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"The Burial of Jesus" 
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus
Bible Study  John 19:38-42

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy and prominent businessman and a secret disciple of Jesus. He was also a member of the Sanhedrin but was not among those who had condemned Jesus.

The Burial of Jesus

Verse 38: "After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body."

Under Roman rule, crucified victims were not to be publicly mourned, and the bodies were often left on the cross for days.

However, if their punishment was not for treason, an influential patron or family member might be allowed to take the body.

Joseph of Arimathea was such a person. Although he had previously hidden his faith in Jesus for fear of the Jews, he bravely asked Pilate for permission to take away the body.

Verse 39: "Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight."

Nicodemus, though not declared in Scripture to be a disciple of Jesus, had secretly and under cover of night, visited Jesus and expressed his belief that He was sent from God, and had asked Jesus to explain His teachings, (John 3:1-9).

Later, he attempted to defend Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Now, in a lavish display of devotion to the Savior, he brings 75 pounds of expensive myrrh and aloes, (John 7:50-51).

Both Nicodemus and Joseph had hidden their faith in Jesus for fear of the Jews. 

However, at the death of Jesus, they threw their fears aside and boldly requested the body, then personally attended to His burial.

Verse 40: "So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews."

The Romans often burned their dead heroes. The Egyptians even mutilated theirs for embalming, but not the Jews. The Jewish bodies were wrapped in shrouds especially prepared for burials. Synoptics say the main covering was a single sheet, (Mt 27:59).

Excessive spices were a feature of the royal funerals of Judah and were appropriate for the burial of Jesus. (2 Chron 16:14).

Mary had anointed Jesus for His burial with extravagant oils, only a few days before His death, (John 12:3).

Verses 41: "Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid."

The tomb was probably a cave carved out of the stone hillside. Most graves were large enough for a person to walk into, and a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance.

According to the book of Matthew, the tomb was owned by Joseph of Arimathea, (Mt 27:60).

Some believe the reason they buried Jesus in the new tomb was that it was owned by Joseph of Arimathea and was only a short distance.

Others believe:

  • To be buried in a tomb not yet used was a special honor, reserved only for the wealthy and the kings of Judah, and was perhaps a reference to His royalty.
  • Some think the new tomb was emphasized by John so that after the resurrection there could be no mistake in the identity of the burial place. 
  • Still others see the new tomb as a reference to prophecy that Jesus would not see corruption:

"Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," (Psalm 16:9-10).

Verse 42: "So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there."

Jewish customs required burials to be outside the city walls.

John does not give time frames, but according to the book of Mark

  • Jesus was crucified at the third hour, which would be 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25)
  • There was darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. (Mark 15:33-37)
  • Jesus death occurred after the ninth hour (3 p.m.).

There would be approximately nine hours from the beginning of the crucifixion until sunset. 

The Law required the burial to be completed before sunset because that is when the Sabbath would begin.

In order to satisfy the requirements of the Law, it was essential to complete the burial before sunset, because that is when the Sabbath would begin.

Some believe there would have been sufficient time to complete a Jewish burial. Others disagree and point to the Scripture where Mary returns on the first day of the week to complete the preparation for burial.

Not only had Joseph and Nicodemus broken with the other Jewish leaders, by handling the body they had become ritually unclean and disqualified to participate in the Passover feast.

They would miss the Passover Feast, however, Jesus death on the cross fulfilled the requirement of the Passover for them, and for all who would later believe on Him. Never again would animal sacrifice be necessary, or beneficial. 

Jesus, the "Lamb of God," and new Passover Lamb, had completed the work His Father had sent Him to do,
(John 17:4).

Jesus death on the cross would pay the price for all sins, making it possible for all who would believe in Him to have eternal life.

This concludes our study of The Burial of Jesus. 

Our Next Study:

The Resurrection of Jesus

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The Burial of Jesus

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