Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. – Mark 15:43 – 45
Next Sunday is Easter, and in our minds, we are probably pushing past today and thinking of the celebration that will take place commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. But wait. Not so fast. We would do well to remember that the people we read about in the Bible had to live this all one verse at a time. They didn’t know the end of the story. They couldn’t skip ahead to the next chapter. For them, on Saturday, Jesus was dead and buried. The tomb was sealed shut. Hope was gone, lying there silently in that cave.
Why should we bother thinking about Jesus’ final moments on the cross and who buried him? One answer is that there would be several false accounts that would crop up over the next several centuries, accounts which deny either the death or the resurrection of Jesus. It is essential to our faith that we know for certain that Jesus was really dead. That is why they buried him.
These were not overly superstitious people—they knew when someone was dead, and they knew what to do with a dead body. You bury it. Joseph and Nicodemus go to great personal trouble and expense to honor Jesus. Though they did not stand for him in life, they now stand for him in death, preparing his body in haste so as to get him in the tomb before sundown. They intended to go back later and remove his bones. They never did. And everyone now knows why.
Lord Jesus, your death and resurrection form the very foundation of my faith, the source of my hope and purpose, the wellspring of my salvation, the assurance of my peace and the basis for my eternal life with you. I confess that I am often so quick to jump from Good Friday to Easter Sunday that I rarely contemplate what life must have been like for those earliest followers on that Holy Saturday. Yet in the quiet darkness of that day, a miracle was occurring, as all the power of evil and death was being undone. Teach me that you continue to work in hidden and unseen ways which you will reveal to me in your timing. Thank you for dying, for giving yourself up on my behalf. Show me the wisdom of waiting patiently for your return. In your saving name I pray. Amen.
Drawn from the Once a Day, 40 Days to Easter.