Joseph of Arimathea was no friend or secret admirer of Jesus—according to the first gospel written, the Gospel of Mark. The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph had voted with the entire Sanhedrin to execute Jesus. After taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, Joseph did not bother to wash it or anoint it with spices—according to the author of Mark. The only respect given to the body of Jesus was to wrap it in a cloth and bury it.
Joseph was a devout Jew. He was a devout observer of the Law. He buried Jesus for only one reason: to prevent a violation of that Law. He did not want a Jewish corpse above ground on the Sabbath. It is quite probable that Joseph represented the Sanhedrin, not just himself, when he asked Pilate for the body.
But why not give the body to the family?
The Sanhedrin had assumed that the body would be taken by the family or friends of Jesus. But there was no one present to take responsibility for the body. All of the followers of Jesus had fled according to the author of Mark. Jesus was alone on the cross. There is no mention in Mark of any family or friends of Jesus present at his crucifixion.
The body had to be buried and buried quickly. It was late Friday afternoon. The sun would soon set and the Sabbath would begin. With no family present to accept the body, the Sanhedrin took responsibility for the body.
Where would the Sanhedrin bury the body of the man they so detested; the man they had so much wanted dead; the man who had claimed to be the Son of God; the blasphemer; that irritating, insolent, trouble-making Galilean peasant?
There was no time to dig a dirt trench, the typical manner in which the lower classes in first century Palestine were buried. The Sanhedrin had to get the body under ground quickly. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who was responsible for the burial of “foreigners” and criminals in Jerusalem, found a tomb nearby the crucifixion site. It was not his tomb. It was the property of a friend. Joseph suggested to the high priests that they bury Jesus in this tomb temporarily until they were able to dig a dirt trench grave.
“Let’s make sure that the grave of this blasphemer does not become a shrine for his followers,” responded the high priest. “After the Sabbath is over, let’s bury him in an unmarked, dirt grave. Let’s use the silver we had given to his disciple, Judas Iscariot, which he has just returned, to buy that plot of land outside the city walls owned by the potter. Let’s bury the Galilean in the potter’s field in an unmarked grave.”
So, Saturday night, after the Sabbath had ended, in the dark of night, the servants of the high priest moved Jesus’ body from the rock tomb at the base of Golgotha to a dirt trench grave in the potter’s field…where the remains of Jesus of Nazareth lie buried to this day!
On Sunday morning, female disciples of Jesus come to the rock tomb and find it empty. “Why is it empty?” they ask themselves. Terrified, they flee. Weeks later, in Galilee, the story of the empty tomb in Galilee begins to circulate among the Eleven. “Could Jesus have risen from the dead???” This thought stirs the emotions and imagination of the disciples so drastically that they begin to “see” Jesus in dreams, “visions”, and false sightings.
And the Resurrection Belief was born!
End of post.