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It was Thursday evening of Passion week.  Jesus had been raised upon the cross shortly before noon (Mar 15:25, Joh 19:14).  His followers no doubt hoped that God would somehow rescue Him, but after seeing Him die a few hours later any such hopes were quickly replaced with thoughts of what would happen to His body.  Those who had Him put to death had assigned His grave with the wicked, and perhaps even deliberated about burning His body after the example of Achan to cast the ultimate stigma upon Him and squash the public support that had been growing for Him; cf. Jos 7:25.  In their eyes He too had troubled Israel, and such would prevent His followers from stealing the body and claiming He had risen from the dead; see Mat 27:62-63.  As a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, although excluded from the decision early that morning to put Jesus to death because he lived a distance from Jerusalem, would have been involved in such deliberations.  Although we can only conjecture, such talk would also have been the motivating factor he needed to overcome his fears from the peer pressure of his colleagues and gather up the courage to ask Pilate for the body.  Pilate himself had wanted to release Jesus.  And so, perhaps also wanting in some small way to atone for giving in to the pressure that the Jewish leaders had brought upon him to have Him crucified, he was amenable to grant Joseph’s petition and ordered the body to be given to him. 

What specifics do both Mark and Luke say about the mechanics for how Joseph took possession of the body of Jesus?  See Mar 15:46, Luk 23:53.  What would be involved with removing the spikes that had been nailed through Jesus’ hands and feet to secure Him to the cross, and what apprehension would an observant Jew have about defiling himself in such a way, especially at the start of one of their faith’s most sacred celebrations?  Cf. Joh 18:28.  Although it would have been so much easier to do nothing, in hindsight, how thankful would Joseph have been that he overcame his fears and subjected himself to the ritual defilement of man-handling a dead body in order to have the privilege of being literally and physically anointed with the precious blood of God’s own Son and the Savior of the world?  Is it possible that we might miss out on a like blessing by being too squeamish to defile ourselves in some similar service to Christ, even using our own religious purity or fear of germs as an excuse to avoid it, when in our heart of hearts we feel the tug of God’s love to do so?  Cf. Mat 25:40, Luk 5:12-13, 10:30-33, Heb 13:2.

What does Mark say that Joseph did before and after taking Jesus’ body down from the cross?  See Mar 15:46 and note that the linen cloth used for burial was fine and costly.  How does Matthew also describe the fine linen cloth Joseph purchased to wrap Jesus’ body in?  See Mat 27:59 and note that clean is typically used in the moral sense of pure or innocent; cf. Mat 5:8, Luk 11:41, Joh 13:10-11, Act 20:26, 1Ti 1:5, 3:9, 2Ti 1:3, 2:22, Tit 1:15, Heb 10:22.  Why is it especially fitting in preparing for burial the bodies of God’s saints who have died to wrap them in fine linen, white and clean?  See Rev 19:8,14.  Although the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified had assigned His grave with the wicked to stigmatize His death, in what way then did Joseph’s actions overcome their intention to instead dignify it?  What do his actions also teach us about the way that a proper burial testifies of God’s truth, so that even in death, our lives may continue to bear witness to that which is true and noble and right? 

Who does John say helped Joseph?  See Joh 19:39.  What does Joh 3:1 note about Nicodemus that would have made him a colleague of Joseph?  Cf. Luk 23:50, Joh 7:46-52.  How might Joseph’s boldness to break with the party-line of his colleagues and ask Pilate for Jesus’ body have also been the instigator for Nicodemus to act and help him?  Cf. Heb 10:24.  What did Nicodemus bring to assist in the burial?  See Joh 19:39 and note that the weight given is in Roman pounds of twelve ounces, which equates to about 75 of the pounds with which we are familiar.  Also note that myrrh and aloes were costly and fragrant spices were used in the burial process to slow (but not necessarily stop), the decomposition and cover the stench of the decaying body; cf. Exo 30:23, Est 2:12, Psa 45:8, Pro 7:17, Sol 4:14, Joh 11:39.  To what expense would both Joseph and Nicodemus have gone to provide a proper burial to Jesus’ body?  Cf. Joh 12:3-5.  Are burials cheap even today?  Although cremation is less expensive, from the example of Scripture and the history of God’s saints, is that the place to cut costs when it comes to laying to rest the remains of a Christian brother or sister?  The synoptic gospels describe Jesus’ body as being wrapped up in the fine linen cloth that Joseph had bought; what word does John use to describe the effect that such wrappings would have upon the corpse?  See Joh 19:40; cf. Joh 11:44.  In what way are such bindings a fitting picture of the way that death binds men?  Cf. Mar 5:4, Luk 13:16, Act 12:6, 21:33, and Mar 6:17, 15:7, Act 22:5, 24:27, Col 4:3 where the same word is translated in the sense of imprisoned.  Were such wrappings of death able to bind Jesus?  See Joh 20:4-8.  What does the way that Jesus’ grave wrappings remained in the grave, as compared to those of Lazarus that remained upon him, indicate about the difference between His resurrection and Lazarus’ resuscitation? 

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