Death and Victory
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.
It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
The passion narrative ends on a muted note. The power of Jesus reaches beyond death as Joseph of Arimethea, whom Luke describes with his favorite terms as a "virtuous" and "just" man, a member of the very council who had condemned Jesus yet one who had not consented to their verdict, takes courage and comes to claim the body of Jesus for burial. In any age, claiming the body of an executed man from the authorities is a public act, exposing one's allegiances for all to see. Joseph stands clearly with the crucified Jesus.
He wraps Jesus' broken body in a linen burial cloth and places it in a rock tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Luke carefully sets the stage for the marvelous events of the resurrection. The Sabbath eve was approaching so there was no time to anoint the body. But the faithful women who had ministered to Jesus in Galilee (8:2-3) and stood by him at the moment of death (23:49) prepare spices and perfumed oil--ready to return and anoint the crucified body of Jesus as soon as the Sabbath rest was completed.
One cannot miss the touching poignancy of these details: the courageous devotion of Joseph, the faithful women who abide by the Sabbath law yet with their hearts in that tomb with the one they loved and had lost. The reader knows, however, that death will not have the last word. The "just one" would break the bonds of death and the tomb would be robbed of its treasure. The Spirit that had fallen on Jesus at the moment of his Baptism would once again pulsate within his living being as the Risen Christ would rise triumphant from death and charge his disciples to bring God's word and the witness of their lives to all nations.top of page