The Sabbath was approaching.
If no one had taken charge of Jesus’ body, it probably would have been thrown into a common grave. But Joseph of Arimathea showed up. Most don’t realize all that he had to risk getting Jesus into the grave.
Thankfully, Mark is careful to explain that Joseph was a member of the Council and was well respected; presumably this meant that people in Jerusalem knew of him or his family and could perhaps check the story of Jesus’ death and burial.
Being a member of the Council also meant that Joseph had sat through session at the high priest’s house and had heard the accusations and the condemnation of Jesus the night before. With such a background and position, what Joseph was about to do was a huge risk. To show any sympathy with someone who had just been crucified on a charge of sedition was bound to raise suspicions. Just look at Peter who was freaked out by the mere suggestion that he was associated with Jesus!
Yet Joseph had been eagerly longing for the Kingdom, which likely means he had been a supporter of Jesus, though in secret. Perhaps he had decided that he had nothing more to lose by doing what he knew to be right because Jesus had died. However, taking care of Jesus’ body meant that he would make himself ritually unclean and unable to engage in some of the normal Sabbath practices that coming evening and the next day.
Joseph was treating Jesus as if He was a close member of the family. As such, it was Joseph’s duty to see to burial before nightfall as well as to fulfill the old Biblical law not to let hanged corpses remain in place overnight. For this Joseph was prepared to face uncleanness, suspicion, and possible charges as an associate of Jesus.
It raises the question, why does Mark think it’s necessary for his readers to understand what Joseph of Arimathea did?
One reason may be that the early Christian claim about Easter was that Jesus had not really died and that Joseph had cunningly taken him down half-dead to revive him later.
There are, of course, other objections to this line of thought, but Mark is keen to squash it before it begins.
Why? Because Jesus really was dead.
But not for long.
Reflect and Pray