Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Early in these devotionals, we looked at Christ’s time after death; we will now briefly look again at his burial. Joseph was a rich man (Matthew 27:57) and a member of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:50). Yet now he boldly asks for the body of Jesus, probably knowing that the rest of the Sanhedrin would find out what he had done. Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1, 7:50), helps Joseph retrieve Jesus’ body and prepare it for burial. Notice that Nicodemus brings a large quantity of myrrh, and recall that Mary had earlier anointed Jesus with something similar to myrrh (John 12:3), and the magi had presented Jesus with the gift of myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
Joseph placed the body in his own tomb (Matthew 27:60), a tomb which had not seen any decay (see Psalm 16:10). Thus Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled, that although Jesus was judged to be a wicked man, he was buried in the grave of a rich man. See how lovingly Joseph and Nicodemus cared for their Lord even after his death! Luke tells us that some of the women followed them, and also prepared spices and ointments for Jesus’ body (Luke 23:55-56), loving him even until (so they thought) the end.
But what of us? What does the burial of Jesus mean for us? “The burial of Jesus was a necessary element in his humiliation. By means of it he sanctified the grave for all his followers.” (William Hendriksen) Yes, brothers and sisters, as we have been united to Christ in his death we will surely be united to him in his resurrection (Romans 6:4). The Saturday of sorrow will yield to the Sunday of jubilation. “We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.” (Thomas Watson) Come blessed morn of resurrection!!!
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord! (Robert Lowry)