Mark 15:42-43… Now when evening had come, because it was the preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath) 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea is called a “prominent member of the Council” which means that he was on the Jewish Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death. Luke 23:50-51 calls Joseph a “good and righteous man” who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s plan against Jesus. Matthew 27:57 says that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, and John 19:38 calls him a secret follower of Jesus. Mark says that he had been waiting for God’s kingdom which means that he longed for the Messiah to arrive. So believing Jesus to be the Messiah he honored Jesus in having him buried.
When a condemned criminal was crucified his death did not typically mark the end of his shame. Oftentimes the body was tossed aside to rot. Those that were buried were only done so on the governor’s mercy, but treason (Jesus’ crime) almost always entailed disposal of the corpse.
The “preparation day” for the Sabbath in v. 42 refers to Friday (Sabbath being Saturday), and Joseph, in obedience to Deut. 21:23 which forbade a dead man to remain exposed overnight, needed to remove Jesus’ body from the cross before the Sabbath. Evening had come, and since Jesus died at 3:00 (cf. 15:34) Joseph only had until 6:00 – the time that the Sabbath commenced.
Jesus was dead from 3:00 p.m. on Friday until early on Sunday morning when he rose (Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1) – a total of about 36 hours. Now Matthew 12:40 quotes Jesus as saying, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” But three days and three nights is 72 hours, so how could Jesus have died on Friday and rose on Sunday? Consider…
The analogy of Scripture is the practice of allowing Scripture to interpret itself. It involves consulting other passages in the Bible that speak of the same situation to gain insight. For instance, Matt. 16:21, 17:23, & 20:19 speak of Jesus being raised to life on the third day – an impossible task if Jesus would have been dead for three days and three nights because then he would have been raised on the fourth day. And Matt. 27:64 commanded that a guard be kept at the tomb until the third day which in early Jewish thought was the time when the witness to a person’s death was accepted. Luke 9:22, 18:33, & 24:7 also speak of Jesus rising on the third day. And in Luke 24:21 there is the testimony of the two men who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus who claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead on that day – the third day after his burial. Add the testimony of John 2:19-22, Acts 10:40, & 1 Cor. 15:4, and it’s clear that Jesus was resurrected on the third day after his death – Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.
So the interpretation of Matthew 12:40 is that Jesus was not speaking of three 24 hour days and nights in predicting his death. If that were so then he would have been raised on the fourth day. Even the Jewish Talmud states that the Jews regarded any part of a day as a full day and night. So when Scripture interprets itself the conclusion is that Jesus died on Friday and was resurrected the following Sunday morning – for a total time in the grave of about 36 hours.
Food for Thought
Providence is God working in every single detail of our actions to bring about His good and perfect plan. Joseph teaches us that in everything we do that honors Christ, God is working through us. Joseph simply buried Jesus, but God’s good and perfect plan would never have come to pass without that burial. Remember that as you faithfully follow Christ. God is working in us!
Mark 15:44-47… Pilate wondered if Jesus was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.
Ancient records reveal that some crucified victims lived for two to three days after being crucified. No wonder Pilate was surprised that Jesus was dead after only six hours. But six hours was also all God needed to atone for mankind’s sins. Now upon being assured by the centurion that Jesus had in fact died (Mark 15:39) his death was confirmed by Pilate – a fact denied by some skeptics today so as to explain away his resurrection. They claim that Jesus never actually died and that he was revived in the damp tomb three days later. The Gospel accounts, however, are clear that Jesus was dead. His bones didn’t have to be broken to ensure death (John 19:33; Psalm 34:20), and the spear that was run through his heart ensured it (John 19:34). That wound was significant enough that doubting Thomas was later able to put his hand into it (John 20:27).
Bodies were usually requested by the family members for burial, but even Mary failed to do this. Jesus’ family and disciples had all abandoned him. Joseph, however, though unrelated to Jesus, retrieved the body and gave him a proper burial. In doing so Joseph not only made himself unclean by touching a dead body, thus disqualifying himself from partaking of the Passover, he also risked persecution from his fellow Jewish leaders who had condemned Jesus to death.
Verse 46 says that Jesus was taken down and wrapped in linen. He had help from another Council member named Nicodemus (John 19:39) who was also a secret follower of Jesus (cf. John 3). In keeping with their tradition they likely washed Jesus’ body thoroughly then wrapped it in linen. They anointed him with a mixture of aloes and myrrh which weighed about a hundred pounds (John 19:39-40), and their gummy consistency kept the linen wrappings tight. This Jewish practice of wrapping was a simple encasing of the dead body to mask the stench of decay.
The tomb where Jesus was placed was covered with a heavy stone that deterred animals and thieves. The fact that the women mentioned here saw the tomb where Jesus was placed in v. 47 is important because it confirms that they knew its exact location for their eventual return. Some skeptics have proposed that the women went to the wrong tomb on Sunday! But if they did, then so did the Jews and the Romans when they investigated the claims of resurrection.
Food for Thought
Some people are secret followers of Jesus who fear persecution for their beliefs – just like Joseph of Arimathea. Then one day the Lord changes their heart, and they become bold warriors of the faith – just like Joseph. One day he was too spineless to defend Jesus and fearful of persecution, and the next day he was bold and fearless, willing to sacrifice his reputation and life to serve his Master and Lord by giving him a proper burial. If you’re a secret disciple of Jesus, come out of the closet! Ask the Lord to change your feeble heart into the heart of a warrior who is willing to sacrifice everything for the God who sacrificed His life for yours. People like Joseph of Arimathea are the ones God highlights in the Scriptures. Though nothing is known about him as a gutless man prior to his faith, his name and reputation are exalted today because of who he became after his faith was made manifest. Pray that for yourself and the many others who are too fearful to reveal their faith boldly to the world. God rewards those folks greatly for their faith.
1 Peter 3:18-20… For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;19 in which also he went and made proclamations to the spirits now in prison 20 who were once disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah…
The body of Jesus, the Christ – the Son of God, did not undergo decay while in the tomb. The prophecy of Psalm 16:10 says, “You will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay” (cf. Psalm 49:9). The Apostle Paul comments in Acts 13:37: “But he whom God raised did not undergo decay.” So for the 36 hours Jesus was in the grave he was clearly not dead long enough for his body to decompose. This fulfillment of prophecy was aided by the 100 or so pounds of spices and the tight wrappings put on Jesus’ body by Joseph and Nicodemus (John 19:39).
Now while Jesus body lay in the tomb his spirit was still at work. He did at least two things in the spirit. First, he went into Paradise. Luke 23:43 says that Jesus promised one of the criminals who hung next to him, after he called out to Jesus in faith, that he would be with Him on that day in Paradise. Paradise is the temporary holding place for the dead who die in Christ and the OT saints who died believing in the God of Abraham (who is ultimately Jesus Christ). It’s the place called “Abraham’s bosom” in Luke 16:22 where Lazarus went after death and the place that Paul was forbidden to speak of in 2 Cor. 12:2-4 because it was too wonderful.
The second place where Jesus’ spirit went during the time his body was in the tomb is found in the 1 Peter 3:18-20 passage. Verse 18 says that Jesus died for the sins of all mankind in order to bring us to God, and in doing so he first had to be put to death in the flesh. However, he was made alive in spirit, and it was in this spirit that he did an interesting thing: he went and preached to the “spirits now in prison.” Who are these spirits? Where is their prison? Verse 20 says that these spirits Jesus spoke to were alive during the time of Noah, and it was during that time that they were disobedient even in the midst of God’s patience during those days. Genesis 6:3 says that God gave Noah and the rest of mankind 120 years to repent of their evil deeds, so it’s clear that God was patient with them. Now the context of Genesis 6 has to do with rebellious angels (demons) who had the ability to procreate with human women. Their offspring was called in Hebrew the “Nephilim” – literally the “fallen ones.” These particular demons were afterward designated to everlasting darkness in hell. Now the English term for “hell” in 2 Pet. 2:4 comes from the Greek “Tartarus” which is different from the normal Greek words for hell (Hades & Gehenna). Jude 6 also comments on this as it relates to the story found in Gen. 6:1-4, and it basically sets these particular demons apart from the others who are not bound. Peter’s term for “hell” might be the “abyss” the demons spoke of in Luke 8:31 (cf. Revelation 9).
So Jesus, on the day he died, went into Paradise where one of the crucified criminals also ascended, and Jesus also visited the “spirits now in prison” in order to simply proclaim his victory over death and sin – all the while his dead body was not undergoing the normal course of decay. While his followers mourned, he was still at work prepping to rise again on Sunday.
Food for Thought
The saddest day in human history was the day Jesus died. And the greatest day in human history was the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). While the followers of Jesus mourned, he was at work proclaiming victory. When there’s sadness, rejoicing is just around the bend because God is at work. So take heart if you’re down; be strong, and know that your mourning will turn to comfort.
Matthew 27:62-66… On the next day, after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and secured the grave, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
After Jesus’ death and burial the religious leaders were still a bit paranoid. The day after Jesus was buried was the Sabbath, and on this day the religious leaders went to Pilate’s palace to request that a guard be placed at Jesus’ tomb to protect the body. They knew all too well that Jesus had prophesied he would rise from the dead after three days (probably from Judas’ testimony who would have heard Jesus prophesy that many times), and they were fearful that one of his disciples would come and steal the body away then tell everyone that Jesus had risen. They only needed a guard for a day, for after Sunday it wouldn’t matter because Jesus prophesied he would rise after three days, not four or five. It is interesting to note here that the religious leaders were out and about on the Sabbath – a strict day of rest for all Jews, and a day they themselves taught should always be observed (cf. Mark 3:1-6). They were hypocrites to the fullest.
Pilate did give the Jews a Roman guard to protect the tomb. Now a Roman guard consisted of a plurality of soldiers – usually two groups of four men each. It is clear that the guard at Jesus’ tomb consisted of many men because Matthew 28:4 says that the “guards” shook with fear and became like dead men when Jesus arose. And Matthew 28:11-15 also speaks of this guard as a group of men as opposed to a single man. This is an important fact because it mitigates against the idea that one man guarded the tomb and was overpowered by the disciples of Jesus who were later said to have stolen the body of Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:13) in a feeble attempt to explain away Jesus’ resurrection. Certainly Rome did their best to protect the tomb.
Roman guards were strict in all matters, and ancient documents point to the fact that if a soldier fell asleep while on duty he was to be executed. But all of the Roman soldiers fell asleep when Jesus was resurrected! One can imagine how one man might fall asleep, but all of them? Clearly this was another act of Providence that further proves Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. The Jews knew that the guard had to be strict in order to keep anyone from disturbing the tomb. They knew that if word got out that Jesus had risen then the “last deception will be worse than the first.” In other words, even if Jesus rose from the grave they wouldn’t believe but would only lament the fact that their plan to murder him did not ultimately work – at least not for them.
In addition to the guard at the tomb the stone covering it was sealed with the seal of Rome. The seal was likely a cord that stretched across the stone on both ends with the seal of the king’s signet ring on top of it. Seals were engraved in the presence of Roman guards, then they were given the task to watch and protect that which was sealed. To break a Roman seal was a crime against the official whose identity was attached – another crime punishable by death.
Food for Thought
No one stops the will of God. The Jews, the Romans, and today’s skeptics have always come up empty in trying to stamp out Christianity. But God’s will is accomplished no matter what we do. He’s tougher than nails and stronger than stones. Even death cannot defeat Jesus. And those who place their faith in Him alone for salvation have the very same power!
U More is known about the burial of Jesus... who took his body down, how he was buried, where he was buried, and we have four records of that account – all in amazing agreement.
U Intro: Miracles and Providence… Miracles are God’s way of setting aside natural law and intervening in an unexplainable way (give examples). But Providence is God’s way of working with the natural occurrence of events. Jesus’ death is filled with God’s Providence.
o Occurred on Friday of Passover
o Joseph summoned to remove the body when all others had departed (bodies not normally given over after treason)…
o Joseph had hewn out a tomb nearby…
o Joseph’s position of authority afforded him access to Jesus’ body.
o Had he not buried Jesus his body would have simply been thrown out, and his resurrection could have been explained by saying a wild animal dragged it off.
o Pilate and the centurion who agreed about the death and signed the certificate.
o Jesus’ timely death w/no broken bones in Psalm 34:10 and those who looked upon him whom they had pierced in Zech. 12:10 is also providential.
o The linen cloth which would later attest to Jesus’ miraculous resurrection as an open shell undisturbed (John 20:6-7).
o Without grave clothes no evidence of his rez; if stolen, why clothes taken off?
o The stone moved miraculously
o The women present who saw the place where he was buried
U Imagine how horrific it was to tear the nails out, to wash the body, and to wrap it… weeping
U Men need time to grow in their faith, and when they’re sure they will come out of the closet.
U We must beware of concealing our faith. We cheat ourselves AND others.
U The Sanhedrin represents the church… while all seem to abandon the obvious truth right in front of them, there are a few who have faith – some bold, some not so bold.
U Joseph was a good man and a righteous and devout man… like many today who have good things about them and who eventually step out and show their goodness.
U Sometimes a dormant faith springs into motion and changes the world around them.
U Sometimes the right thing that needs to be done is done by just one or two men, but it’s work that has to be done. Their work consequently blesses many. Be one of those people.
U God puts people in positions of influence that aid His cause. Mary Magdalene would have been turned away by Pilate as well as all others. But Joseph had influence. We must use our positions of authority to bring about God’s plan (i.e., Esther, Constantine, Bush, etc.).
U Went in boldly. -- Moral courage
U To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can. It will not do to be perpetually calculating risks and adjusting nice chances.
U While they were preparing for the Sabbath, God was preparing every detail for the rez…
U In God’s Providence, He raised up a man, as part of his perfect plan, to bury His Son in the preparation for His resurrection – a resurrection that would change the world forever.
U As we anticipate Easter Sunday (as Joseph anticipated the Sabbath), let us make preparations to bring people into our church to hear the Gospel. In doing so God will providentially work
U Joseph allowed himself to be made unclean in order to honor Jesus; God moved him to do so, and the results a day and a half later testify that God honors those who honor Him… John 5:23… “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him… John 12:26… “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”