Summary: Following the crucifixion, the hill of Calvary had grown silent. The sneering crowds had gone, and the soldiers were left to their work. An unlikely candidate showed up to remove Jesus' body and provide for His burial.
Buried by a Friend
Mark 15: 42-47
Our text records a somber and uncertain time for Jesus’ followers. He and the other malefactors are now dead. Calvary has become silent as the mocking crowds have dispersed, leaving the soldiers to their work. From a human perspective, all seemed lost as Jesus gave up the ghost and died upon the cross.
The bodies of the crucified were not usually handled with dignity. If the Romans removed their lifeless bodies, they were merely dumped into the trash heap, without any means of burial. Some were even left upon the cross for the vultures and animals to consume. This was done as a warning to others of the consequences of committing crimes within a Roman province.
The disciples have fled for fear, and it appears John had already begun to care for Mary, being obedient to the command of his Lord. With the body of Jesus needing to be buried, one most would not expect came forth, desiring to bury Jesus. This act of kindness was born not out of mere curiosity or desire for personal satisfaction, but of a love and devotion for Jesus. This man was a committed follower of Christ.
As we examine the insights revealed within the text, I want to consider the thought: Buried by a Friend.
I. The Arrangements for the Burial (42-45) – Mark records the arrangements made in order to provide a proper burial for Jesus. Consider:
A. The Urgency (42) – And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath. Mark described the time as being that of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath began at sundown, 6:00 pm on Friday evening, and lasted until the next sundown, 6:00 pm on Saturday evening. Fridays were spent as days of preparation for the Sabbath, since the Jews did not permit work to be done on the Sabbath.
We know Jesus died at 3:00 in the afternoon. This left only three short hours for Jesus to be buried within the restrictions set forth by the Jews. The Jewish leadership demanded strict adherence to the laws regarding the Sabbath, and would not have granted any leniency for the burial of Jesus. If Jesus’ body was to buried, instead of being thrown into the trash heap, or left upon the cross for at least twenty-seven more hours, His burial had to happen quickly.
B. The Integrity (43) – Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. We find an unlikely candidate came and sought the body of Jesus, so that he might provide a proper burial. I say that with no disrespect to Joseph at all, but most would not have thought joseph would have involved himself in such a controversial issue. Joseph was from the region of Arimathaea. In the Old Testament, this city was known as Ramah, located about twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was the hometown of the great prophet, Samuel.
Mark described Joseph as an honorable counsellor, who also waited for the kingdom of God. Joseph was a member of the powerful Sanhedrin, the Jewish council who consented to Jesus’ death, and brought Him to stand trial before Pilate. When the votes were cast regarding the guilt of Jesus, Joseph refused to condemn Him. Luke 23:51 – (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.
Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, believing the Gospel, and waiting for the kingdom of God. John 19:38 – And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. Luke described him as a good and just man.
C. The Bravery (43) – Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. We must remember that Joseph was one of the Sanhedrin. The high priest would not have been pleased with his refusal to condemn Jesus. Likely he was considered a sympathizer and traitor. Joseph was determined to honor the Lord he loved and served. He came with boldness before Pilate, desiring the body of Jesus so that he might provide a proper burial.
This took great courage and bravery. Some are critical because John records that Joseph went secretly for fear of the Jews, but we were not there, and our lives were not in danger. This is a man who had gained wide respect, one who had established himself as a leader with great influence and status. We don’t know the circumstances of his conversion, but at this moment, Joseph is a committed follower and disciple of Jesus. He was willing to risk his position and reputation in order to serve the Lord. (Some may be critical, but few are willing to risk everything they possess for our Lord. Joseph stands as a great example and challenge for us.)