
Who have you known that has experienced significant change because of having Jesus in their life? What is it about Jesus that might compel someone to be courageous on his behalf?
Jesus thank you for the remarkable changes you have brought to my life. Please help me step out in courage for your sake when the opportunity comes.