Christian Religious Studies JSSCE

The burial of Jesus Christ

The Burial of Jesus – Mark 15:42-47

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42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 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. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

Who were the men who buried Jesus?

  • Joseph, probably born in a city in Judea call Ramathaim; he was a rich, influential man, a member of the Sanhedrin. He is described as ‘looking for the Kingdom of God’, and perhaps believed he had found it in Jesus. He may have been absent from the hastily-summoned council that condemned Jesus, or his objection to the sentence of death may have been over-ridden. Or he may even have lacked the courage to speak up in Jesus’ defence – Mark’s gospel says Joseph had to ‘gather up his courage’ to ask for Jesus’ body. It was risky for him to defend or protect Jesus; it could have serious consequences for advancement in his social, religious and political life.
  • Nicodemus brought spices for the burial, powdered myrrh and aloes, about 70lbs in modern weight, a phenomenal amount. There is no explanation as to why he gave so much. But John tells us Nicodemus came to hear Jesus under cover of darkness, as if he were afraid; perhaps he was now trying to make up for this fearfulness.

Here were two highly placed men of authentic Jewish faith who were able to respond to Jesus’ teaching.

On the Friday afternoon that Jesus died, not all of the Jewish leaders were happy to see Him dead. One of them was a rich man named Joseph, from the town of Arimathea; he had been a secret disciple of Jesus and had not helped plan his death. He went to the governor Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly so he called for a soldier to ask if Jesus was already dead. When he found out that He was dead, he gave orders for the body of Jesus to be given to Joseph. Another Jewish leader named Nicodemus, who also believe in Jesus, brought spices to bury with the body of Jesus. They took the body of Jesus down from the cross and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth together with the spices, for this is the way that Jews buried people.

Jesus was buried according to the Jewish tradition. This means that the body was washed before it was wrapped in a simple shroud made of fine linen, normally a task performed by the women relatives of the deceased. There were prescribed psalms and prayers said at this time. The body was then placed on a stone shelf within the tomb. Jesus’  burial was quickly done. Everything had to be finished in the sort period remaining before sundown – all the people involved were strict Jews, carefully observant of the Sabbath.

Joseph had a tomb in a garden near where Jesus was crucified, so they took the body there. The tomb was a grave that looked like a cave; it had been cut in the side of a rock cliff. They put his body in the tomb and rolled a giant rock against the doorway to close it off. The women who had come from Galilee followed them to the tomb and watched them bury the body. Then they went home and started preparing spices and ointments to put with the body. The next day was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and they rested that day like the Law of Moses commanded.

But on that same Saturday the Jewish leaders went to Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember that while that liar was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise to life.’ So, command for the tomb to be guarded well until after three days. His disciples might come and steal His body and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ Then that lie will be even worse than before.” Pilate said, “Take some soldiers and go guard the tomb the best way you know.” So they went to the tomb and guarded it by putting a wax seal on the rock covering the doorway and leaving the soldiers to stand watch.

So Jesus was dead, buried, and His body guarded. His enemies thought that this was the end. But they were wrong; it was only the beginning. We number our years from the time of Jesus because of what happened the next day.


  • What were the roles of the men involved in the burial of Jesus
  • What complaints did the Jewish leaders present to Pilate

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