I don’t want us moving forward in our study of Mark and his writing on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus simply gaining a broader cognitive understanding of how all the events played out. Instead, I want us to grasp the “facts” evident in Mark’s account that reveal to us, the reader, the gospel to be believed.
Paul shared with the Corinthian believers the gospel to be believed in (1 Corinthians 15:1-8); Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Over 500 people witnessed his rising from the grave! But whether or not a person saw that tremendous event as it happened, they are still held accountable for believing those facts of the gospel to be born again (John 20:27-29)!
The first two of those three facts are attested to in the section we will be looking at today.
42 When evening had already come, since it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 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.
FOCUS ONE: It was evening (42-43)
The designation “evening” refers to the hours between 3 PM and sunset when Friday ended and the Sabbath began. Since no work was allowed on the Sabbath day, Friday was used for preparing for it.
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, goes before Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. He witnessed the gruesome event, and after Jesus cried out and breathed His last, he mustered up some courage to stand before Pilate.
“*Under Roman law the release of a crucified man’s corpse for burial was determined only by the imperial magistrate. Usually such a request by a victim’s relatives was granted, but sometimes a body would be left on a cross to decay or be eaten by predatory animals or birds and the remains were thrown into a common grave. Jewish law required a proper burial for all bodies, even those of executed criminals. It also dictated that those hanged were to be taken down and buried before sunset” (Deuteronomy 21:23).
This is most likely why Joseph of Arimathea goes before Pilate. We are told two exciting facts about this man:
- He was a prominent member of the Council
- He was waiting for the kingdom of God
The “Council” is another name, a non-Jewish name, for the Sanhedrin. He appears to be a devout Pharisee but disagrees with the Sanhedrin’s decision to kill Jesus (Luke 23:51). He regarded Jesus as the Messiah. However, he did it from a distance, so to speak, as he was a “secret disciple (John 19:38). But, as we see in these scriptures, he publicly risked his reputation and even his life in asking Pilate for the body of Jesus! No longer in the shadows of faith, but now in headlights of transparency!
Sadly, many professing Christians worldwide can relate to Joseph’s dilemma-being a secret follower of Jesus Christ. Many Christians fear their lives, families, and underground churches. We can only hope and pray that, like Joseph of Arimathea, they, too, will find the courage to stand up, face their fear, and walk boldly for the glory of Jesus Christ.
What Joseph did was no light thing. But he does it anyway! “*He was not related to Jesus; his request was a favor that would likely be denied on principle because Jesus was executed for treason; he risked ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body; his request amounted to an open confession of personal loyalty to the crucified Jesus which would doubtless incur his associates’ hostility.”
This makes me think about many Christians here in America who, in one way or another, are walking on “eggshells” regarding their faith because of the position they hold in this toxic culture that envelopes us. Teachers in public schools, those working for the government, and others feel the same woe, much like Joseph did. But will they stand up and step out, courageously identifying with Jesus Christ when there is no option but flat-out betrayal?
Thankfully, Covid 19 and the lockdowns have given us some wonderful testimonies of people facing this dilemma and boldly standing for Christ and His morality amid much vitriolic opposition. If they are Christ’s, they will be given the courage, just like Joseph of Arimathea! So be encouraged.
44 Now Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And after learning 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 cut out in the rock, and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
FOCUS TWO: Preparing the Lord’s body (44-46)
Joseph of Arimathea’s plea seems to have bewildered Pilate. Pilate wondered if he was already dead. Most often, crucifixion victims suffered for days before death became mercy. So, Pilate summons the centurion; oh yeah! The same centurion stated, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (v. 39). He asks if Jesus is already dead, and the centurion confirms that He is (cr. John 19:31-35). Pilate grants Joseph’s request for the body.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the three facts that need to be believed to be saved, i.e., Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Dear reader, what is being testified to here and in the other gospels is that Jesus did die, and His burial officially confirmed His death. As mentioned earlier, this was an essential point of the church’s teaching on the atoning (finished) work of Christ Jesus.
It is unlikely that Joseph would have been able to take Jesus off the cross by himself or move His body to the tomb. It makes sense then to assume that he had some others help him. A quick preparation would need to be done and finished later after the sabbath (cr. 16:1). “*After Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, it was probably washed (Acts 9:37) before it was wrapped tightly in strips of linen cloth with aromatic spices placed between the wraps. All this was in accord with Jewish burial customs” (John 9:39-40).
He is laid in a tomb, Joseph’s grave in a nearby garden (Matthew 27:60). The tomb is then sealed shut by rolling a large flat circular stone in front of the entrance. Usually, the stone was “rolled down a sloping groove till it was securely in front of the entrance to keep out intruders. To roll the stone back up again would require the strength of several men.”
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, were watching to see where He was laid.
Mark tells us that two women that had witnessed Jesus’ death witnessed where His body was laid too! Perhaps the other women were still grieving at the crucifixion site or went back home. Who were here women? Mary Magdalene was the woman that was delivered from seven demons (Luke 8:2). Mary, the mother of Joses, is also described as the “mother of James the less” (Matthew 27:56).
These two women, along with Salome, are the first to get to the tomb on resurrection day! That will be our focus next time.
*The Bible Knowledge Commentary