Mark 15:42-16:8 (ESV)
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. 16 vWhen the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Jesus’ lifeless body hung on the cross as the day came to an end. The Sabbath, the day on which no work could be done, began Friday evening at 6pm sharp. Friday was known as the Day of Preparation because work had to be finished in preparation for the day of rest. Every Jew took the Sabbath off, and all “work” came to a 24-hour halt. Jewish law required dead bodies to be buried before sunset, so if anyone was going to get Jesus’ body off the cross and properly buried, it was critical that it be done before 6pm. Joseph of Arimathea used his influence to intervene for the appropriate treatment of Jesus’ corpse. Joseph went to Pilate and asked permission to bury Jesus. He probably did this right at around 4pm, since Mark records it as “when evening had come” (v. 42). Pilate was amazed to hear that Jesus was already dead. Pilate called the Roman officer who oversaw the execution to make sure of it. When Pilate learned that Jesus was in fact dead, he allowed Joseph to take the body and bury it. Maybe Pilate felt guilty about allowing Jesus to be crucified, and as a result, didn’t fight Joseph’s request. Joseph wrapped Jesus’ mutilated corpse in a linen sheet. Jesus’s body was then placed in Joseph’s own personal tomb. No one today knows for certain where that tomb was, but we do know that Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in there.
Joseph of Arimathea lived about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem, but was present for the Passover. He was a respected member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council in the first century. Up to this point, Joseph had been a “behind the scenes” disciple, but now he took courage and acted consistently with what he believed (v. 43). Although his decision could have cost Joseph dearly, he did the right thing. Joseph became an outstanding model of Christian faith for the followers of Jesus. Remember, the eleven disciples were still hiding, yet Joseph acted boldly and took great risk to secure the body of Jesus. What are you afraid of doing for Jesus today? Follow the model of Joseph of Arimathea, and be courageous. Do what God is calling you to do. Your righteous action could make an impact for good that lasts for years, even decades to come.