Jesus holds the distinction of being buried in a borrowed tomb!
He would not be needing it for long.


There was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good
and 
just man. He had not consented to their decision and
deed. He 
was from Arimathea, and was himself also
waiting for the 
kingdom of God.

This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Then
he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a
tomb that
was hewn out of the rock, where no one had
ever lain before.
[{Matthew 27:60b} He rolled a large stone
against the door of
the tomb, and departed.] That day
was the Preparation, and the
Sabbath drew near.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee
followed after,
and they observed the tomb and how His
body was laid. Then
they returned and prepared spices
and fragrant oils. And they
rested on the Sabbath
according to the commandment.

                                                        Luke 23:50-56 NKJV, condensed


                                       A Hurry-up Burial 

It was over as quickly as it had begun. Jesus was dead. Then
suddenly, out of nowhere, a new and unlikely name surfaced.
Someone we have not heard about before--Joseph from
Arimathea. Those who wrote the Gospel accounts many years
later praised him as a good and just man. But when this action
took place, Joseph's presence would have startled anyone
who was watching.

Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, that body of religious
leaders who had plotted the death of Jesus. Now as the limp
body hung lifeless on the cross, Joseph stepped out of the
shadows with the boldness of a man on a mission. He marched
into Governor Pilate's palace and asked for permission to
remove the body from the cross and bury it.

Burial arrangements are usually done by loved ones, so what
is this rich and influential stranger doing in this scene! The
accounts vary slightly. Matthew claimed he was a disciple at
heart, Mark said he took courage--combine those two and you
have a secret believer so inspired by the days events that he
came out of the closet. Now in death, he had one last chance
to get it right and possibly make amends for the neglect and
cowardice of his past.

Joseph, probably with the help of his servants, attended to
the corpse in a grand way. After gaining Pilate's blessing,
Joseph took the mangled body from the cross, cleaned it up,
wrapped it appropriately, and according to Matthew laid it in
his own tomb which he had prepared for himself. Lastly he
rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb to seal it from
wild animals. All this activity might have been a temporary
measure, just until after the Sabbath when a more permanent
arrangement could be made.

We do not know if anyone heckled Joseph while he did all this.
But we do know he acted in haste to get the body buried before
sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath day. Which brings
up another irony. By virtue of touching Jesus' dead body, Joseph
made himself unfit to keep the Passover! Under Jewish law,
anyone who touched any remains became unclean and was
prohibited from entering the temple. This was to be Joseph's
most meaningful Passover season and he wouldn't even get to
participate in the sacred rituals! He was excluded because he
honored our beloved Savior in this final act of humble service.

Joseph is not mentioned in any other context in the New
Testament. But like most of the other people Jesus meet during
his life on earth, one encounter was enough to bring wholeness
to a fragmented life. The prominent councilor from Arimathea
stepped out in faith on the day we call Good Friday, and could
never again turn the clock back.

The women who followed from Galilee had one last task to
accomplish. It was women's work to prepare a body for burial.
But that job must wait until after the Sabbath. In the meantime,
they went to the place where they were staying and prepared
the embalming herbs, spices and oils. Then they waited . . . for
the first light of dawn following the Sabbath.

Jesus, who wore everything he owned, and died as a common
criminal, was now buried in a rich man's grave! And as
darkness descended, families all across Jerusalem gathered
together to recount the miracle of the Passover. Parents told
their children about ancient times and how the lives of their
ancestors in Egypt were spared by the blood of the sacrificial
lamb. When the angel of death saw the blood on the doorframe
of each household, the angel passed over that home. Life was
in that blood. It meant the beginning of Israel's freedom from
slavery and the beginning of their long journey to God's
promised land.

Little did the people of Jerusalem know. Life is still in the blood.
Miracles have not ceased. The blood which Joseph washed so
carefully from God's perfect Lamb symbolizes deliverance from
the tyranny of sin and the beginning of a pilgrimage toward the
kingdom of our heavenly Father. Jesus, through his death on
the cross, invites us all to walk with him on that journey. The
cross bears a powerful and eternal message. It's a constant
reminder of God's unrelenting love for you and me, and all
mankind. How can we refuse!

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: What wishes do you have regarding your own burial.

 

Joseph sounds like an honorable man who knew in his heart that
something should be done and he decided to act alone if necessary
and do the job himself.
            Describe a time when, instead of thinking someone else should
            do it, you decided to tackle the needed task yourself, even
            if no one helped.

 

We have no record of Joseph voting "innocent" during the trial of Jesus
in the Sanhedrin. Presumably he kept his reservations to himself.
           Think of a situation wherein you regretted your silence. 
           Why did you not voice your opinion and try to persuade others?
           How similar are your reasons to what Joseph might have feared?
Mark says Joseph moved boldly.  
            Does that mean he overcame his fear?

 

Do you think Joseph redeemed his failure to defend Jesus in the
Sanhedrin, by attending to his body in death?   Explain your answer?
            When have you tried to redeem a failure by doing a good turn?
The phrase "good turn" is interesting. The word repent means to
turn around, to turn from sin and walk toward the righteousness
of God.
            Do you interpret Joseph's honorable deed as a sign of
                    his repentance?

 

There's a saying that God is more ready to forgive us than we are
to forgive ourselves. Also that God is more eager to forgive than
humans are to forgive each other.
            Use your imagination to put some flesh on Joseph's character
            and discuss how these two statements might have played out
             in his future.

 

It could have been the injustice of it all that spurred Joseph into action.
             What are some things that move you into constructive activity?

 

It was over. Nothing more was going to happen, yet the women
from Galilee were still watching from a distance.
             What do you read into those words?

 

There were many characters involved in the Passion story.--The
religious authorities, Judas, Peter, the remaining ten silent disciples,
the angry shouting crowd, Barrabas, Pilate, Herod, the suffering
Jesus, Simon of Cyrene, the executioners, the redeemed thief on
the cross, the Roman centurion, the women who followed from
Galilee, Joseph of Arimathea.
            Choose one from the list that stands out in your mind or
                    speaks most to your heart.
            Describe how you see and understand their role. 
            For you, what is the miracle of the cross?

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