Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin. As His body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where His body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint His body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.Luke 23:50-56
- Uniquely Matthew
- Uniquely Mark
- Uniquely Luke
- Uniquely John
I have actually given you the coloured parallel segments before when we looked at the overview of all the parallel segments and how it had been divided in Robertson’s Harmony in Bible Gem 1274. So I have clipped it for you here. You will notice if you compare them that I have removed the segment of John 21:31-37 simply because I have covered that already in Bible Gem 115 – No broken bones (Jn 19:31-37). Now I will focus on the role of Joseph and Nicodemus in this last Gem on Luke 23. There are many other elements I could pick out of these remaining verses and the parallels found in the other gospels. Issues of the timing and the reference to the Day of Preparation before the Sabbath began at dusk on the day before Sabbath started. There appears to be a discrepancy between John’s time frame and that of the synoptic gospels. Then there appears also to be a discrepancy between this account in Luke which infers the anointing took place before the Sabbath and that account of Mark in 16:1 which indicates it took place afterward. There are other details too which we could address but I seek to finish my comments on Luke 23 in this Gem. I have responded to the call of 20 of you to not skip Luke 23:50-56. So I will pick up the most interesting aspect which strikes me out of all of the detail. The reappearance of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in the story of Jesus.
Note too that the synoptic gospels record for us the role of Joseph but only John tells us that Nicodemus comes back into the picture. Also isn’t it curious that the only ones who take care of Jesus’ body and honour it following the crucifixion are a bunch of women and two secret disciples. What happened to all the others? You would think that there would have been a desire to honour in death this One who had given them so much in life. That they would have paid respect to their teacher and Messiah before burial. But Peter and the others have “headed for the hills”. They have not hung around to be implicated it seems as those who followed Jesus. Look at Peter’s actions in his three denials and as I said in an early Gem, the others were no better. There is a sense in which Jesus indicated all would betray Him, not just one. Furthermore if no one had come forward then Jesus would have suffered the fate of most who were crucified. Their bodies were left exposed to add further shame to their crimes. They were not given respect but were merely just discarded. It would have been abhorrent given what had already happened, had that happened as well to Christ’s body following it’s removal from the cross.
Just who was Joseph of Arimathea? He clearly had wealth in order to provide “a spare tomb”, although it was likely that the tomb he offered was one he had prepared for himself. There is archeological evidence to suggest that many tombs in Jerusalem at the time of Christ were used for multiple burials. So it seems Joseph was planning to share this tomb with Jesus later. He was a good man seemingly in his dealings with others around him and he was righteous before God. That was what was said of Zachariah (Luke 1:6) and Simeon (Luke 2:25). That’s good company to be counted in. Luke also makes clear to us that Jospeh didn’t agree with the decisions and actions of the Sanhedrin. He was opposed to their plan to get rid of Jesus. John adds for us that Joseph was a secret disciple. Mmm that fits, given the reactions of the other disciples and the reappearance of Nicodemus on the scene. It took courage to go and ask for the body of Christ. To ask for the body was to align oneself with Him and draw attention to yourself. Would you have been willing to align yourself with Jesus in death? His or yours? Are you willing to align yourself with Christ as you live now? It;s an important question because Jesus says, “If you confess me before men I will confess you before My Father in heaven.” You can’t confess Him when you are dead. Do it now.
Notice too that Joseph was a member of the ruling Jewish Council, a member of the Sanhedrin. Well look at that, we have two secret members of the Council who are followers of Jesus. Isn’t that interesting? Joseph is listed as Joseph of Arimathea, meaning he is a man who came originally from Arimathea who at the time of these events was now living in Jerusalem. Where is Arimathea? Arimathea is generally regarded as being equated with Ramah referred to in Jeremiah’s lament (31:15) and in Matt 2:18. At the time of Jeremiah’s lament Ramah was part of Samaria but later came to be a part of Judea as it was at the time of Christ. But there is debate as to whether this is the Ramah of the time of Jeremiah or whether it is Ramathaim-Zophim (1 Sam 1:11) which was only 32 kms northwest of Jerusalem.
Interesting that only John’s account tells us Nicodemus was involved as well. Curious that the synoptic gospels tell us nothing about Nicodemus’ involvement. But then again John is the one who records each occasion when Nicodemus appears in Scripture. He comes under the cover of darkness in John 3:1 ff inferring he was afraid of the Sanhedrin and their response if they knew Nicodemus had aligned himself with Christ. Next he defends Jesus before the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-52) and now he appears again at His burial. He always appears surreptitiously and always linked with the Sanhedrin or someone from the Sanhedrin.
Finally in Luke’s account we see that the women followed, again it seems at a distance to see where His body was laid. Later they come back and prepare the spices and anointing oil. There is so much clandestine action going on without anyone brave enough to come forward and align themselves to Jesus now that He has died. The Jewish leaders have put so much fear in those who supported Jesus that none of His followers were willing to “claim Him” except two secret disciples and a fearful bunch of women who follow at a distance. This is linked with the earlier comment in Luke 23:49 of the women standing at a distance. It seems everyone is standing back for “fear of the Jews”. But finally there appear two who are willing to claim the body of Christ and prepare a burial place for Him. Lo and behold the two who come forth are members of the same group as were instrumental in His death. Well what a surprise!
There I will leave it. I could continue on to investigate the alleged discrepancies mentioned above but I will refrain from doing SO and begin the last chapter of Luke in the next Gem.
Where do you stand with respect to the Christ? Are you a secret disciple who hides in the background or one who has the courage of your convictions?Ian Vail
Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wiser so I am changing myself.Anon
Whenever someone doesn’t understand something, they tend to be against it.Anon
The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.E. E. Cummings
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.Martin Luther King Jr.