Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead and asked the army officer for his report. When Pilate heard that Jesus had died, he agreed that Joseph could have the body. Joseph bought a linen shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped the body in the shroud and laid him in a tomb. He then rolled the stone across the entrance of the tomb. The women were watching.
- It was usual to leave the bodies of crucified criminals on the cross after they had died, to deter others from committing the same crimes.
- Only Pontius Pilate could give permission for the body of Jesus to be removed.
- The body had to be taken down quickly – the Sabbath was near and no work could be done, and this included burials.
- Role of Joseph of Arimathea – an important member of the Sanhedrin asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, risking being accused of sympathizing with a crucified traitor who had undermined Roman authority. In Christian tradition, he became a Christian himself and may have provided eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ trials as well as his burial.
- The fact that Jesus had died already was unusual – it could take up to 3 days for a person who had been crucified to die. Perhaps a result of his beatings and torture before crucifixion or maybe Mark is suggesting God shortened the time his Son had to suffer?
Significance of the Burial:
· Fulfills Prophecy: Jesus us buried by Joseph of Arimathea. Mark makes a link between this and a prophecy of Isaiah: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death”. Joseph was a rich man but the “wicked” bit is less clear. It show that Mark is historically accurate because otherwise he would have tried to fit the story to match the prophecy word-for-word.
· Underlines his Divinity: Shows Jesus was really dead. He would have been carried from the cross to the tomb and those who were carrying him would have noticed if he was not really dead (as some people later suggested). This encourages Christians to believe their Lord really did die. It also emphasizes his humanity; he experienced every aspect of being human.
· Shows the burial is historically accurate: Some people need evidence to be presented clearly before they believe anything. Mark presents this story very factually. He speaks about the time of day, and uses peoples full names – as if in some way this gives credence to the story. Helps Christians to trust that the Gospel of Mark is historically accurate. It is important that we believe Jesus died otherwise there would be no resurrection
· Sets the Scene for the Resurrection: Gives eyewitness information which is significant after the Resurrection to show that Jesus really did rise from the dead (it wasn’t that he didn’t really die or that the women went to the wrong tomb on Easter Day) which is the central pivot of Christianity.