It was late afternoon, Friday, and Jesus had just died. According to Jewish custom, the Sabbath was not to be desecrated by the dead bodies of executed criminals. Jesus could not remain on the cross over night, especially with the Sabbath day beginning in a few short hours.
“I want His body!” With wet cheeks, and red eyes that had been weeping for hours, Joseph of Arimathaea, a ruler of the Sanhedrin boldly entered the hall of Pilate. His motives were clear. Any criminal whose body was not claimed was cast into the smoldering rubbish pile of Gehenna, a valley to the south of the city. This was Jesus, the Messiah. If Joseph had anything to do with it, Jesus would not be discarded like some unclaimed criminal. Joseph, himself a wealthy man, would use his own hand-carved sepulcher if he needed to.
“Is he dead yet?” Pilate asked. Hurriedly, the executioner was brought into Pilate’s court. This man had killed hundreds, if not thousands of men. “Yes, sir. I made certain of it. He’s dead.” No one knew how to kill a man like a Roman soldier. From the earliest days of their training, they had been trained by the ruling empire of the world. They had perfected torture and death. Now this professional killer was testifying to Pilate and to all of history that he had most certainly verified that Jesus was dead. There was no need for a medical examiner to certify death, this soldier had used his own spear to pierce the broken heart of Jesus.
With the Roman governor’s approval, Joseph rushed down to the cross where he met with Nicodemus, another religious leader and disciple of Jesus. Together they wrapped the limp, bloodied body of Jesus. The innocent had been slain. The mistrial of all the ages had ended with the execution of the guiltless. Now, tenderly, these two old saints wound the burial linens around the body of Jesus. Of their own wealth, they had funded the burial of Jesus. Now, setting aside their esteemed social status, they did the labor of the close family members. Without regard to desecrating themselves by handling a dead body on the eve of the Sabbath, they entered this ultra-holy Passover Sabbath as ceremonially “defiled.” But this did not stop them.
After putting his body in the cold dark tomb, they set a stone at the door to keep people from entering and disturbing the body of Jesus that had been laid to rest. Broken-hearted, the two headed home. The coming days would bring shame amongst their peers for what they had done today. Their fellow leaders in the Sanhedrin would be enraged at them for the care they had shown this “enemy,” Jesus. But they had done what was right. Their relationship with the Sanhedrin had ended when the Sanhedrin had desired to execute an innocent man. They were done. They were going to follow the teachings of Jesus. They would give the rest of their lives to serving Jesus and building the Kingdom of God.
Food For Thought: Read Isaiah 53:8-10. What word in verse 9 do you think Isaiah prophetically used that would describe these two wealthy Jewish leaders’ burial of Jesus?