Monday, March 27, 2017

Jesus’ Burial

Mark 15:42-47

“And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:42-43)

Most Europeans figured the day from sunrise to sunrise, and thus the this verse has traditionally been interpreted to mean that Jesus was crucified on Friday.    The gospels are written using the Jewish tradition, and the Jews figured the day from sunset to sunset.   Under their figuring, Friday began at sundown on Thursday and went until sundown Friday.  At sundown Friday, the Sabbath began, in accordance with the command in Leviticus 23:32.  “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.”  At even on Friday would no longer be the day of preparation.  Clearly the crucifixion had to occur on Thursday rather than on Friday as tradition holds. 

“And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.  And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45)

People who were crucified sometimes lived for three or four days, eventually dying of dehydration and exposure, and Roman law required that a body be buried before dark.  As a result the Jews had insisted the legs of the offenders be broken to hasten their death so that they would not have to bury the bodies on the Sabbath.  When the legs were broken people usually died within sixteen to twenty four hours.  Jesus had died within about six hours, and only about nine hours had elapsed when Joseph came to ask for the body.  Pilate had never had anyone die so quickly and questioned how long they had observed the body.  He had not expected any of the m to die until the following morning, once again indicating that the crucifixion had to be on Thursday rather than Friday.     

“And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.   And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.” (Mark 15:46-47)

Joseph and Nicodemus performed an abbreviated embalming process in order to get Jesus’ body buried before dark, placing him in Joseph’s personal tomb because it was nearby.  The women observed where the body was placed, and the following day, obtained the necessary ingredients for a full embaloming process, according to Luke 23:56.  “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”  Under Jewish law it would have been illegal for Joseph and Nicodemus to bury the body or for the women to prepare the spices for embalming after sunset on Friday.    


  1. Praise God that Christ's suffering on the cross was limited to 6 hours, which, interestingly, is the number of man, whose sins put Him there. Praise God that Joseph of Arimathaea came to Mary's aid and assisted her with the burial and providing the tomb, for she was presumably already widowed, and the tomb was necessary to fulfill prophecy. Thanks for the great post and God bless.

  2. It is amazing to see how God provided so that every prophecy was fulfilled, even when logically, there seemed no possible way.