Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds . Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19 38-42)
I have long wondered about these two men who cared for Jesus’ body and gave it a princely burial. Joseph and Nicodemus each had “back story”. It seems like they were trusted friends.
According to Matthew 20;57-60, Joseph was a rich man from Arimathea who used his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. According to Mark; 15;43, he was “a prominent member of the Council, was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, but went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Luke describes him as a,”good and upright man who had not consented to the Council’s decision and action. Luke;23;50b.
John 3;1-2 describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who came by night and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a teacher who came from God because of the signs he performed. In John 7;51, he speaks out in the Council, reminding them that their Law doesn’t condemn a man without first finding out directly from that man about what he is doing.
I’ve tried to imagine Joseph and Nicodemus overcoming their fear of the Jewish rulers out of their belief in and grieving love for Jesus. Even overcoming their natural repugnance at receiving, carrying and wrapping up Jesus’ beaten, bloody and crucified body. And then, after laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, rolling the stone in front of it, leaving to participate in the Passover Sabbath.
But now they have an insurmountable problem; Jewish Law says that a person who has anything to do with a dead human body becomes unclean and is prohibited from associating with other people. They would have to quarantine for 7 days, then go through a certain purifying process before they can be accepted again into their family and community. What these two disciples of Jesus have done will not remain secret, because now they can’t participate in the Passover meal with their families.
I wonder if Joseph and Nicodemus had any idea that they held in their arms the true,” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, and makes them truly clean?
We have the advantage of holding in our hands the scriptures that tell us what are, for those people, first time happenings. We can say, “It’s Friday, but Easter Sunday’s coming”, but they hadn’t experienced that when they walked away from the tomb and left Jesus’ body there. We don’t get to know the rest of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’s stories . We can imagine, but we don’t know.
I have a story, you have a story, we, as part of Jesus’ church, have a community story. We live in a resurrected Jesus, with an indwelling Holy Spirit and a Father in heaven. What am I, what are you, what are we willing to risk in loving and doing with our Lord. Read John 17 as a reminder of Jesus praying for us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 as a reminder of what faith, hope and love are.