Jesus was born like the lowliest but buried like a King. He even had a guard of soldiers watching his body.
For Joseph of Arimathea it was time to come out of the shadows and take a stand for Jesus. He was a secret disciple, but at this dark hour he could not keep it secret anymore. He had his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock, and that is what he was going to offer Jesus. Nicodemus also took his stand for Jesus!
Mark 15:42-46; John 19:39-42
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
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.
The custom was to wash the body and then wrap it in strips of linen mixed with sweet smelling spices, starting from the feet and then up through the neck. The head was wrapped separately. Seventy-five pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes seem quite a lot. But some historians tell us that when King Herod died some five hundred servants carried the spices used in preparing his body. There were not so many preparing the body of the King of kings.
Joseph was a secret disciples for fear of the Jews; but on that day he made a very bold and public confession. Joseph dared to ask the Roman governor for the body. And his request was granted.
A secret disciple? You cannot be a secret follower of Jesus; not in the long run!
Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Due to persecution many followers of Jesus keep it a secret. In the first century the Christians in Rome lived in catacombs. Today in many places Christians have to go “underground” and meet secretly. Many are imprisoned or killed because of their faith in Jesus. In my eyes these brave brothers and sisters are heroes.
God chose Joseph, a “secret disciple,” to give his Son Jesus a burial place. The closets disciples hid and locked the door, probably fearing that the Jews would come after them, and maybe do the same they had done to Jesus. But Joseph was bold, and thus Jesus was buried in a beautiful garden.
Nicodemus brought the spices needed to wrap the body for burial. Seventy-five pounds is quite a substantial amount! A week before, Mary of Bethany had anointed Jesus with fragrant perfume. Might the fragrance of her selfish love-offering still have been lingering?
I pray that we be bold in acknowledging our Savior! I pray that each of our lives be a fragrant aroma that will attract men and women to Jesus.