“Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself also waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been cut out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”Mark 15:43, 46
In 323 B.C., Alexander the Great died in modern-day Baghdad. In a funeral rumored to have cost as much as $600 million in modern currency, Alexander was transported from Babylon to Macedonia in a gold coffin resting upon a gold carriage pulled by 60 horses.
In 1997, Princess Diana was remembered in a $12 million ceremony watched by about 2.5 billion people. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey had an attendance of just 2,000 people.
Do you realize that Jesus, the Son of God Himself, did not have a funeral? No, Jesus went straight from the humiliation of the cross to the loneliness of the tomb.
Remember Jesus died on a Friday (we call it Good Friday). The next day was Sabbath Day. According to Mosaic Law, a body hung on a tree was not to be left overnight. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, we learn that a crucified or hung body was to be buried before sundown, and leaving the body hanging would have desecrated the land.
To uphold Mosaic Law, the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves was on a short timeline since the men needed to be dead and removed from the crosses by six o’clock that Friday night. Evidently, the two men were still alive (sometimes people survived crucifixion for nine days), so the Roman soldiers were told to break their legs (speeding up asphyxiation). But they found that Jesus was already dead. Instead of breaking His legs, one soldier ran a spear into Jesus’ side. Blood and water poured out. He was truly dead.
Normally when crucified bodies were taken down from the cross they were thrown onto the trash heap and burned. After all, crucifixion was meant to be a degrading and humiliating weapon of torture, punishment, and death. Jesus’ body would have been thrown into a trash heap and burned had it not been for two prominent members of the Jewish High Court, the Sanhedrin: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (both were secret followers of Jesus for fear of the Jews). You would think that maybe Jesus’ disciples would have asked for His body, but they were afraid. Even courageous Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. No, two prominent men became two unlikely undertakers.
It took a lot of courage to go to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, yet that is exactly what Joseph did. Both he and Nicodemus had just witnessed their contemporaries and the Romans violently and cruelly assault and execute Jesus. Their contemporaries chose an insurrectionist and murderer in Barabbas over Jesus.
We also know that as holy men of the Sanhedrin, Joseph and Nicodemus were not to touch a dead body. Otherwise, God would consider them unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11). Still, they prepared Jesus’ body for burial, defiling themselves. It was the least they could do for their Rabbi, their Lord. Joseph bought fine clean linen to wrap Jesus’ body. Nicodemus bought about a hundred pounds of prepared burial spices to prepare Jesus’ body.
The Son of God was worthy of the greatest funeral ever held for the greatest sacrifice ever made. But there was no funeral, ceremony, no flowers, no words from family and friends. Jesus went straight from the humiliation of the cross to the loneliness of the tomb.
A large stone closed the entrance of the tomb. A Roman seal was placed on it. Roman guards were placed at the entrance. Every possible precaution was taken to ensure that Jesus’ body remained in that tomb.
Imagine the stillness. Imagine the finality of it all. Imagine Joseph and Nicodemus’ memories and the tears. Imagine gazing upon the broken, bruised, and punctured body of Jesus. Imagine wrapping it. It must have seemed so final. So hopeless. So heartbreaking.
It all worked perfectly for the Jews. Everything they schemed and executed worked perfectly. Jesus, this threat to the order of things, was truly dead. It worked perfectly…for three days. But Sunday was coming.
When was the last time you did something truly bold for Christ that personally cost you something? Consider your honest answer. Maybe it’s time to call that family or co-worker and invite them church. Maybe it’s time to have that spiritual conversation with that neighbor about your faith. Consider what God is calling you to do that requires boldness today.
Questions for Thought
- Would you have put your reputation on the line, like Joseph and Nicodemus, to ask for the body of someone who was beaten and crucified like Jesus?
- How do you think the Jewish religious leaders treated Joseph and Nicodemus after it was found out they were the ones who asked for Jesus’ body?
Kevin’s parents were church planters overseas, and from an early age, he saw the life-changing impact that the Church has worldwide. He believes that the Church can help people discover and use their unique gifts to impact eternity. Outside of work, Kevin loves hanging out with family and friends at the movies, games, or concerts. He is also a frustrated guitar player. He and his wife, Kim, have three great kids.