And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews…
John, who presents to us the most sublime views of the Divine nature and glory of the Christ, does not shrink from relating in this passage to how deep humiliation that Christ condescended.
I. THE HISTORICAL PURPOSE FULFILLED BY CHRIST'S BURIAL. It is observable that all four evangelists record, and with many details, the interment of the Son of man. This is accounted for, not so much by any intrinsic importance belonging to burial, as by its intermediate position between the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord.
1. The burial of Jesus is of moment, as establishing the fact of his actual death. It has been absurdly contended by some infidel theorizers, at a loss to know how to deal with the evidence for our Lord's subsequent appearances, that he did not really die upon the cross, that he merely fell into a swoon, from which, under the care of his friends, he recovered. If such had been the case, the body could not have been laid in the tomb and left there.
2. The narrative is also conclusive as to the reality of our Lord's resurrection. He could not have risen from the dead unless he had first died. It is not possible to disconnect the several parts of the narrative from one another. As it stands, the record is consistent and credible.
II. THE APPLICANT AND THE APPLICATION. It is remarkable that, in the very crisis when the professed and prominent disciples of Jesus were timid and vanished from the scene, two secret disciples came forward and discharged the last offices of friendship for the Lord in his humiliation. Of Joseph we know that he was from Arimathaea, that he was rich and an honored member of the Sanhedrin, that he did not agree to the condemnation passed upon the Prophet of Nazareth; We also know concerning his religious position that he was one of those who were looking for God's kingdom to be set up, and that he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. With Joseph was associated Nicodemus, who seems to have been emboldened by the example of Joseph to come forward, to declare his affection for Jesus, and to take part in the interment of his Master. An illustration of the contagion of a courageous example, which may be commended to those who are hesitating between secret and open discipleship. With respect to Pilate, it is to be observed that, as he had no personal hostility to Jesus, and probably took a pleasure in annoying the Jewish leaders, he was naturally willing enough, apparently without being bribed, to agree to the request of Joseph. He satisfied himself, by the testimony of the centurion, that Jesus was dead, and then suffered the applicant to take the body. Thus neither was the corpse exposed during the Paschal solemnities, nor was it consigned to the indignity of a criminal's interment.
III. THE PLACE AND MANNER OF THE BURIAL. Tender care is manifested in every line of this picture. Affectionate hands wound the body in folds of costly linen. Consecrated wealth placed myrrh and aloes in the folds. Generous fellowship offered the tomb which was designed for the owner's family, but which was deemed to be honored and sanctified by becoming the temporary abode of the Savior's form. Strong and willing hands rolled the great stone against the opening to the rock-hewn sepulcher. Reverent and loving women, who had watched the Sufferer when on the cross, now watched the lifeless body consigned to its peaceful resting-place. These are homely incidents, but they are hallowed and glorified by the human love which they reveal. Fancy lingers by the garden which was the scene of these ministrations, and finds it seemly that, as a garden had witnessed the Savior's agony, a garden also should witness his repose.
IV. THE WONDROUS FACT OF CHRIST'S BURIAL. That Jesus, being what he was, the Son of God, the Lord of glory, the King of men, should consent to die and to be buried, is amazing indeed. That such a life - a life devoted to benevolent purposes, a life evincing the possession of irresistible power - should end in the grave, this appears altogether anomalous. That men should slay their Savior, that he should consent to die, that the Father in heaven should suffer such an end to such a career, - this must fill a thoughtful and sensitive observer with wonder akin to fear! Earth was for some hours the sepulcher of the Son of God!
V. THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BURIAL OF CHRIST.
1. We remark Jesus sharing the whole of our lot in its utmost humiliation. He who stooped to the manger at his birth did not disdain the grave after his death. As Son of man, he would shrink from no human experience. It behooved him in all things to be made like his brethren. Thus he qualified himself to be at once our Representative before God, and our eternal Brother - a High Priest touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
2. We remark that the end of our Lord's humiliation was the beginning of his glory and reign. He was made perfect through suffering. Through the grave he passed to the throne. His "precious death and burial" were the means and the introduction to the majesty and dominion which are his of right, and his for ever.
VI. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS OF CHRIST'S BURIAL.
1. Our obligation to gratitude and love is brought strikingly before our hearts when we thus learn what our Savior bore for us.
2. Christians are spiritually to share Christ's death and sepulture. They are buried with Christ, - by their baptism unto his death.
3. The grave loses its terrors to those who know that Jesus shares it with his people. As the tomb could not hold him, so the stone which seals his people's sepulcher shall surely be rolled away. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: After these things, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away Jesus' body. Pilate gave him permission. He came therefore and took away his body.