A Royal Burial

Read vs. 55-56

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Women played a significant role in Jesus’ ministry and in the ministries of his disciples.  Here we are given a few names of women who followed Jesus from Galilee.  Mentioned are Mary from Magdalene who was a former prostitute who received complete salvation from Jesus. 

Another Mary was there, this Mary was the mother of James and Joseph.  James and Joseph were Jesus’ cousins.  There is some debate on whose sister this Mary is.  Some commentaries say she was Mary (Jesus’ mom) sister and others say she was the sister in law to Joseph (Jesus’ dad), that she was married to Josephs brother.  My conclusion is Mary Clopas was married to Joseph’s brother and this made her Mary’s sister-in-law or her sister.  Either way she is Jesus’ aunt.

And the last woman mentioned is Salome.  Salome is the mother of John (the one Jesus loved) and his brother James.  This woman raised two of Jesus’ closest disciples.  Her son James was the first martyr for Christ and John was the last of the disciples to die.  She loved Christ and experienced firsthand his mercy as he taught her about the kingdom of heaven.

Typically, when a name is mentioned in the Bible is because the person would have been well known in the community.  Each of these women would have been well known.  They were true followers of Christ; they had the means to follow along with Jesus and his disciples with the intention of taking care of their needs in a Godly way.  They set the standards of women in Christian ministry.  They were not there just to prepare food for the men, they would also minister to other women as the crowds of people would gather around Jesus.  They sat at the feet of Jesus and learned everything they could and then they went out and lived it.  These women were dedicated and loyal Christians and here they are seen at the crucifixion site watching a gruesome death of their beloved take place.

While the crowds sneered and chanted, they stood firm.  While the soldiers were malicious and rough, they stood there with complete devotion as tears streamed down their cheeks.   And as Jesus hung in death, his body limp, they continued to behold him, full of love and sympathy they watched him.

Read Matthew 27:57-61

Jesus was pronounced dead at three in the afternoon and Sabbath would begin promptly at six that same evening and it became clear Jesus’ body needed to be prepped for burial and buried before Sabbath began. 

Once Sabbath began no one would be permitted to work and that meant Jesus would not receive a proper burial until Sabbath ended.  As we read here a man named Joseph who was from Arimathea decided to take the lead and give Jesus a proper burial.  There are so many rich and exciting details in this scripture, in the burial of Jesus, and I want to take time to list them out for you.

  1. The first detail is Joseph.  What do we know about Joseph?  It says here he himself became a disciple of Jesus.  He believed in Jesus and decided to follow his teachings.  Looking at the other gospels we can learn more of who he was. 
  2. Mark 15:43 tells us Joseph was a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  Say what??  Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin.  Isn’t the Sanhedrin the enemy?  Its clear that not all members were against Jesus.
  3. Luke 23:50-51 says that Joseph was a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.
  4. John 19:38 states that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. 
  5. The body was retrieved from Pilate.  Jesus should have been buried with criminals but instead he was given a burial that represented royalty, and this fulfilled the Isaiah 53:9 prophesy.  Because Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin council this gave him access to Pilate.  Not just any Jewish man could go to the king and ask for a criminal’s body, but a member of the council could, and he did.  

 Joseph boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43).  The king was required to give permission or people could have taken down bodies before they were dead and revive them.  

I want to point out that Mark says he “boldly” went to Pilate.  I’m sure Pilate was fed up with this council and could have responded negatively toward Joseph, there was no telling how this could have ended.  Not to mention if any of the other council members saw him, he could have been in huge trouble for being a supporter of Jesus, he had a lot to lose.

Pilate was surprised though; it was unusual for a crucified person to die so quickly.  Typically, they would hang in agonizing pain for longer than six hours.  Pilate was surprised and decided to do a fact check.  He checked with the centurion who was on duty that day and he affirmed that Jesus was in fact dead, so Pilate gave Joseph permission to take his body to give him a proper burial.  Even though Pilate gave in to the massive crowd’s plea to kill Jesus, he didn’t want to crucify Jesus, so it is possible he gave consent out of guilt.

  • Jesus was given a royal burial.  Joseph prepared Jesus’ body for burial with help from a man named Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, he was a Pharisee, and its possible that he was also a “secret” disciple of Jesus.

Nicodemus secretly visited Jesus at night (John 29:39) where they had a conversation about “being born again”. 

We also know Nicodemus was wealthy, he is the one who purchased myrrh and aloes.  Joseph purchased the linens needed to prepare Jesus’ body.  Nicodemus purchased 75 lbs. of myrrh and aloes.  This amount was extravagant and typically only used in royal burials and is a good indication of the great amount of respect he had for Jesus. 

Mark and Luke both state Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God”, these two men really listened to Jesus speak, they listened to his prophetic messages about the kingdom of heaven and they understood he was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and they gave Jesus a burial that represented their belief.

  • Joseph donated his tomb for Jesus burial.  The man had a freshly dug tomb near the crucifixion site, complete with rolling stone door.  God cares so much about the seemingly smallest of details.  That Joseph prior to this day, would dig a working, usable tomb that is literally only feet away from calvary is amazing to me.  God’s hand is in every detail.  He knew Joseph would be limited on time, that Jesus would need to be buried before 6 pm and he prepared for him. 

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed Jesus in a tomb that was brand new.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance and went away.

Joseph started out as a “secret follower” a “secret disciple” of Christ.  He was in a tough position between the harsh opinions and hatred of the other council members and having a heart for Jesus.  But something happened when the earth began to shake, his world completely changed when darkness closed in over the earth, as rocks split, and tombs opened.  Joseph decided that he would no longer hide in shame, that the grave had no hold over him.  In the end he chose to openly, publicly serve Jesus Christ and honor him as his savior. 

The only disciples with Jesus at his burial were the two “secret” disciples.  Mary Magdalene and Mary Clopas were sitting in the garden across from the tomb watching all that was taking place.  They witnessed love and compassion for their Lord.  They witnessed a royal burial for their King.  They sat holding each other as they mourned, they sat and worshiped remembering everything Jesus told them.   

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