One Moment in the Spotlight: Mark 15:42-47

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As Mark winds down the events surrounding Jesus’ time on the cross, he describes in our passage for this episode, the events surrounding Jesus’ body being removed from the cross and what happened to it to keep it from being lost. In many ways, we have a previously unknown person in the Bible record to thank for this.

Let’s read our passage for this episode and discover what we can learn from what Mark’s gospel tells us about this event. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will read from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 42:

42 It was now the evening before the Sabbath, and the Jewish people were getting ready for that sacred day. 43 A man named Joseph from Arimathea was brave enough to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus. Joseph was a highly respected member of the Jewish council, and he was also waiting for God’s kingdom to come.

44 Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead, and he called in the army officer to find out if Jesus had been dead very long. 45 After the officer told him, Pilate let Joseph have Jesus’ body.

46 Joseph bought a linen cloth and took the body down from the cross. He had it wrapped in the cloth, and he put it in a tomb that had been cut into solid rock. Then he rolled a big stone against the entrance to the tomb.

47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching and saw where the body was placed.

In these last verses describing the day Jesus was crucified, we discover several details Mark wants to draw our attention to. When I look over this passage, I count no less than five big details that are significant for us to pay attention to.

First, Mark transitions into this event by telling us this was the evening before the Sabbath, and this Sabbath was a sacred day. Other gospels and translations describe why this wasn’t an ordinary Sabbath. This was an extra special Sabbath where the weekly Sabbath intersected with the annual Passover celebration, which was one of the most important Jewish celebrations.

This celebration marked the angel of death passing over the Jewish and Egyptian homes where the blood of a lamb was put on the doorposts of the home. This event, as the people of Israel were about to leave Egypt, foreshadowed what Jesus would ultimately accomplish for them on the cross. Jesus would be that lamb who died, and Jesus’ sacrifice, when welcomed into our hearts and lives, protects us from the angel of death.

Mark draws our attention to the detail that after Jesus has finished sacrificing Himself for humanity and God’s people, He rests in the grave during that special Sabbath day.

Next, Mark introduces us to a new character in the gospel story: a man named Joseph from Arimathea. Joseph steps in as being the perfect middleman for every group present and interested in what would happen that weekend.

While I doubt any of those present would have let Jesus’ body be thrown in the heap of dead bodies, which would have been the fate of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus, Joseph steps in as the perfect middleman. Joseph was a respected person among the Jewish leaders, he was someone who had influence with Pilate, and he was someone who was not hostile towards Jesus’ followers. Some gospels even call Joseph a secret disciple of Jesus.

Joseph also had exactly what this situation needed; Joseph had a nearby tomb where Jesus’ body could lay, and it was a tomb that was easy to access while also being easy to seal and guard. In this event, I believe God had prepared and placed Joseph of Arimathea into the exact place and position that was needed for this weekend. In many ways, Joseph from Arimathea saves Easter because of his involvement this Friday evening.

Another detail worth noting in this event is that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly. Crucifixion was a death that was designed to last a long time and it was designed to be painful, humiliating, and public in order to remind any potential rebels that it wasn’t worth trying to fight against Rome. Jesus’ death in six hours was very abnormal. The way to speed up death was to break the legs of the person on the cross, and this happened to both criminals who were with Jesus.

The reason this detail stands out in my mind is that it is one more piece of evidence telling Pilate that Jesus was different. Jesus was not like anyone else who had been nailed to a cross, and to everyone present, it was very clear that Jesus was different. In our last passage, we even read that one of the soldiers present for Jesus’ last breath exclaimed that Jesus really was God’s Son after witnessing Jesus’ death.

I don’t know, and Mark doesn’t tell us the details surrounding what prompts Pilate to let Joseph have Jesus’ body. It is possible that Joseph paid Pilate for Jesus’ body, or perhaps something in Joseph’s request prompted Pilate to agree. It is also possible that Joseph was not present for any of that morning’s condemnation, and this gave weight to his request since he was not among Jesus’ accusers. Regardless of the details, God was ultimately behind Pilate agreeing to Joseph’s request.

Mark concludes this event by describing how Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching where Joseph took Jesus’ body. While this detail doesn’t sound significant at this point, it becomes significant because these women would be the first to witness an empty grave when they go to the tomb the following Sunday.

God was behind everything Joseph of Arimathea contributed to this point in history. God had brought Joseph to this point, and Joseph steps into history with everything needed to make this weekend glorify God in unprecedented, unexpected, and momentous ways.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, continue to seek God first in your life and be ready to step into God’s plan when He calls you to. While I don’t know what God is preparing your life for, I do know you are alive on this earth for a reason, that your life is significant in God’s eyes, and that He has something significant for you to accomplish. When the time comes for God to reveal His plan to you, be ready to jump into what God has prepared you for.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to continue learning and growing closer to God. Through the pages of the Bible, discover just how much God loves us and what God was willing to give up to open the way for us to have a restored relationship with Him!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or leave where God is leading you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 47: After Jesus had died, someone steps into history in the perfect way, and the perfect time, with the perfect position and gift to make this weekend give glory to God in amazing ways. Discover what we can learn and why we should thank Joseph of Arimathea for what he did that Friday evening.

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