Year A, B, C
Holy Saturday, Alternative Reading B
April 3, 2021
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 19:38-42, The Message or John 19:38-42, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "To be added."
Joseph of Arimathea is described in all 4 Gospels:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
Matthew 27:57-58 (NRSV)
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Mark 15:43 (NRSV)
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the (Judean) town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Luke 23:50-52 (NRSV)
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the (Judean authorities), asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.
John 19:38 (NRSV)
From these we can picture Joseph as a good and righteous man, a disciple of Jesus (though a secret one), a respected member of the Council (though not agreeing with their plan to kill Jesus), a rich man, a man waiting expectantly for the Messiah.
Why is he also bold? Because approaching the highest Roman official to ask for what amounted to a personal favour was to risk disfavour from Pilate, and possible exposure as a disciple of Jesus - with all of its consequences.
Joseph would have to be a respected, rich member of the Judean elite to even consider such a bold action, because Pilate would only grant an audience to such a person, and would only grant such a favour in return for a favour of equal value. The Bible assumes we would know all this, and doesn't mention this background.
We first met Nicodemus in Chapter 3. He too is "one of (high priests and Pharisees)" (John 7:50).
Together, Joseph and Nicodemus give Jesus what amounts a royal funeral which John describes in Verses 39 to 42.
Malina and Rohrbaugh provide some very helpful background on the burial customs of the Judeans.
The crucial piece of background information is the belief that the flesh contained a person's evil deeds. And the year-long rotting of the flesh was a purging of these deeds, leaving the bones (which contained the personality of the person) ready to receive the new body fashioned by God at the resurrection.
But the resurrection of Jesus on the third day will interrupt this process before it starts. This testifies that there were no evil deeds in Jesus' flesh; his flesh did not need to be purged before resurrection. The words and deeds of Jesus' life are true and trustworthy, without fault or failing.
The resurrection of Jesus is not just a testament to life beyond death. It is a testament to Jesus' words and deeds being vindicated by God, and reversing the wrongful execution of Jesus by Rome and the Judean authorities.
It isn't just Jesus who is resurrected. It is everything he represents; everything he came for; everything we saw in him.
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, see link below, pages 275-277.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
John 19:38-42 (NRSV)
38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 19:38-42 (The Message)
38 After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body.
39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 They took Jesus' body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. 41 There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed. 42 So, because it was Sabbath preparation for the Jews and the tomb was convenient, they placed Jesus in it.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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