John 19:38
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, sought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) For the burial (John 19:38-42), comp. generally Notes on Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.

But secretly for fear of the Jews.—This is the only additional fact which St. John supplies with regard to Joseph. He places him in these verses side by side with Nicodemus, and ascribes the same trait of character to both.

John

JOSEPH AND NICODEMUS

John 19:38 - John 19:39
.

While Christ lived, these two men had been unfaithful to their convictions; but His death, which terrified and paralysed and scattered His avowed disciples, seems to have shamed and stung them into courage. They came now, when they must have known that it was too late, to lavish honour and tears on the corpse of the Master whom they had been too cowardly to acknowledge, whilst acknowledgment might yet have availed. How keen an arrow of self-condemnation must have pierced their hearts as they moved in their offices of love, which they thought that He could never know, round His dead corpse!

They were both members of the Sanhedrim; the same motives, no doubt, had withheld each of them from confessing Christ; the same impulses united them in this too late confession of discipleship. Nicodemus had had the conviction, at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, that He was at least a miraculously attested and God-sent Teacher. But the fear which made him steal to Jesus by night-the unenviable distinction which the Evangelist pitilessly reiterates at each mention of him-arrested his growth and kept him dumb when silence was treason. Joseph of Arimathea is described by two of the Evangelists as ‘a disciple’; by the other two as a devout Israelite, like Simeon and Anna, ‘waiting for the Kingdom of God.’ Luke informs us that he had not concurred in the condemnation of Jesus, but leads us to believe that his dissent had been merely silent. Perhaps he was more fully convinced than Nicodemus, and at the same time even more timid in avowing his convictions.

We may take these two contrite cowards as they try to atone for their unfaithfulness to their living Master by their ministrations to Him dead, as examples of secret disciples, and see here the causes, the misery, and the cure of such.

I. Let us look at them as illustrations of secret discipleship and its causes.

They were restrained from the avowal of the Messiahship of Jesus by fear. There is nothing in the organisation of society at this day to make any man afraid of avowing the ordinary kind of Christianity which satisfies the most of us; rather it is the proper thing with the bulk of us middle-class people, to say that in some sense or other we are Christians. But when it comes to a real avowal, a real carrying out of a true discipleship, there are as many and as formidable, though very different, impediments in the way to-day, from those which blocked the path of these two cowards in our text. In all regions of life it is hard to work out into practice any moral conviction whatever. How many of us are there who have beliefs about social and moral questions which we are ashamed to avow in certain companies for fear of the finger of ridicule being pointed at us? It is not only in the Church, and in reference to purely religious belief, that we find the curse of secret discipleship, but it is everywhere. Wherever there are moral questions which are yet the subject of controversy, and have not been enthroned with the hallelujahs of all men, you get people that carry their convictions shut up in their own breasts, and lock their lips in silence, when there is most need of frank avowal. The political, social, and moral conflicts of this day have their ‘secret disciples,’ who will only come out of their holes when the battle is over, and will then shout with the loudest.

But to turn to the more immediate subject before us, how many men and women, I wonder, are there who ought to be and are not, distinctly and openly united with the Christian community?

I do not mean to say-God forbid that I should-that connection with any existing church is the same as a connection with Jesus Christ, or that the neglect to be so associated is tantamount to secret discipleship; I know there are plenty of other ways of acknowledging Him than that, but I am quite sure that this is one department in which a large number of men, in all our congregations-and there are not a few in this congregation-need a very plain word of earnest remonstrance. It is one way of manifesting whose you are, that you should unite yourselves openly with those who belong to Him, and who try to serve Him. I do not dwell upon this matter, because I do not wish to be misunderstood, as if I supposed that union to a church is equivalent to union with Him; or that a connection with a church is the only, or even the principal way of making an open avowal of Christian principle; but I am certain that amongst us in this day there is a laxity in this matter which is doing harm both to the Church and to some of you. Therefore I say to you, dear friends, suffer the word of exhortation as to the duty of openly uniting yourselves with the Christian community.

But far higher and more important than that-do you ever say anyhow that you belong to Jesus Christ? In a society like ours, in which the influence of Christian morality affects a great many people who have no personal connection with Him, it is not always enough that the life should preach, because over a very large field of ordinary daily life the underground influence, so to speak, of Christian ethics has infiltrated and penetrated, so that many a tree bears a greener leaf because of the water that has found its way to it from the river, though it be planted far from its banks. Even those who are not Christians live outward lives largely regulated by Christian principle. The whole level of morality has been heaved up, as the coastline has sometimes been by hidden fires slowly working, by the imperceptible, gradual influence of the gospel.

So it needs sometimes that you should say ‘I am a Christian,’ as well as that you should live like one. Ask yourselves, dear friends! whether you have buttoned your greatcoat over your uniform that nobody may know whose soldier you are. Ask yourselves whether you have sometimes held your tongues because you knew that if you spoke people would find out where you came from and what country you belonged to. Ask yourselves, Have you ever accompanied the witness of your lives with the commentary of your confession? Did you ever, anywhere but in a church, stand up and say, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, my Lord’?

And then ask yourselves another question: Have you ever dared to be singular? We are all of us in this world often thrust into circumstances in which it is needful that we should say, ‘So do not I because of the fear of the Lord.’ Boys go to school; they used always to kneel down at their bedsides and say their prayers when they were at home. They do not like to do it with all those critical and cruel eyes-and there are no eyes more critical and more cruel than young eyes-fixed upon them, and so they give up prayer. A young man comes to Manchester, goes into a warehouse, pure of life, and with a tongue that has not blossomed into rank fruit of obscenity and blasphemy. And he hears, at the next desk there, words that first of all bring a blush to his cheek, and he is tempted into conduct that he knows to be a denial of his Master. And he covers up his principles, and goes with the tempters into the evil. I might sketch a dozen other cases, but I need not. In one form or other, we have all to go through the same ordeal. We have sometimes to dare to be in a minority of one, if we will not be untrue to our Master and to ourselves.

Now the reasons for this unfaithfulness to conviction and to Christ, are put by the Apostle here in a very blunt fashion-’For fear of the Jews.’ That is not what we say to ourselves; some of us say, ‘Oh! I have got beyond outward organisations. I find it enough to be united to Christ. The Christian communities are very imperfect. There is not any of them that I quite see eye to eye with. So I stand apart, contemplating all, and happy in my unsectarianism.’ Yes, I quite admit the faults, and suppose that as long as men think at all they will not find any Church which is entirely to their mind; and I rejoice to think that some day we shall all outgrow visible organisations-when we get there where the seer ‘saw no temple therein.’ Admitting all that, I also know that isolation is always weakness, and that if a man stand apart from the wholesome friction of his brethren, he will get to be a great diseased mass of oddities, of very little use either to himself, or to men, or to God. It is not a good thing, on the whole, that people should fight for their own hands, and the wisest thing any of us can do is, preserving our freedom of opinion, to link ourselves with some body of Christian people, and to find in them our shelter and our home.

But these two in our text were moved by ‘fear.’ They dreaded ridicule, the loss of position, the expulsion from Sanhedrim and synagogue, social ostracism, and all the armoury of offensive weapons which would have been used against them by their colleagues. So, ignobly they kept their thumb on their convictions, and the two of them sat dumb in the council when the scornful question was asked, ‘Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?’ when they ought to have started to their feet and said ‘Yes, we have!’ And when Nicodemus ventured a feeble remonstrance, which he carefully divested of all appearance of personal sympathy, and put upon the mere abstract ground of fair play-’Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?’-one contemptuous question was enough to reduce him to silence. ‘Art thou also of Galilee?’ was enough to cow him into dropping his timid plea for Him whom in his heart he believed to be the Messiah.

So with us, the fear of loss of position comes into play. I have heard of people who settled the congregation which they should honour by their presence from the consideration of the social advantages which it offered. I have heard of their saying, ‘Oh! we cannot attach ourselves to such and such a community; there is no society for the children.’ Then many of us are very much afraid of being laughed at. Ridicule, I think, to sensitive people in a generation like ours, is pretty nearly as bad as the old rack and the physical torments of martyrdom. We have all got so nervous and high-strung nowadays, and depend so much upon other people’s good opinion, that it is a dreadful thing to be ridiculed. Timid people do not come to the front and say what they believe, and take up unpopular causes, because they cannot bear to be pointed at and pelted with the abundant epithets of disparagement, which are always flung at earnest people who will not worship at the appointed shrines, and have sturdy convictions of their own.

Ridicule breaks no bones. It has no power if you make up your mind that it shall not have. Face it, and it will only be unpleasant for a moment at first. When a child goes into the sea to bathe, he is uncomfortable till his head has been fairly under water, and then after that he is all right. So it is with the ridicule which out-and-out Christian faithfulness may bring on us. It only hurts at the beginning, and people very soon get tired. Face your fears and they will pass away. It is not perhaps a good advice to give unconditionally, but it is a very good one in regard of all moral questions-always do what you are afraid to do. In nine cases out of ten it will be the right thing to do. If people would only discount ‘the fear of men which bringeth a snare’ by making up their minds to neglect it, there would be fewer ‘dumb dogs’ and ‘secret disciples’ haunting and weakening the Church of Christ.

II. I have spent too much time upon this part of my subject, and I must deal briefly with the following. Let me say a word about the illustrations that we have in this text of the miseries of this secret discipleship.

How much these two men lost-all those three years of communion with the Master; all His teaching, all the stimulus of His example, all the joy of fellowship with Him! They might have had a treasure in their memories that would have enriched them for all their days, and they had flung it all away because they were afraid of the curled lip of a long-bearded Pharisee or two.

And so it always is; the secret disciple diminishes his communion with his Master. It is the valleys which lay their bosoms open to the sun that rejoice in the light and warmth; the narrow clefts in the rocks that shut themselves grudgingly up against the light, are all dank and dark and dismal. And it is the men that come and avow their discipleship that will have the truest communion with their Lord. Any neglected duty puts a film between a man and his Saviour; any conscious neglect of duty piles up a wall between you and Christ. Be sure of this, that if from cowardly or from selfish regard to position and advantages, or any other motive, we stand apart from Him, and have our lips locked when we ought to speak, there will steal over our hearts a coldness, His face will be averted from us, and our eyes will not dare to seek, with the same confidence and joy, the light of His countenance.

What you lose by unfaithful wrapping of your convictions in a napkin and burying them in the ground is the joyful use of the convictions, the deeper hold of the truth by which you live, and before which you bow, and the true fellowship with the Master whom you acknowledge and confess. And when these men came for Christ’s corpse and bore it away, what a sharp pang went through their hearts! They woke at last to know what cowardly traitors they had been. If you are a disciple at all, and a secret one, you will awake to know what you have been doing, and the pang will be a sharp one. If you do not awake in this life, then the distance between you and your Lord will become greater and greater; if you do, then it will be a sad reflection that there are years of treason lying behind you. Nicodemus and Joseph had the veil torn away by the contemplation of their dead Master. You may have the veil torn away from your eyes by the sight of the throned Lord; and when you pass into the heavens may even there have some sharp pang of condemnation when you reflect how unfaithful you have been.

Blessed be His name! The assurance is firm that if a man be a disciple he shall be saved; but the warning is sure that if he be an unfaithful and a secret disciple there will be a life-long unfaithfulness to a beloved Master to be purged away ‘so as by fire.’

III. And so, lastly, let me point you to the cure.

These men learned to be ashamed of their cowardice, and their dumb lips learned to speak, and their shy, hidden love forced for itself a channel by which it could flow out into the light; because of Christ’s death. And in another fashion that same death and Cross are for us, too, the cure of all cowardice and selfish silence. The sight of Christ’s Cross makes the coward brave. It was no small piece of courage for Joseph to go to Pilate and avow his sympathy with a condemned criminal. The love must have been very true which was forced to speak by disaster and death. And to us the strongest motive for stiffening our vacillating timidity into an iron fortitude, and fortifying us strongly against the fear of what man can do to us, is to be found in gazing upon His dying love who met and conquered all evils and terrors for our sakes.

That Cross will kindle a love which will not rest concealed, but will be ‘like the ointment of the right hand which bewrayeth itself.’ I can fancy men to whom Christ is only what He was to Nicodemus at first, ‘a Teacher sent from God,’ occupying Nicodemus’ position of hidden belief in His teaching without feeling any need to avow themselves His followers; but if once into our souls there has come the constraining and the melting influence of that great and wondrous love which died for us, then, dear brethren, it is unnatural that we should be silent. If those ‘for whom Christ has died’ should hold their peace, ‘the stones would immediately cry out.’ That death, wondrous, mysterious, terrible, but radiant, and glorious with hope, with pardon, with holiness for us and for all the world-that death smites on the chords of our hearts, if I may so speak, and brings out music from them all. The love that died for me will force me to express my love, ‘Then shall the tongue of the dumb sing,’ and silence will be impossible.

The sight of the Cross not only leads to courage, and kindles a love which demands expression, but it impels to joyful surrender. Joseph gave a place in his own new tomb, where he hoped that one day his bones should be laid by the side of the Master against whom he had sinned-for he had no thought of a resurrection. Nicodemus brought a lavish, almost an extravagant, amount of costly spices, as if by honour to the dead he could atone for treason to the living. And both the one and the other teach us that if once we gain the true vision of that great and wondrous love that died on the Cross for us, then the natural language of the loving heart is-

‘Here, Lord! I give myself away; ‘Tis all that I can do.’

If following Him openly involves sacrifices, the sacrifices will be sweet, so long as our hearts look to His dying love. All love delights in expression, and most of all in expression by surrender of precious things, which are most precious because they give love materials which it may lay at the beloved’s feet. What are position, possessions, reputation, capacities, perils, losses, self, but the ‘sweet spices’ which we are blessed enough to be able to lay upon the altar which glorifies the Giver and the gift? The contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice-and that alone-will so overcome our natural selfishness as to make sacrifice for His dear sake most blessed.

I beseech you, then, look ever to Him dying on the Cross for each of us. It will kindle our courage, it will make our hearts glow with love, it will turn our silence into melody and music of praise; it will lead us to heights of consecration and joys of confession; and so it will bring us at last into the possession of that wondrous honour which He promised when He said, ‘He that confesseth Me before men, him will I also confess; and he that denieth Me before men, him will I also deny.’John 19:38-39. Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly — Because he durst not openly profess his faith in him; for fear of the Jews — And their rulers, who were so strongly prejudiced against him. This man, acknowledging Christ even when his chosen disciples forsook him, besought Pilate that he might take away the body — To preserve it from future insults, and to bury it in a decent and respectful manner. And Pilate gave him leave — As soon as he was assured by the centurion who guarded the execution that Jesus was actually dead. He came, therefore — Being thus authorized by Pilate; and took the body of Jesus — That is, took it down from the cross, with proper assistance. And there came also Nicodemus — Another member of the sanhedrim, of whom repeated mention has been made in the preceding narrative; who at the first — At the beginning of Christ’s public ministry; came to Jesus by night — See John 3:1-2; and being now grown more courageous than before, and to testify his great regard for Jesus, he brought with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight — According to Josephus, great quantities of spices were wont to be used by the Jews for embalming a dead body, when they intended to show marks of respect to the deceased. Eighty pounds of spices were used at the funeral of Gamaliel the elder. See notes on Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46.19:38-42 Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Christ in secret. Disciples should openly own themselves; yet some, who in lesser trials have been fearful, in greater have been courageous. When God has work to do, he can find out such as are proper to do it. The embalming was done by Nicodemus, a secret friend to Christ, though not his constant follower. That grace which at first is like a bruised reed, may afterward resemble a strong cedar. Hereby these two rich men showed the value they had for Christ's person and doctrine, and that it was not lessened by the reproach of the cross. We must do our duty as the present day and opportunity are, and leave it to God to fulfil his promises in his own way and his own time. The grave of Jesus was appointed with the wicked, as was the case of those who suffered as criminals; but he was with the rich in his death, as prophesied, Isa 53:9; these two circumstances it was very unlikely should ever be united in the same person. He was buried in a new sepulchre; therefore it could not be said that it was not he, but some other that rose. We also are here taught not to be particular as to the place of our burial. He was buried in the sepulchre next at hand. Here is the Sun of Righteousness set for a while, to rise again in greater glory, and then to set no more.See the notes at Matthew 27:57-61. 38-40. Joseph of Arimathea—"a rich man" (Mt 27:57), thus fulfilling Isa 53:9; "an honorable counsellor," a member of the Sanhedrim, and of good condition, "which also waited for the kingdom of God" (Mr 15:43), a devout expectant of Messiah's kingdom; "a good man and a just, the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them" (Lu 23:50, 51—he had gone the length, perhaps, of dissenting and protesting in open council against the condemnation of our Lord); "who also himself was Jesus' disciple," (Mt 27:57).

being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews—"He went in boldly unto Pilate" (Mr 15:43)—literally, "having taken courage went in," or "had the boldness to go in." Mark alone, as his manner is, notices the boldness which this required. The act would without doubt identify him for the first time with the disciples of Christ. Marvellous it certainly is, that one who while Jesus was yet alive merely refrained from condemning Him, not having the courage to espouse His cause by one positive act, should, now that He was dead, and His cause apparently dead with Him, summon up courage to go in personally to the Roman governor and ask permission to take down and inter the body. But if this be the first instance, it is not the last, that a seemingly dead Christ has wakened a sympathy which a living one had failed to evoke. The heroism of faith is usually kindled by desperate circumstances, and is not seldom displayed by those who before were the most timid, and scarce known as disciples at all. "And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead" (Mr 15:44)—rather "wondered that he was already dead." "And calling the centurion, he asked him whether He had been any while dead" (Mr 15:44)—Pilate could hardly credit what Joseph had told him, that He had been dead "some time," and, before giving up the body to His friends, would learn how the fact stood from the centurion, whose business it was to oversee the execution. "And when he knew it of the centurion" (Mr 15:45), that it was as Joseph had said, "he gave"—rather "made a gift of"—"the body to Joseph"; struck, possibly, with the rank of the petitioner and the dignified boldness of the petition, in contrast with the spirit of the other party and the low rank to which he had been led to believe all the followers of Christ belonged. Nor would he be unwilling to Show that he was not going to carry this black affair any farther. But, whatever were Pilate's motives, two most blessed objects were thus secured: (1) The reality of our Lords death was attested by the party of all others most competent to decide on it, and certainly free from all bias—the officer in attendance—in full reliance on whose testimony Pilate surrendered the body: (2) The dead Redeemer, thus delivered out of the hands of His enemies, and committed by the supreme political authority to the care of His friends, was thereby protected from all further indignities; a thing most befitting indeed, now that His work was done, but impossible, so far as we can see, if His enemies had been at liberty to do with Him as they pleased. How wonderful are even the minutest features of this matchless History!

See Poole on "Matthew 27:57", and following verses to Matthew 27:59. And after this,.... That is, after Jesus had given up the ghost, when it was a clear case that he was dead; as it was before the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified, and before one of them pierced the side of Jesus with his spear, though that confirmed it: but it seems to be before these last things were done, and yet after the death of Christ, that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, and desired leave to take down the body of Jesus. This Joseph was a counsellor, one of the Jewish sanhedrim; though he did not give his consent to the counsel of the court concerning Jesus: he is here described by the place of his birth, Arimathea. This place has been generally thought to be the same with Ramah or Ramathaim Zophim, the birth place of Samuel the prophet; and so I have taken it to be in the note See Gill on Matthew 27:57 but there seems to be some reason to doubt about it, since Ramathaim Zophim was in Mount Ephraim, or in the mountainous parts of that tribe, 1 Samuel 1:1 whereas Arimathea is called a city of the Jews, Luke 23:51. But if it was in the tribe of Ephraim, it would rather, as Reland (o) observes, be called a city of the Samaritans, to whom that part of the country belonged; besides, as the same learned writer shows from Judges 4:5 the mountainous parts of Ephraim were about Bethel, to the north of Jerusalem; whereas Arimathea is mentioned along with Lydda, which lay to the west of it, as it is by Jerom, and others: that ancient writer says (p), that not far from Lydda, now called Diospolis, famous for the raising of Dorcas from the dead, and the healing of Aeneas, is Arimathia, the little village of Joseph, who buried the Lord; though he makes this elsewhere (q) to be the same with Ramathaim Zophim: his words are, Armatha Zophim, the city of Elkanah and Samuel, is in the region of Thamna by Diospolis, (or Lydda,) from whence was Joseph, who, in the Gospels, is said to be of Arimathia; and so in Josephus (r), and in the Apocrypha:

"Wherefore we have ratified unto them the borders of Judea, with the three governments of Apherema and Lydda and Ramathem, that are added unto Judea from the country of Samaria, and all things appertaining unto them, for all such as do sacrifice in Jerusalem, instead of the payments which the king received of them yearly aforetime out of the fruits of the earth and of trees.'' (1 Maccabees 11:34)

Lydda and Ramatha, or, as in the latter, Ramathem, are mentioned together, as added unto Judea from the country of Samaria; which last clause, "from the country of Samaria", seems to bid fair for a reconciliation of this matter, that those two are one and the same place: and as the birth place of Samuel the prophet is called, by the Septuagint, Armathaim, as has been observed see Gill on Matthew 27:57 so it is likewise called, "Ramatha", by the Targumist on Hosea 5:8 as it is also by Josephus (s). The city of this name, near Lydda, is now called Ramola, and is about thirty six or thirty seven miles from Jerusalem. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, "who was of Rama". Some take this Joseph to be the same with Joseph ben Gorion, the brother of Nicodemus ben Gorion, and who is supposed to be the same Nicodemus mentioned in the next verse. The character the Jews (t) give of Joseph ben Gorion is, that he was a priest, and of the richest and most noble of the priests in Jerusalem; that he was a very wise, just, and upright man; and that three or four years before the destruction of Jerusalem, he was about sixty seven years of age.

Being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews; not one of the twelve, but a private hearer, who had sometimes secretly attended on the ministry of Christ, loved him, and believed in him as the Messiah, but had not courage enough to confess him, and declare for him, for fear of being put out of the synagogue and sanhedrim: but now being inspired with zeal and courage, "went in boldly", as Mark says,

and besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: from off the cross, that it might not be any more insulted by his enemies, and might not be thrown with the other bodies into the place where the bodies of malefactors were cast, but that it might be decently interred. This Pilate, the Roman governor, had the disposal of, and to him Joseph applies for it; which was a great instance of his affection for Christ, and was a declaring openly for him, and must unavoidably expose him to the malice and resentment of the Jews:

and Pilate gave him leave; having first inquired of the centurion, whether he was dead; of which being satisfied, he readily granted it; not only in complaisance to Joseph, who was a man of note and figure, but on account of the innocence of Jesus, of which he was convinced, and therefore was very willing he should have an honourable burial:

he came therefore; to the cross, with proper servants with him,

and took the body of Jesus; down from the cross, and carried it away. The Alexandrian copy, different from all others, and in language uncommon, reads, "the body of God".

(o) Palestina Ilustrata, l. 3. p. 581. (p) Epitaph Paulae, fol. 59. A. (q) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 88. K. (r) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 4. soot. 9. (s) Ib. l. 5. c. 10. sect. 2.((t) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol 25. 1. & 27. 1.

{12} And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

(12) Christ is openly buried, and in a famous place, Pilate permitting and allowing it, and buried by men who showed favour to Christ in doing this, men who had before that day never openly followed him: so that by his burial, no man can justly doubt either of his death, or resurrection.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 19:38-39. Μετὰ ταῦτα] John 19:32-34. The request of Joseph of Arimathaea (see on Matthew 27:57), that he might take away (ᾄρῃ) the corpse, does not conflict with John 19:31. For let it be noted that the expression in John 19:31 is passive, not stating the subject who takes away. The Jews, who make the request, presume that it would be the soldiers. Pilate had granted the request in John 19:31, and had charged the soldiers with its execution, consequently with the breaking of the legs, and removal. The breaking of the legs they have in fact executed on the two who were crucified with Him, and omit it in the case of Jesus; and as Joseph requests from the procurator that he may take away the body of Jesus, and obtains permission, the order for removal given to the soldiers was now recalled in reference to Jesus, and they had to remove only the other two. It is, however, very conceivable that Joseph had still time, after John 19:32; John 19:34, for his request, since the soldiers after the crucifragium must certainly first await the complete decease of the shattered bodies, because it was permitted to remove only bodies actually dead from the cross. Thus there is neither here, and in John 19:31, a contradiction with Mark 15:44 (Strauss); nor does μετὰ ταῦτα form, as De Wette finds, “a great and hitherto unnoticed difficulty;” nor are we, with Lücke, to understand ᾄρῃ and ἦρε of the fetching away of the bodies (which the soldiers had removed), with which a groundless departure is made from the definition of the sense given in John 19:31, and a variation is made in an unauthorized way from Luke 23:56; Mark 15:46.

τὸ πρῶτον] The first time, John 3:2. Comp. John 10:40. It does not exactly presuppose a subsequent still more frequent coming (in John 7:50 also there is only a retrospective reference to what is related in chap. 3), but may also be said simply with reference to the present public coming to the dead person, so that only the death of Jesus had overcome the previous fear of men on the part of Nicodemus. Myrrh-resin and aloe-wood, these fragrant materials (Psalm 45:9) were placed in a pulverized condition between the bandages (John 19:40); but the surprising quantity (comp. John 12:3) is here explained from the fact that superabundant reverence in its sorrowful excitement does not easily satisfy itself; we may also assume that a portion of the spices was to be designed for the couch of the body in the grave, 2 Chronicles 16:14.John 19:38-42. The entombment.38. And after this] More literally, But after these things. The ‘but’ marks a contrast between the hostile petition of the Jews and the friendly petition of Joseph. ‘These things’ as distinct from ‘this’ will shew that no one event is singled out with which what follows is connected: the sequence is indefinite. Comp. John 3:22, John 6:14. ‘After this’ in John 19:28 is right: there the sequence is direct and definite. Comp. John 2:12, John 11:7; John 11:11.

Joseph of Arimathea] See notes on Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50. The Synoptists tell us that he was rich, a member of the Sanhedrin, a good and just man who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s counsel and crime, one who (like Simon and Anna) waited for the kingdom of God, and had become a disciple of Christ.

secretly for fear of the Jews] This forms a coincidence with S. Mark, who says of him (Mark 15:43) that ‘having summoned courage he went in unto Pilate,’ implying that like Nicodemus he was naturally timid. Joseph probably went to Pilate as soon as he knew that Jesus was dead: the vague ‘after these things’ need not mean that he did not act till after the piercing of the side.

took the body] As the friends of the Baptist (Matthew 14:12) and of S. Stephen (Acts 8:2) did in each case.John 19:38. Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα, moreover [but] after these things) Nothing was done in tumultuous haste.—κεκρυμμένος, hidden [‘secretly’]) So the LXX. Ezekiel 12:6-7; Ezekiel 12:12, κεκρυμμένος (ἐξελεύσῃ). Neither Joseph, nor Nicodemus, remained a hidden disciple: John 19:39.Verses 38-42. -

(7) The burial - the two friends, Joseph and Nicodemus. Verse 38. - After these things - i.e., after all these transactions and impressions, after the crurifragium and the piercing and the proceedings of the soldiers with Pilate's permission; after, that is, time was left to see the full issue of the previous act, and the awful fact was patent to all - Joseph, who is from Arimathaea. This "Joseph" is introduced with the article (), and a second before ἀπὸ, implying to the reader that he is now. by reason of thesynoptic narrative, a well-known person. This Arimathsea is probably the Ramathaim of 1 Samuel 1:1, the birthplace of Samuel, known now as the Nebi Samwil, about two leagues north-west of Jerusalem (Caspari, § 49). Hengstenberg thinks the site is Ramleh, eight hours from Jerusalem. The maps of the Palest. Explor. Fund place it about a league to the east of Bethlehem. He was a "rich man" (Matthew 27:57) - a fact which the First Gospel recalls without quoting the remarkable oracle of Isaiah 53:9, that Messiah, Servant of Jehovah, was with the "rich in his death." We may judge that Joseph had a residence in Jerusalem, even though he may still be known as belonging to and "from" Arimathaea, because he bad prepared, hard by the metropolis, a sepulcher which as yet had never been used. He was, moreover, a βουλευτής (Luke 23:50; Mark 15:43), a member of the Sanhedrin, of high character, "good and just.... waiting for, expecting the kingdom of God' (say Mark and Luke), "and by no means consentient to the counsel and deed of his colleagues" (adds Luke). The whole position is briefly put by John: Being a disciple of Jesus, but a hidden one (κεκρυμμένος), who had been concealed as such up to this crowning climax of his Lord's humiliation, not daring to confess Christ, by reason of his fear of the Jews. Strange that he and Nicodemus should have cast away their fears at such a moment! Joseph asked of Pilate (ἠρώτησεν); a word that implies something of claim and confidence on his part. The synoptists all three use ἠτήσατο, which rather denotes the position of a suppliant for a favor. That he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. This is supposed by some, who are anxious to make difficulties where none exist, that (according to Mark 15:43) Pilate had already given permission for the crurifragium, and yet was astonished that he was dead already. The statement of Mark is perfectly consistent with this and with the ἀρθῶσιν of ver. 31. Joseph, when all the transactions were over, sought for himself the privilege of a friend to take the body and bury it. Roman law permitted this privilege to friends; as Luthardt says, "The Christian martyrs of Rome were often buried in the catacombs." Not until death was obvious was it lawful to remove a body from the cross. The death had taken place; the Jews were prepared with Pilate's authorization to remove the corpse to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Joseph comes with a permission to take the corpse for honorable burial. He came therefore - by reason of the permission - and took the body (of Jesus). A disciple of Jesus

Matthew calls him a rich man; Mark, an honorable counselor, i.e., a member of the Sanhedrim; and Luke, a counselor, good and just.

Besought (ἠρωτησε)

Better, as Rev., asked. See on John 11:22; see on John 16:23. Mark adds that he went in boldly, which is suggestive in view of John's statement of his secret discipleship, a fact which is passed over by the Synoptists.

Gave him leave

According to Roman law. Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century, says: "The bodies of those who are capitally punished cannot be denied to their relatives. At this day, however, the bodies of those who are executed are buried only in case permission is asked and granted; and sometimes permission is not given, especially in the cases of those who are punished for high treason. The bodies of the executed are to be given for burial to any one who asks for them." Avaricious governors sometimes sold this privilege. Cicero, in one of his orations against Verres, has a terribly graphic passage describing such extortions. After dwelling upon the tortures inflicted upon the condemned, he says: "Yet death is the end. It shall not be. Can cruelty go further? A way shall be found. For the bodies of the beheaded shall be thrown to the beasts. If this is grievous to parents, they may buy the liberty of burial" (v., 45). Compare Matthew 14:12; Acts 8:2.

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