Summary: The burial of Jesus in Luke 23:50-59 shows us the actions of some of Jesus' disciples.
On Friday, Nisan 14, 30 AD, Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was brutally scourged, mocked, and spat upon. He walked the Via Dolorosa (which is Latin for “The Sorrowful Road”) from the Antonia Fortress, just inside the city of Jerusalem, to The Skull, just outside the city of Jerusalem, where he was crucified between two thieves. And there, on that Friday, he hung for several excruciating hours before he finally breathed his last and died. Before the sun set on that Friday, the blackest of Fridays in all of history, he was taken down from the cross and buried.
Let’s read about the burial of Jesus in Luke 23:50-56:
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:50-56)
Burial practices vary from place to place, and even from country to country. Some burial practices are unusual. For example, Mary Ellis was born in New Brunswick, NJ in 1750. She died alone, in 1828, and was buried in the woods, but it is now a parking lot. Legend has it she was seduced by a sea captain who promised to return someday and marry her. This location was said to be the very spot she would stand and wait for his ship to return down the Raritan River. That never happened, but there she remains, now in a grave seven feet above the parking lot that was recently regraded.
Or consider the burial of Ruphus E. Case who wanted to be buried in his rocking chair facing his home state of Louisiana. His grave has three tiers, because one of his children died before him. When he finally died, they entombed him sitting next to his child’s coffin, in his rocking chair, facing his home.
There are many other unusual burial practices, such as being buried in a car, or having a glass window at the head of the tomb so that people could look in on the deceased person, and so on.
Interestingly, we actually know quite a bit about the burial of Jesus Christ. Each of the four Gospels describes the burial of Jesus on that late Friday afternoon on Nisan 14, 30 AD.
The burial of Jesus in Luke 23:50-56 shows us the actions of some of Jesus’ disciples.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Burial of Jesus Shows Us the Boldness of Joseph of Arimathea (23:50-54)
2. The Burial of Jesus Shows Us the Obedience of the Women from Galilee (23:55-56)
I. The Burial of Jesus Shows Us the Boldness of Joseph of Arimathea (23:50-54)
First, the burial of Jesus shows us the boldness of Joseph of Arimathea.
Luke said in verse 50a that there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. Scholars don’t know the exact location of Arimathea. However, the reason Luke said that Joseph was from the Jewish town of Arimathea was to make sure that he was not confused with any other Joseph in the New Testament.
Luke mentioned a number of characteristics that were true of Joseph of Arimathea, “He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God” (23:50b-51). Joseph did not consent to the Jewish Sanhedrin’s decision to have Jesus sent to Pilate in order to be sentenced to death by crucifixion. We don’t know why he did not consent to their decision and action. Perhaps he was away on business; or perhaps he simply disagreed with their decision and action. Whatever the reason, he was not party to their decision and action.
Matthew mentioned in his Gospel that Joseph was rich, and that he “also was a disciple of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57), although John said in his Gospel that Joseph “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).
Ordinarily, the Romans left the victims of crucifixion on the crosses to rot, or to be eaten by dogs and vultures. After some time, they would eventually throw their remains into a common grave.