When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Joseph of Arimathea is a most interesting fellow. We have not met him before, and we shall not meet him again, except in the parallel accounts of the other Gospels. Every Gospel mentions the burial of our Lord by Joseph of Arimathea. John’s Gospel informs us that Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus (Matthew 19:39-42). Matthew tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57), but John adds that he was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews (Matthew 19:38). Mark informs us that he was a highly regarded member of the Sanhedrin, who was looking forward to the kingdom of God (Matthew 15:43). Luke adds that “he was a good and righteous man” (Matthew 23:50), who did not consent to the Sanhedrin’s decision to kill Jesus (Matthew 23:51).
Mark tells us that Joseph went “boldly” to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Matthew 15:43). One would have to say that it must have taken great courage to identify with Jesus as this moment in time. Peter and our Lord’s disciples were not yet willing to do so, at least after His arrest. Even more so, I am impressed with Joseph’s boldness in distinguishing himself from his colleagues on the Sanhedrin. You can well imagine that Joseph was no longer welcome on the council after he publicly identified with Jesus. His actions spoke louder than words, for it became evident that he was a follower of Jesus, and therefore distanced himself from the other members of the Sanhedrin and the action they had taken.
Being a rich man (Matthew 27:57), Joseph had a tomb already prepared for his own burial, a new tomb that had been cut out of the rock (Matthew 27:60). Time was short, and the Jews were eager to get the bodies down from the crosses so that they could observe Passover. I am inclined to think that many of the executed criminals may not even have been buried. Joseph knew that his tomb was nearby and available, so he made good use of it. The body of Jesus was hastily prepared (probably with the assumption that further preparations could be made after Sabbath) and placed in the tomb. A large stone was then rolled across the entrance as Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” looked on (Matthew 27:61).