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Joseph of Arimathea

Today, we commemorate Joseph of Arimathea, and we read a study on his life as described in The Gospel According to St. Luke.

Introduction

Each of the Gospel writers recounts Joseph of Arimathea’s role in preparing a burial place for Jesus. Today’s devotional reading uses information from each of these Gospel accounts to paint a clear picture of what happened the night of Jesus’ burial.

Devotional Reading

Luke sketches the burial of Jesus in a few bold strokes, omitting mention of the role of Nicodemus (J) and of the watch placed at the grave by the high priests (Mt). Nor does he inform us that the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid belonged to Joseph (Mt), or about its location (J). But very definitely he brings before us the chief actor, Joseph, who was not known as a follower of Jesus, so that no one could suspect “the Apostles to have feigned a burial” (Lag). He hailed from Arimathea, a town quite generally placed by scholars in the neighborhood of Lydda, about fifty miles northwest of Jerusalem. Apparently he was now living in the latter city. He was an honorable, pious person, wealthy (Mt) and highly respected (Mk), and what is especially important for our understanding of the narrative, he was a member of the chief council. As councilman he undoubtedly could easily gain access to the quarters and to the ear of Pilate. Was he present when Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin and action against Him was decided upon? Apparently not, because the vote against Jesus was unanimous (Mk 14:64). He may not have been the only one absent at the special meetings the night and morning before. His disapproval of the council’s action, it seems, was a matter of private sentiment, to which he had not given expression. The account says that he waited for the kingdom of God, that is, he was one of the pious souls in Israel who, like Simeon and Anna thirty years before, were eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. J 19:38 informs us that he secretly was a disciple of Jesus. We may imagine that he like many other Israelites (cf. e.g., Lk 7:16) regarded Jesus as a true prophet of God and wished to obey His teachings.

The following may have been the course of events. The death of Jesus occurred about 3:00 P.M. At once Joseph went to Pilate and requested that the body be given him for interment. . . . By 4:00 or shortly thereafter Joseph and his servants (remember he was rich) were at the cross and reverently took the body of Jesus down. He had quickly purchased (Mk 15:46) a linen cloth; in this the body, undoubtedly after having been washed, was wrapped. J 19:39 ff, in addition to the co-operation of Nicodemus, tells about fragrant spices which were used at the burial. The tomb, hewn out of rock, was in an adjacent garden (J 19:41). . . . Mt, Lk, and J state that it was a new grave, and Lk and J add that no corpse had ever been deposited in it before. . . . The event was concluded by Joseph’s rolling a huge stone before the entrance of the sepulcher, undoubtedly employing his servants for that task. 

Devotional reading is from The Gospel According to St. Luke, pages 476–477 © 1956, 1984 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Prayer

Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer is taken from Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 578–579 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.

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