JESUS’ BODY IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE STAKE
THE BODY IS PREPARED FOR BURIAL
WOMEN FIND AN EMPTY TOMB
It is getting late on Friday afternoon, Nisan 14. At sundown, the Sabbath of Nisan 15 will begin. Jesus is already dead, but the two robbers alongside him are still alive. According to the Law, dead bodies “should not remain all night on the stake” but, rather, should be buried “on that day.”
Furthermore, Friday afternoon is called Preparation because people prepare meals and complete any other tasks that cannot wait until after the Sabbath. At sunset, a double, or “great,” Sabbath will begin. (John 19:31) This is so because Nisan 15 will be the first day of the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread, the first day of which is always a Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:5, 6) This time that first day coincides with the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day.
So the Jews ask Pilate to hasten the death of Jesus and the two robbers alongside him. How? By having their legs broken. That will make it impossible for them to use their legs to raise their bodies so as to breathe. The soldiers come and break the legs of the two robbers. But Jesus appears to be dead, and thus they do not break his legs. This fulfills Psalm 34:20: “He is guarding all his bones; not one of them has been broken.”
To remove any doubt that Jesus is truly dead, a soldier jabs a spear into his side, piercing the region of his heart. ‘Immediately blood and water come out.’ (John 19:34) This fulfills another scripture: “They will look to the one whom they pierced.”
Joseph from the city of Arimathea, “a rich man” and reputable member of the Sanhedrin, is also present at the execution. (Matthew 27:57) He is described as “a good and righteous man,” who is “waiting for the Kingdom of God.” In fact, as “a disciple of Jesus but a secret one because of his fear of the Jews,” he did not support the court’s judgment of Jesus. (Luke 23:50; Mark 15:43; John 19:38) Joseph takes courage and asks Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate summons the army officer in charge, who confirms that Jesus is dead. Thereupon, Pilate grants Joseph’s request.
Joseph buys clean, fine linen and takes Jesus’ body down from the stake. He wraps the corpse in the linen in preparation for burial. Nicodemus, “who had come to [Jesus] in the night the first time,” helps with the preparation. (John 19:39) He brings about a hundred Roman pounds (72 modern pounds) (33 kg) of a costly mixture of myrrh and aloes. Jesus’ body is wrapped in bandages containing these spices, according to the Jews’ burial custom.
Joseph owns an unused tomb carved in rock nearby, and Jesus’ body is laid in it. Then a large stone is rolled in front of the tomb. This is hastily done, before the Sabbath begins. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Less may have been helping with the preparation of Jesus’ body. They now hurry home “to prepare spices and perfumed oils” to treat Jesus’ body further after the Sabbath.
The next day, the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees go to Pilate and say: “We recall what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I am to be raised up.’ Therefore, command that the grave be made secure until the third day, so that his disciples may not come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He was raised up from the dead!’ Then this last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate replies: “You may have a guard. Go make it as secure as you know how.”
Very early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and other women bring spices to the tomb to treat Jesus’ body. They say to one another: “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb for us?” (Mark 16:3) But an earthquake has occurred. Moreover, God’s angel has rolled the stone away, the guards are gone, and the tomb appears empty!