Today the Church commemorates Joseph of Arimathea. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph took His body and laid it in his family tomb. Our devotional reading comes from Meditations on the Gospels: According to His Word.
The burial of Jesus is part of the Passion story. We speak of it as the last stage in the history of Christ’s humiliation when we speak the Apostles’ Creed. To die and be buried is a consequence of sin. Jesus was no sinner, and the prophecy said He would not see corruption. Still He was the Sin-bearer and as such allowed Himself to be buried, as we are.
But what a difference between His death and burial! He died in shame, surrounded by scoffers and enemies. At His burial, loving friends took charge. Gentle hands prepared His body and laid it in the tomb of a rich man, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah (53:9). Certainly, the gloom that enveloped the cross was beginning to be dispelled by the first rays of Easter joy. …
Mark reports, to their everlasting honor, the faithfulness of the group of women who did not forsake the Lord in His shame and death, although they were obliged to remain at a distance. That they had followed Him and served Him in the happy days gone by was an act of faith that shone more brightly than that of His disciples when the great hour of need had come.
Let us not despise or think little of the faith of those who keep themselves in the background. In the hour of trial, the last may become first. How true that was in the case of the two men who were so prominent at the burial of Jesus!
The sun was rapidly sinking in the west. That meant that the preparations for the burial of Jesus’ body had to be rushed. First, permission had to be secured to take the body of the cross.
Here, the influential position of Joseph of Arimathea served a good purpose. He boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, whom he had begun to love and honor as the Savior, but whom he had not found the strength of faith to confess.
Pilate must have been surprised that a member of the very court that had condemned Jesus should turn out to be His friend. So as soon as the centurion confirmed that Jesus had died, permission was readily granted.
Elsewhere we read that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and also a member of the Council, joined Joseph in furnishing the line shroud and a large portion of the spices and ointments that the Jews customarily used at burials.
Thus, the body of our Lord was laid in the clean, new tomb of Joseph, who was nearby, to await the resurrection morn. At least some of the faithful women stood near to see where His body was laid so they could come after the close of the Sabbath to fully anoint Him.
Until then, they buried their hopes with Jesus’ body. A dead Master is no Master at all. But the scene was soon to change.
Devotional reading is adapted from Meditations on the Gospels: According to His Word, page 370–73, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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. (1069)
Prayer is from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 578, © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.