Joseph Cares for Jesus’ Body
Most of us have probably not given much thought to what happens to a dead human body between the time of death and burial. In the ancient world, family members usually took responsibility for dealing with a dead body. Normally, in the Jewish culture, a dead body would be buried quickly after death. And generally speaking, family members and close friends took care of these duties.
We know from the other Gospel accounts that Mary, Jesus’ mother, and John the disciple were at the foot of the cross for at least part of the time that Jesus was being crucified. We also know that many of his followers and acquaintances were nearby. I assume that at least a few of the other disciples were somewhere in the vicinity at the time of Jesus’ death.
So, it’s a bit of a mystery why someone not mentioned in the Gospels up to this point, Joseph of Arimathea, steps forward to care for the body of Jesus. You would think that Mary or John or a family member or another disciple would have made the arrangements to take care of Jesus’ body. But for some reason, a person unknown before this point in the Gospel record comes forward to deal with Jesus’ body.
Why did Joseph take this responsibility? Did Mary ask him to do this? Did the other disciples ask him? Did Nicodemus ask him to get involved? Did he do it simply because no one else did? We simply don’t know.
In any case, into the account comes a man named Joseph. He’s a prominent man, a member of the Sanhedrin, and he takes charge of the situation. It could be that only a prominent man like Joseph had the credentials or the authority to gain permission from Pilate to attend to Jesus’ body. It was also providential that he had a newly-made tomb nearby the site of the crucifixion. Ultimately, it was the sovereignty of God that put the right man at the right place and the right time.
Our passage tells us about Joseph and a group of women who cared for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. Joseph in particular shows us the importance of standing publicly for Christ in a hostile world.