This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid. (Mark 15:42-47)
Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly, so he asked an officer to verify the report. Today, in an effort to deny the Resurrection, there are those who say that Jesus didn’t really die. His death, however, was confirmed by the officer, Pilate, the religious leaders, and the women who witnessed his burial. Jesus suffered actual physical death on the cross.
After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea asked for his body and then sealed it in a new tomb. The Sabbath began at sundown on Friday and ended at sundown on Saturday. Jesus died just a few hours before sundown on Friday. It was against Jewish law to do physical work or to travel on the Sabbath. It was also against Jewish law to let a dead body remain exposed overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23). Joseph came to bury Jesus’ body before the Sabbath began. If Jesus had died on the Sabbath when Joseph was unavailable, his body would have been taken down by the Romans. Had the Romans taken Jesus’ body, no Jews could have confirmed his death, and opponents could have disputed his resurrection.
Although an honored member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus. Joseph risked his reputation to give a proper burial to his Lord. Today he is remembered with admiration in the Christian church. It is frightening to risk one’s reputation even for what is right. What are you willing to risk for the sake of Jesus?