The Details of a Divine Burial
Topic: Good Friday Scripture: Mark 15:42-47
Jesus, Pilate, Joseph, tomb, cross, burial, Sanhedrin, God, Jews, verse, Friday, body, death, Nicodemus, Mark, hung, sin, sabbath, sundown, dead
Table of Contents
Tonight, we come to Mark chapter 15, and we're going to be in verses 42 through 47. This is a fitting text for us on this Good Friday as we continue to work our way through the Gospel of Mark. The Details of a Divine Burial is the title of this sermon here tonight.
Oftentimes, when we think about Good Friday, we think about the cross, and rightfully so. It was the death of Christ on the cross that accomplished salvation for us. It was His death that made the payment for our sins. It was His death that inaugurated the new covenant as God ripped the veil in that temple from top to bottom. As God was essentially saying, all the sacrifices under the old covenant (which only covered sin), have foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice that takes away sin. And the ultimate sacrifice has taken place. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And all those who put their faith in Christ have their sins not just covered but removed. As far as the east is from the west, they are removed from us. And all of that happened there at the cross on that Friday, between 9am and 3pm, as God showed up, to punish His own son on our behalf, in our place. But God, God wasn't done working on Friday. After Jesus had breathed His last breath, and He gave up his life, God wasn't done working. There was something else that took place on that Good Friday. And that's what I want us to look at tonight.
So, if you haven't already, please open your Bibles to Mark chapter 15. And follow along as I read our passage for us. Mark chapter 15, beginning in verse 42. “When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.” (Mark 15:42-47)
And many people remember Good Friday for the cross, which is right to do. It is right to do. But many people don't realize that on that Friday, the burial of Jesus also took place. And while we don't hear much about the burial of Jesus today in preaching, in the early church this was an important part of the church's preaching. This was an important aspect. In fact, listen to 1 Corinthians 15 verse 3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,” (Paul talking to the Corinthians) “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures," (1 Cor 15:3-4)
Paul delivered this message. He delivered the gospel message to the Corinthians. And what was his message? That Christ died, that He was buried, and that He rose again. Those three aspects. You see the burial is an important aspect of what happened on that Friday, because it establishes the connection between the death and the resurrection. It's the connection. It's the link between the death and the resurrection. The burial of Jesus is that link. And this is a very important burial that takes place. In fact, the most important burial in all of history takes place on this Good Friday.
Now, in order to understand what's going on here, we must understand the outcome of those who are crucified on a cross in those days, what would be the final outcome? Well, as you know, the, the crucifixion took place under the Romans, under the watch of the Romans, the Romans did not care about those who were crucified, they couldn't care less about them. Normally, they would leave the victim on the cross, they would then let the body decay. Decay. And they would allow the body then to be eaten by birds. However, Jewish law was different. Jewish law was different. And Jewish law stated that a body that was hung on a tree could not be left overnight. Listen to Deuteronomy 21:22. “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance. (Deut 21:22) In Jewish law, they were to take the body down off that tree, they couldn't leave the body up overnight.
We obviously understand and know that Jesus was a Jew. He's Jewish, along with the two guys who were next to Him. Those two criminals that were next Him, they were Jewish as well. And so according to Jewish law, they had to be taken down from the cross before evening. That's in fact, why the Jews had the legs of the criminals broken. The Jews went and they had the legs of the two criminals broken, so that they would die quicker. They wouldn't be able to push themselves up anymore to breathe, and the paralysis of the chest muscles and the diaphragm would cause them to suffocate and die of asphyxiation. So, they broke those two criminals' legs to speed up their death, because they had to be dead and taken off of the cross by sundown. Because that's what the law said. They couldn't have a body hanging there overnight, or else that would defile the land. And remember, this is the Passover. Jews have come from all over to come and celebrate the Passover at this time. So, it's important for them to have these guys off the cross.
Now, the body was usually released to the family, as the family would then come, and the family would request permission for their body so that they could then go and make a proper burial for those victims. And the Romans would usually grant permission to the family. But in this case, it wasn't a family member who asked for the body of Jesus, in fact, it was actually a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin, who collectively hated Jesus. So, let's look at our passage here tonight. And look at the divine details that play out during the burial of Jesus. Look at verse 42.
We'll look at our first point here, what we'll call The Timing, The Timing. Verse 42, "When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath." (Mark 15:42) Let's stop right there. Mark tells us that evening had already come. Evening had already come. Now we have to understand evening from a Jewish perspective. And these Jewish times, we must understand what he's talking about here. When you and I usually think of evening we think of sundown and therefore it would be dark outside. That's what we think of when we think of evening.
But the Jews actually had two evenings. The Jews had two evenings. They had the early evening that began at 3pm and went from 3pm to about 6pm. And then they had the second evening, then that began at 6pm, or sundown, and that would be the time then that a new day would begin. A new day would begin at that 6pm or that sundown. For Jews, a day went from 6pm to 6pm. Or sundown to sundown, that was their day. We think of midnight to midnight, theirs was sundown to sundown, that was their day. Remember, Jesus died at 3pm. Jesus dies at 3pm. So, when Mark says evening had already come, he means the early evening has come from 3pm to 6pm. That's what he's talking about there that evening has now come.
Mark also tells us that it was the preparation day, that is the day before the Sabbath. This is very important to know because it was the time that the Jews were making their sacrifices over in the temple complex in order to prepare for the Passover meal that they would then eat after sundown. While they are making their preparations -- while they are making their sacrifices over in the temple -- God is sacrificing His Lamb there at Golgotha. It’s the day of the preparation, the day of the preparation, because they've come to celebrate the Passover meal. And so, they're going to prepare then to celebrate that Passover meal.
But once sundown hits, once 6pm hits, no work was allowed to be done. Because no work was to be done on the Sabbath, which was the next day. We see this in Exodus 20, verse 10, that you are to do no work on the Sabbath. So, time is ticking. It's 3pm. When Jesus finally gives up His life, it's 3pm. And they've got to have Him in the tomb by 6pm. Time is ticking. Jesus needs to be off of that cross and into a tomb within three hours. This has to happen not only because of the Jewish timing, because they could not allow the body to hang on across overnight. And also, because they are about to observe the Sabbath, which they couldn't do any work on the Sabbath, which means they wouldn't even be able to go and take a body off a cross on the Sabbath day.
But this has to happen because it's all happening in God's timing. This is God's timing. Because Jesus needs to be in the tomb for three days, just as He said, right? We've seen that again and again, as we've been working our way through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been telling them, "I am going to be killed, but three days later, I will rise again." (Mark 9:31; Mark 10:34) And so He has to be in the tomb for three days.
Now you might think well, wasn't Jesus only in the tomb for about a day and a half? Late on Friday, all day on Saturday, which would be the Sabbath. And then He rose again Sunday morning, about a day and a half. But He said three days? Well, you have to understand the Jewish context here. The Jews considered a part of a day as being a whole day, any part of a day was considered that whole day. And so even though it was only a few hours on Friday, to the Jews, that was one day. Friday, being one day, Saturday, being one day and rising on Sunday, even though it was early in the morning. That was one day. Three days, just as Jesus said. So, it's important that Jesus be buried in the tomb on Friday before sundown, so that He could be in the tomb for three days. Listen, this is all playing out in God's timing. This is all God's timing. So that's the timing.
Let's look at our second point, what we'll call The Toil. The Toil. Look at verse 43. “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. (Mark 15:43)
Now, we don't know much about Joseph of Arimathea other than what the gospels tell us, all around this account of Jesus burial. This is finally where he shows up. This is where we get our information about, Joseph. And here's what we know as we gather all the gospel accounts together. Here's what we know about Joseph of Arimathea -- he was a prominent member of the council -- that is the Sanhedrin -- a prominent member there. He lived in Arimathea which was about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. He had become a disciple of Jesus, (although it was secretly for fear of the Jews), but he was a disciple.
Luke also tells us that he was a good and righteous man. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. He did not consent to the plan of action to kill Jesus with the rest of the Sanhedrin as they had made their plans to crucify Him, Joseph did not consent to those plans. (Luke 23:51) They made those without him. But what is important to note about Joseph is that he was a rich man. He was a rich man who had his own tomb built specifically for him and his family. A tomb in fact, which had not even been used yet... a brand-new tomb. And being a member of the Sanhedrin (who had just put Jesus to death), he knew that he could be rejected and lose his position in the Sanhedrin if it was made known that he was a disciple of Jesus. Why? Because the Sanhedrin hated Jesus.
Now, Joseph also knew that Pilate hated the Sanhedrin because Pilate hated the Jews. He was the governor, but he hated the Jews. Remember, the Jews have just essentially used Pilate as a pawn in their plan to get Jesus crucified. They've used him. Pilate thought that Jesus was innocent, right? He wanted to let Him go. But he had to succumb to their wishes, so that he could satisfy them, so that they don't start a riot there, which then gets back to Rome, and then he loses his job. So, the Jews have just used him. They've used Pilate. And then he essentially mocked them when he hung Jesus on the cross and hung a sign above His head that said, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," here is your King, Jews. He's mocking them. He hates the Jews. So, Joseph, being one of the Sanhedrin, knows that he's not in good standing with Pilate. So, what does he do? Notice what he does there in verse 43. "He gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus." (Mark 15:43)
This was a bold move. This was bold of this man. He knew that the Sanhedrin as a whole had been a thorn in Pilate's side. And now he's going to ask for one more favor from Pilate. As a Jewish member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph obviously didn't know what the outcome of this would be. Would this bring more trouble upon the Sanhedrin and then bring the whole Sanhedrin against him? Would Pilate make a mockery of Joseph before the Sanhedrin and the Jewish people? And why would this be so bad for Joseph to do? Well, asking for the body of the victim was essentially identifying with them. For Joseph to go and ask for the body of Jesus (in whom the Jews look at and see as a criminal, as one who’s been hanging on a cross), they would say, "Woah, wait, you're identifying with Him?"
So, Joseph knows that going before Pilate would show that he identifies with Jesus. Joseph knows at this point that when he goes to ask for the body of Jesus, his faith was going to be made public. It was private before, for fear of the Jews, but now he knows his faith is going to be made public, before all those who are there in Jerusalem. Joseph obviously didn't know the outcome, and how Pilate would respond.
So, what did you have to do to gather up courage to go and ask for the body of Jesus? How did Pilate then respond to him? Look at verse 44. "Pilate wondered if He (Jesus) was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead." (Mark 15:44)
Now, as I said before, to be crucified was not a quick death. It wasn't quick, it could take days for the victims to die. They would leave them hanging there for days. That's why the Jews had the two criminals’ legs broken, they needed to speed up their death. And as we saw last Sunday, no one took Jesus’ life from Him, right? No one took His life from Him, but He willingly gave it up. He gave up His life, He gave it up at 3pm. 3pm. Because this was all working out in the providence of God. Listen, it was God's timing. It was God's timing. So, Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead.
Why would he wonder this? Well, what did the Jews ask for? The Jews had just asked for the legs of those men hanging on the cross to be broken, so that they could die quicker so that they could get them off the cross, before sundown. But when those Jews leave, from asking permission from Pilate, they take off, they leave -- here comes Joseph. Joseph then arrives before Pilate, and now he asks for the body of Jesus. And Pilate must be thinking at this time, they couldn't have died that quickly. They just asked me to have their legs broken, so that they could then die. And now you're coming to ask me for the body of Jesus? Is He even dead yet? So, what does Pilate do?
He summons the centurion. Who was this? This was the centurion who believed along with the other Roman soldiers who were there the cross. He summons that guy. And what did the centurion say? Look at verse 45. "And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph." (Mark 15:45) Pilate questions the centurion. And what does the centurion confirm? What does he confirm? That Jesus is dead. Jesus is dead.
Jesus was already dead, which is a very unusual thing to have already happened on the cross. For Him to die that quickly, it was unusual. Pilate was well aware of crucifixions. I'm sure he had ordered many, many crucifixions. He understood the process. He knew how long these victims would hang there on the cross. For Jesus to die in six hours, was very unusual. This should have been a clue to Pilate that Jesus was no ordinary man, right? He was not an ordinary man. The centurion knows that Jesus is dead. How does he know? Remember, the centurion had what? A front row seat at the cross. He was standing right there in front of the cross as Jesus breathed His last breath.
Listen to verse 39 of Mark 15. "When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God." (Mark 15:39) He watched as Jesus breathed His last breath on that cross. And so, he knows for a fact that Jesus is dead. So, he brings word back to Pilate, that Jesus is dead for sure. So, what does Pilate then do? What is his response to Joseph requesting Jesus' body? Look at what it says there. "He granted the body to Joseph." (Mark 15:45)
Now, this is fascinating. This is fascinating. Why is this so fascinating? Two reasons. First, it was very unusual to give the corpse of a person condemned for treason to anyone but a near relative. And obviously, Joseph was not a near relative to Jesus. And remember one of the charges that they brought against Jesus was what? Treason. So, to give the body of Jesus over to Joseph, who was not a near relative, is unusual. It wouldn't happen. This is not a normal thing. This also shows that Pilate really didn't think that Jesus was guilty of treason, or of any other crime for that matter, because he released Jesus body to a non-relative. But this is also fascinating because Joseph is granted the body of Jesus, which means he is now in charge of a dead corpse. This is the word that's used for "body" in verse 45. That word "body" in the Greek means "dead body" or "corpse." Joseph, using his own freewill and actions, goes to Pilate. And he asks for the body of a dead man. I'll take Him. Can I have that man? I'll take care of Him. In his own free will, he goes to Pilate and asked for this body.
What is Joseph doing here? I'll tell you what he's doing. Joseph is fulfilling the will of God. He's fulfilling the will of God. He's using his own freewill and his own actions to accomplish the will of God. And what was the will of God? We read it in our scripture reading tonight. Isaiah, chapter 53 and verse 9 says this, "His grave was assigned with wicked men,” and in the next line, it says, "yet He was with a rich man in His death." (Isaiah 53:9)
Who's the rich man? Joseph. Joseph is now this rich man. And Jesus is now with a rich man in His death, because Pilate handed His body over to Joseph. Why is Joseph doing all of this? I'll tell you why. Because he is fulfilling God's perfect plan. And the amazing thing is, he doesn't even know it. He doesn't even realize what he is doing. As a rich man going to ask for the body of Jesus. He is fulfilling exactly what Isaiah 53 prophesied about Jesus, and he has no clue. He is the one who's being used by God to fulfill God's plan of having His son buried on that Friday. God is there. And God is orchestrating this whole thing. God is orchestrating this burial because He must get Jesus into the tomb on that Friday, so that He could be in the grave for three days. God was fulfilling His perfect plan, and He was using Joseph to accomplish it.
So, what does Joseph do? Look at verse 46. “Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” (Mark 15:46)
Joseph now has the hard task, the hard work of getting Jesus into the tomb. He has a dead body on his hands now, that's nailed to a cross. This is hard work. John tells us that he was the one who took away His body. Joseph did this. Meaning Joseph must have been the one to take the body of Jesus off the cross. But Joseph wasn't alone in this endeavor. He wasn't alone. John tells us in John 19:39, a man named Nicodemus shows up. “Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds weight." (John 19:39)
Nicodemus shows up. Nicodemus -- the one from John chapter 3 -- do you remember him? "You must be born again." (John 3:3) Nicodemus. Nicodemus shows up to bury Jesus. Nicodemus, the one who was the teacher of Israel, shows up. The one who was also a member of the Sanhedrin -- he was a member of the Council. You have two men who are members of the Sanhedrin, who are they're burying our Savior. He shows up to help Joseph.
And these two men take the dead body of Jesus off the cross, and they wash it and they put a mixture of myrrh and aloes on His body, which would have been the customary thing to do. And they would put this mixture of of myrrh and aloes on the body because they did not embalm the bodies back then. So, they would rub this myrrh and this aloe on the body to cover the stench of the decaying flesh. And Nicodemus shows up and notice how much he brings. He brings about 100 pounds weight. 100 pounds weight. Which would be in our modern weight today about 65 pounds, about 65 pounds. And why would Nicodemus show up with 65 pounds of myrrh and aloe? I'll tell you why. Because that amount would have been the amount that would be used to anoint a king. Nicodemus knows He's the King. He's the "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev 19:16) And he shows up with 65 pounds of myrrh and aloe to anoint the body of Jesus.
And so, they take Jesus and they lay Him in a tomb, in a garden. John tells us it was right there, near Golgotha, near the place where Jesus had died. Both of these places where Jesus hung on the cross and the tomb, were there in a garden. Why is this important? This is very important. Why is it important? Because they have to get Jesus in the tomb quickly on Friday. They don't have time to take Him all the way back up to Galilee. They don't have time to take Him back to Nazareth. He has to be in the tomb on Friday, by sundown. Time is ticking. It's all working out in God's perfect timing. In fact Matthew even tells us whose tomb this was. It was Joseph's tomb. (Matt 27:57-60) John tells us that it was a new tomb, one on which no one had yet been laid. Why is that important? Because that is a tomb that is fit for? A King. Even in His burial, they are declaring, and God is declaring to the world that Jesus is the King. He's the King of Kings.
So, they get Jesus in the tomb on Friday, and they roll the stone over the front of it. And Jesus is now buried. And all of this happens in God's perfect timing, as God used these two men to put the body of His Son in that tomb.
Listen, God had orchestrated the whole event. God was at work that Friday. Sure these men were acting on their own accord, but they were fulfilling God's perfect plan of Jesus being with a rich man in His death and being buried for three days. This was God's burial of His Son.
Mark then tells us that there were some women who were there to witness it. Which leads to our final point here tonight, what we'll call The Testimony. We saw the timing and the toil of Joseph and Nicodemus getting Jesus into that tomb. And now we see the testimony. Look at verse 47, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.” (Mark 15:47)
Luke tells us that these women saw the tomb where He was laid. And then they went back, and they prepared more spices and perfumes so that they could come back on Sunday to add to what Joseph and Nicodemus had done on Friday. They wanted to add more. So, they went back, and they prepared more spices and perfumes so that they could come back then to the tomb and anoint the body of Jesus. And they would come back then on Sunday, because remember, the next day was the Sabbath. And they couldn't do any work on the Sabbath. So, they have to come back on Sunday. Now, obviously, they didn't know that Nicodemus had used 65 pounds of myrrh and aloe. They didn't get that. So, their plan, then is to return to the tomb on Sunday with their spices to anoint Jesus. But when they show up to the tomb, little do they know... He won't be there. And we'll look at that on Sunday.
Now, why would Mark tell us about these women here again? If you remember, he told us about these women back up in verse 40. He says, “There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40) And then he mentions these women here again. Why does Mark tell us about these women here? I'll tell you why. In Judaism in those days, women were not seen as reliable witnesses. And they were not allowed to give testimony in court. Which means no one would come up with a story like this and use women to verify it. If you were to come up with some fairy tale story, to pass along to other people as a fact, you would not use women to be your witnesses and to give testimony. You wouldn't, you just wouldn't do that.
If you wanted to make up some fairy tale story and try and get it to pass along from generation to generation, it would be a story that would only be told by men. In fact, one commentator says, "If this were a wonderful fiction, then you would have had men being with Christ at the cross, and men being the first to see Him rise from the dead." But not in God's plan. And not in God's story. God uses women as a testimony to the fact that Jesus died on that cross, and that Jesus was buried in that tomb. The fact that women are here at this tomb, it goes to show the strong evidence of the historical facts of the death and burial of Christ. God had women there as eyewitnesses to show that this was not some made-up fairy-tale account, but this was historical fact that Jesus died on the cross and that He was buried in that tomb.
And listen, Mark does not apologize for this. Mark does not apologize for the fact that women are witnesses who give testimony to the fact of Jesus' death and burial, he says it is a fact. As we'll see next Sunday, they will also be eyewitnesses of His resurrection as well.
God uses these women to testify in a magnificent way. Listen, church, what happened on that Good Friday was exactly what God had planned. It was God's will that was being played out. Not only did God put His Son on that cross to make the payment for our sins, but God also put His Son in that tomb on that Friday, so that He would be in the tomb for three days. Listen, God's will, will always come to pass, always. And you can either fight it, or you can surrender your life to it.
What's the next thing to happen on God's timeline? I'll tell you what the next thing to happen on God's timeline is...Christ is going to return. He's going to return. And He will take all those who believe in Him to heaven to be with Him forever. But all those who do not believe in Him will be under His wrath for all of eternity. And Christ will show up, and He will judge everyone who does not believe in Him. And He will send them to the eternal lake of fire. But God sent His Son so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life. And all who repent of their sin and place their faith in Him will receive that free gift of eternal life.
Listen, if you're here tonight, and you have not believed in Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior, I’m here to warn you. You are under divine wrath. And you will spend an eternity in hell if you do not repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ. But God has brought you here tonight on this Good Friday, so that you could hear this gospel message, this message of what Jesus Christ has done to save you from your sins. And all you must do is turn from your sin and believe in Him, and He will give you the free gift of eternal life with Him. Come to Him tonight. Put your faith in Him tonight, and make this Good Friday, the best Friday of your life. And it will be that if you believe in Him and receive the gift that He offers to you.
Father, we thank You for the death of Your Son. We thank You for what He accomplished on that cross for us. We thank You that He was dead, and that He was buried. And we thank You that as we will celebrate on Sunday, that He rose again from the grave, that He is alive today. And we have eternal life in Him because He lives. Father, I pray for anyone who is here tonight, who does not believe in Christ, whose heart is hard. Father, I pray that You would soften their heart... that You would help them to understand the weight of their sin... and how their sin has separated them from You -- and how their sin is leading them to an eternity of hell, in the eternal lake of fire, where they will suffer under Your wrath for all of eternity. Father, I pray that You would soften their heart to understand this and to know this truth that You, God, would grant them repentance and faith that they would believe in Jesus Christ, and that they would receive this amazing gift that is offered to them tonight. Father, may You do your work in their hearts. And for us who are believers, Father, I pray that we would remember what You have accomplished, how You crushed Your Son to save us from our sins, how You buried Your Son, and how You brought Your Son back to life, to give us eternal life in Him. Father, I pray that we would leave from this place, more in love with You -- that we would worship You. That we would bring glory and honor to Your name. Father, I pray that You would bring us all back here safely on Sunday morning as we come back, to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. And may it be all for Your glory we pray in Christ's name. Amen.