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After Jesus expired upon the cross the hope of His followers that God might yet somehow rescue Him quickly gave way to the reality that He was dead, and thoughts of what would happen to His body.  “His grave was assigned with wicked men” (Isa 53:9) by those who had Him crucified, for the corpses of criminals would typically be disposed of at the city dump, or burned.  Such an ignoble end was not fitting for a righteous man like Jesus, but what could they do, considering the circumstances and the cost of a tomb on such short notice.  “Yet,” centuries earlier God had ordained that He would be “with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth”.  For God also understood the importance of the empty tomb to establish the fact of the resurrection three days later, and so provided a tomb that could be positively identified and even sealed and kept watch over to verify in the strongest possible way after Jesus’ resurrection that the tomb was empty, and that the reports of His resurrection were not just wishful thinking or hallucinations.

And so, as if on cue awaiting that very hour, there arose a rich man who happened to be a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, who had not consented to their action so that his conscience was already sore from what had happened, who in fact was waiting for the kingdom of God and had secretly become a disciple of Jesus.  He was from Arimathea, about five miles from Jerusalem, and for that reason was likely, and conveniently, not called upon to attend the hastily convened meeting of the Sanhedrin early that morning that condemned Jesus to death.  He also just happened to have a new tomb he had dug for himself, which happened to be located a short distance from where Jesus was crucified that would allow Him to be interred in short order, since time was of the essence, for the Sabbath required by the first day of unleavened bread that began at sundown was about to begin.  How does the concern for Jesus’ body by His followers, expressed especially by the bold request by Joseph to Pilate with fear and at great cost to himself, contrast with the thought most people today give to what happens to their bodies, or the bodies of their loved ones, after they die?  From their example, and the example of God’s people throughout history, ought we perhaps to be more concerned about it?

When do both Matthew and Mark say that Joseph of Arimathea came to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body?  See Mat 27:57Mar 15:42 and cf. Mat 20:8 in the context of Mat 20:6-12 that would indicate that it was close to 6 pm, so Jesus had already been dead for at least a couple hours.  What else does John note that would have been happening shortly before this time, to which Joseph as a member of the Sanhedrin was perhaps privy?  See Joh 19:31.  What does Mark say was Pilate’s initial reaction to Joseph’s request for Jesus’ body?  See Mar 15:44, and note that the Greek words used imply his amazement that Jesus had already been dead for some time, as Joseph would have informed him, so that he felt compelled to inquire from the centurion if it were really so.  What does John record that the centurion would have been able to relate to Pilate about the certainty of Jesus’ death, that was already clear to His followers and those that had been at the cross?  See Joh 19:32-34,38; cf. Luk 23:46-47,48-49.  What does Pilate’s amazement that Jesus was already dead indicate about the time it would take one who was crucified to die, so that Jesus actually died relatively quickly compared to the norm?  Cf. Joh 19:31.  Have we the same faith to face death, completely trusting God to see us through it, or are we more of the norm who so fear death that we will give anything to extend our lives to the last tortured breath?  While our lives are not our own so that we cannot needlessly throw them away according to our own will (1Co 6:19-20), what does this teach us should be our attitude about clinging to life when our death becomes inevitable?  In light of the promise of eternal life, is it possible that the many medical interventions Christians often make at great cost to extend their lives on earth actually do more harm than good for the cause of Christ’s kingdom by using up an exorbitant amount of resources that might have been better spent in other kingdom causes?

How does each gospel writer express that Pilate answered Joseph’s request for the body of Jesus?  See Mat 27:58Mar 15:45Luk 23:52-53Joh 19:38.  Why might Pilate have been amenably disposed to grant his request, in contrast to the Jewish leaders who were keen that His grave be with the wicked (Isa 53:9) so as to cast as much calumny upon Him as possible?  See Mat 27:17-19,22-24Luk 23:13-1620,23Joh 18:3819:4,6,12,21-22.  Considering that by his authority Pilate might as easily have denied Joseph’s request in order to appease the Jewish leaders upon whom he depended to maintain the Roman Peace, whom he understood from the circumstances would want to besmirch His character as an evildoer and so deny Him a decent burial, what should we understand about the important role that Pilate, through his more righteous sentiments towards Jesus, ended up having in establishing the fact of the resurrection by granting Jesus’ body to Joseph?  How would the realization of this fact have helped Matthew’s Jewish readers who were on the fence about Jesus to understand why, at the time he was writing, that the gospel was spreading among the Gentiles, even as the Jews were increasingly rejecting Jesus as their Messiah?  What does this remind us about who those are that find favor with God: those who know what is right because they are closely related to Him, but don’t do it, or those who do what is right, though they otherwise may not know Him?  See Act 10:34-35Rom 2:13; cf. Luk 8:20-21Jam 1:22.

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