READ: Mark 15:42-47 Station 6: The tomb. “They saw where the body was laid”
42When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
The day of Jesus’ suffering was ending. It had begun with Jesus’ trial and now ends in his death and burial. Mark says three things about this day: it was evening, the day of Preparation for Passover, and, thirdly, “the day before the sabbath.” Jesus’ earthly ministry ends on the same day it began, a Sabbath (Mark 1:21). The sabbath was also the day of Jesus’ most frequent conflicts with the religious leaders who opposed him from the beginning. Jesus’ life ends in a way that looks like those opponents have won the conflict. Jesus was dead; could no longer fight back.
Ironically, a member of the council (the very council that condemned Jesus to death), claimed Jesus’ body for burial. Not one of Jesus’ male disciples showed up to do so. Were they even aware that Jesus had died? I don’t know. If I lived then, would I have known? Would you?
Mark tells us little about Joseph of Arimathea, merely hinting at his devotion to God—he was “waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.” However, this could be said of many Jews of Jesus’ day. By itself, it is rather meaningless. But that’s all Mark gives us, unlike the other Gospel writers who describe Joseph as a ‘disciple of Jesus,’ albeit a secret one (Mt 27:57 and Jn 19:38). His request for Jesus’ body was a surprise to Pilate. Jesus’ death had come far more quickly than most crucified victims, and so Pilate asked for verification of his death. It probably also surprised Pilate that the request came from a member of the order that condemned Jesus to death. Why would Joseph want to bury Jesus’ body? Perhaps there was a nagging doubt in his mind that they’d done the right thing in condemning Jesus. By giving him a decent burial would, perhaps, salve his conscience. (By the way, Luke alone mentions that Joseph hadn’t agreed with his colleagues about Jesus’ guilty verdict.)
Imagine the scene as Jesus’ dead body is taken down from the cross. I wonder who helped Joseph? His concern for a decent burial didn’t really go far enough. Yes, he bought a linen cloth to wrap the body in and then placed it in the tomb. However, he failed to bring and use the traditional and necessary burial spices. In other words, he failed to give Jesus a proper burial. All he’d done was keep Jesus’ body safe from dogs and wild animals who came to gnaw at those left hanging on the cross. He’d also put an unclean (because dead) body of a once popular rabbi and healer out of sight and out of touch. Did he feel good about his act as he walked home that night?
But he hadn’t put Jesus entirely out of sight. Two women, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.” Mark leaves his readers with this intriguing statement, giving no further detail or explanation. We long for more.
Take a moment to imagine the scene as Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross. If you were an artist painting this scene, based on Mark’s account, who would you paint into the picture, helping take Jesus’ down? Now wonder where you’d place yourself. What does it suggest about your devotion to Jesus?
Earlier in the day, as Jesus was dying, some mockingly suggested he get himself off the cross. He didn’t, and now others remove his dead body. Thin about why it was necessary for Jesus to remain and let others take him down.
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
“Were the whole realm of Nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” (Isaac Watts). And so I pray, shall have my soul, my life, my all. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST, faithful to his cause.