The Burial of Jesus

Anthony Zimmerman
May 16, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

Because Saint John reveals truths about Christ in his Gospel, as though seen "with the eye of an eagle," we have good reason to suppose that he owed special insights about Jesus to conversations with Mary. She who was want to ponder in her heart the mystery of Jesus, must have shared her thoughts at times with John during her latter years. Tradition tells us that Ephesus was their common abode after Jesus had commended His mother to JohnÕs care:

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own (John 19:26-27).

Writing from a vantage point at a time when the Matthew, Mark and Luke were already familiar to the Church, John filled in details omitted in the Synoptics. His eagle eye also viewed the entire revelation of the Bible at a glance, and brought together profound mysteries, aided surely by conversations with Mary,

For example, Genesis 3:15 tells about the Woman who, with her offspring, would trample the head of the serpent, "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Gen 3:15). Jesus had addressed His mother as "Woman" at the wedding feast of Cana, and once more on Calvary. Who can doubt that John and Mary spoke about these things with yearning in their hearts? She is the new Eve, the mother of all the living (Cf. Gen 3:20).

There is also mention of a Garden, both in Genesis and in John. In Genesis, Adam and Eve had committed original sin in the Garden of Eden, from which place God had exiled them. And in John they buried Jesus in a garden after He had paid the price for original sin and for all the sins of the world: "Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand" (John 19:41-42).

John tells us more about two special people who assisted in the burial of Jesus.

Joseph and Nicodemus assist in the burial of Jesus

Two secret disciples were evidently confidants of John. Perhaps it was they who leaked to him, and to the community, details about the trials of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. The two played a prominent role in the burial of Jesus, as John relates:

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

That Joseph had wealth and influence we can know because he owned the sepulchre in that privileged garden near the city. He probably did not petition Pilate for the body of Jesus without slipping him a wad of cash. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body that had okayed the death sentence for Jesus for the alleged crime of blasphemy. Luke tells us that he had not consented to this: "The same had not consented to their counsel and doings" (Luke 23:50).

Nicodemus was also a secret disciple, a man named a "teacher in Israel" by Christ. As a member of the Sanhedrin he had taken flack from his colleagues for having dared to suggest that they give Jesus a fair hearing: "Nicodemus said to them (he that came to him by night, who was one of them): Doth our law judge any man, unless it first hear him and know what he doth? They answered and said to him: Art thou also a Galilean? Search the scriptures, and see that out of Galilee a prophet riseth not" (John 7:50-52).

Joseph and Nicodemus came forward after the death of Jesus to bury Him. We are surely correct in believing that not only Mary and John but also Peter and other disciples witnessed the burial.

The soldiers, professionals of this cruel job of execution, likely helped with taking down the cross and removing ChristÕs body from it. The nails, 7-9 inches long, were anchored firmly, and to remove them required some maneuvering. From the image of the Shroud we see that the arms of Jesus were then folded over the body. The burial had to be done quickly before the sunset signified the beginning of the Sabbath.

And taking him down, he wrapped him in fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre that was hewed in stone, wherein never yet any man had been laid. And it was the day of the Parasceve, and the sabbath drew on (John 19:53-54).

All that remained was to have what they assumed to be their last look at the body of Jesus. Mary had the faith to believe that the body was still united personally with the Son of God, and that this was not the last time she will see Him. Finally they rolled the huge stone into place to close the tomb. The Sabbath then intervened, a day of silence and reflection for all. Little did the disciples realize that Jesus had already descended into Limbo to release those waiting there, including our Adam and Eve. Dramatic events were to follow on Easter Morn at the tomb, events that changed the world then and brightens it with an Easter glow today.