Saturday

“They laid Jesus there.” (v. 42)

John 19:38-42 Saturday 19 April 2014


Background

What do you do with the body of someone who hasbeen executed publicly and barbarously in a way normally reservedfor slaves, outcasts and lower class enemies of the state? TheRomans normally left the body for the vultures, as a finalhumiliation. For anything different to happen, high officials willhave to be involved. At this point, two important characters enterthe story. One is Joseph of Arimathea, a Jew of such high statusthat he is able to approach Pilate directly. We are told that he issecretly a disciple of Jesus, like those mentioned in John12:42-43; but he has kept this hidden because he is afraid ofthe response of the Jewish authorities and other Jews. Whether hetells Pilate that he is a disciple, or whether he appeals toPilate's repeated attempts to release Jesus, we are not told. Buthe manages to get permission from Pilate for the body to bereleased to him for burial.

At this point he is joined by Nicodemus, awealthy, high status Jewish leader who was another hidden followerof Jesus, and had once come to him discretely under the cover ofnight for an important conversation (John3:1-21). He brings an enormous amount of expensive spices. Heand Joseph have to work quickly, because the Passover Festival willbegin as the first star comes out in the early evening, and afterthat they will not be able to work. They already possess or gainaccess to a new tomb close to the site of the Crucifixion. Theywrap the body in linen cloths (like Lazarus' body had been in John11:44) along with the spices, according to Jewish burialcustoms.

It is a lavish, respectful and devout burialdone at great speed. Whether Joseph and Nicodemus intended it to bepermanent or temporary (and followed by removal to another tomb),we do not know. What God intended it to be we shall discover twodays later.


To Ponder

  • Are Joseph and Nicodemus to be condemned for being secretfollowers of Jesus, or praised for taking the risk of coming outinto the open when they were needed? Why?


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