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Jesus’ followers believed He was the Messiah, but couldn’t understand His many warnings that He would be crucified, and never expected Him to be so; cf. Luk 9:44-45.  When it happened, they no doubt hoped that God would somehow rescue Him.  For in spite of His teaching that God would also raise Him from the dead, and that He Himself had raised Lazarus from the dead just a short time before, still, they fully understood the power of death, and couldn’t comprehend that it was actually through death that God was accomplishing His great salvation to deliver men from the power of sin and the devil; cf. Heb 2:14-15, 1Pe 4:1-2.  When He therefore died upon the cross around 3 pm on Thursday of passion week, they were completely unprepared for how to proceed or what to do.  He was a righteous man and deserved a righteous man’s burial.  But His enemies who had Him put to death had assigned Him a grave with the wicked in the refuse of the city, or worse, by burning as the ultimate stigma upon Him to squash any movement of His followers. 

But God had ordained that He would be with a rich man in His death (Isa 53:9), and there just happened to be a certain rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus.  He had not consented to their actions, and also just happened to have a new tomb nearby that He had hewn for himself out of rock in which no one had ever lain.  God had perhaps nudged His spirit in the past to build the tomb, and perhaps orchestrated the circumstances to make it possible, so that although as an observant Jew he likely had an inner struggle about relinquishing the “clean” tomb to another, he may have wondered if God was in it.  He also had external fears about his reputation with his colleagues on the Sanhedrin and approaching Pilate on his own apart from an official request from the Jews.  However, the thought of Jesus’ body coming to such an ignoble end helped him overcome his fears and is perhaps what spurred him to act, which also seems to have spurred Nicodemus to assist him.  Pilate, who hadn’t wanted to put Jesus to death, was amenable to his request, and so having obtained from him the body, Joseph, with Nicodemus’ help, wrapped it with spices in a clean linen cloth, laid Him in the tomb, and rolled a stone in front of its entrance to seal it; Mat 27:60.  What purpose would sealing the tomb have?  Cf. 1Sa 17:44,46, 1Ki 14:11, Psa 79:2, Jer 7:33, 16:4, 19:7, 34:20 and note that carrion birds of the sky and scavenging beasts of the earth typify the powers of darkness; cf. Isa 34:11-15, Mar 1:13, Rev 18:2.  Hence, such afflictions to one’s corpse after death were understood as somehow also afflicting the soul of the departed; cf. Gen 40:16-19.  Why is it not fitting for the fallen body of a person to be degraded as food to the beasts?  See Gen 1:26 and think: is man a mere animal that his remains should be devoured by scavengers?  What is the significance when they are?  See Deut 28:26 and note that this is one of the curses for covenant disobedience; cf. 2Ki 9:35-37, 2Pe 2:12, Rev 13:2,  and contrast 2Sa 21:10, 1Ki 13:28, Mar 1:13, 2Ti 4:17, 1Pe 5:8.

How big was the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb?  See Mar 16:3-4.  From this description of the three women coming to the tomb who did not anticipate being able to remove the stone, is it likely that Joseph was able to put the stone in place by himself, or would he have had help from Nicodemus and perhaps even others who worked for him?  What does the logistics of maneuvering a large stone to seal the tomb indicate about how high the entrance into the tomb was, and where in relation to the ground it was located?  Cf. Joh 20:5,11.  Considering the great difficulty of closing the tomb with such a large obstruction, why might they not have used something easier, like wood, that would also have allowed for a larger entrance, and still prevented the stench of the decaying corpse from escaping (Joh 11: 38-39)?  See Gen 23:4 and consider that in addition to deterring scavenging animals and opportunistic grave robbers, such an obstruction created a firm separation between the living and the dead, while at the same time preserving their remains for the long term in hope that in spite of the seeming finality of death, still they might yet live again; cf. Job 19:25-27. 

Recall that earlier Mary the mother of Jesus, her sister Salome, Mary Magdalene, and yet another Mary, the wife of Clopas who was likely also the mother of James and Joseph / Joses, were standing by the cross of Jesus with John near enough for them to hear Him entrust the care of his mother to John (Joh 19:25-27).  Perhaps pushed back by the soldiers, or perhaps not wishing to draw attention to themselves as His followers, by the time He died they had moved to a distance away from the cross, except His mother Mary who had likely departed not wanting to see her son’s sufferings and death; see Mat 27:56, Mar 15:40.  Now, about three hours later as night was falling and the Sabbath dawning, who does Scripture say was still around to follow Joseph to the tomb and look on to see where Jesus’ body was laid?  See Mat 27:61, Mar 15:47, and note that it makes good sense that Salome would have departed to be with her sister Mary and report what was happening to His body, which would have provided a small comfort to her otherwise grieving soul.  What does Luke report further that these women did?  See Luk 23:55-56; cf. Mar 16:1.  Why would they have prepared spices and perfumes seeing that Nicodemus had already brought a hundred (Roman) pounds of spices (about 75 of our English pounds) to wrap the body with (Joh 19:39-40)?  Note: it is possible they were unaware of Nicodemus’ actions, or that in the haste due to the approaching Sabbath that they were not able to completely prepare the body according to their custom, so that they were returning to complete the job. 

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