Though Jesus has been assaulted by rejection, a few have remained faithful. Jesus' burial reveals a few who stood beside him. Joseph of Arimathea is a Sanhedrin member who did not agree with Jesus' conviction by the official council. His presence is interesting because it reveals a small responding remnant within the Jewish leadership. The text describes him as a good and upright man, one who was waiting for the kingdom of God. His character description recalls the great saints whose stories Luke told to open his account (1:6-7; 2:25-27, 36-38). Devout figures surround Jesus at his birth and death. Those who are righteous and seek God respond to Jesus and look forward to what he will bring.
Joseph asks permission to give Jesus a decent burial. Burial will need to come quickly, since the sabbath is approaching, and Jews did not believe in letting a corpse linger (see discussion of 7:11-17). The detail here makes it clear that Jesus had died. Wrapping the body in fine linen (sindon), Joseph places it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. Joseph's kind act fulfills Deuteronomy 21:22-23: Jesus is not buried among thieves in dishonor.
The Day of Preparation is Friday, and that means the sabbath is drawing near. The women who had watched the scene at the crucifixion (v. 49) also watch as Jesus is buried. They see where he is laid to rest. But they resolve to return after the sabbath and anoint his body with spices to preserve it. Jews did not embalm corpses, so spices served to mitigate the stench. But these women are faithful Jews, so on the sabbath they rest according to the commandments.
Jesus has been laid to rest in honor. But things will not remain quiet for long.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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