Matthew 27:57-61 (NIV) As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Joseph from Arimathea was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:34), and also a member of the Sanhedrin who had voted against condemning Him (Luke 23:50-51). He took it up on himself to see to the burial of Jesus’ body. If no one came forward, the bodies of the crucified would often be buried unceremoniously in a common grave. But Joseph was a follower of Jesus, and believer in what He stood for, and was unwilling to let His body be disgraced.
So after obtaining permission from Pilate (Mark 15:43-45), Joseph, assisted by Nicodemus (John 19:39-40), carefully wrapped the battered and bloody body in fine linen, wrapping in aloes and costly herbs and spices. They didn’t have time to give the body a proper washing and the normal preparation, because their work had to be completed by sunset, when the Sabbath would start. They cut it close, but thankfully Joseph’s tomb was very close to the execution spot, and they were able to roll the stone across the tomb opening just before the sun sank below the horizon to the west.
Their hearts were heavy as they walked away from the tomb. They were deeply grieved at the corruption that they had seen in the Sanhedrin, supposedly the most holy body of leaders in the world. They had watched the animosity of the group toward Jesus grow as His popularity had expanded, so these two faithful men kept their faith in Him quiet. But they had hoped that Jesus would be the One who would restore, not just international power to Israel, but the presence and glory of God. But now it looked like their hopes were in vain.
As they left, two women, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ mother were sitting opposite the tomb watching the preparation and burial of the body. It broke their hearts that the preparations had to be made so quickly and incompletely, but they understood; their eyes were also on the setting sun that would soon signal the onset of the Sabbath. So they quietly made plans to come back early Sunday morning, as soon as it was light, so that they could properly bathe the body, and rewrap it with a little more care. It seemed only right to do so.
Father, so much devotion shown by these people! So many, even among those who believed in Jesus, could watch Him die, and then shrug and walk away figuring that He wasn’t really the One after all. But even though they weren’t expecting a resurrection, these four people still hung around to show their final respects to this man who had meant so much to them. Even today, when people don’t get the answers to their prayers that they expect, far too many simply shrug and walk away, figuring that either You don’t exist, or that You don’t actually answer prayers. Help me, instead, to always be among those who continue to hold on to You, to continue to do all I need to do, and to continue to be entirely devoted to you and Your cause. Then, because I stay close, I will be able to see what else you will do. Amen.