142: The burial of Jesus
It was almost evening. The shadows cast by the crosses on Golgotha grew longer and longer. The sun was just above the horizon and cast a tender light on the bodies of the condemned men.
The lifeless body of Jesus hung on the cross, still and white. Next to Him two robbers still struggled with their pain.
The soldiers began to take down the bodies of the crucified men to burn them in a lonely place. The Jews had asked this of Pilate because the sabbath was approaching. The bodies could not be left hanging when the sun was down. Otherwise the land would be defiled and the sabbath violated.
Those rabbis were so pious! They knew the law so well! The sooner Jesus' body disappeared into ashes and smoke, the happier they would be. Then no one would think of Him again. Perhaps even they would be able to forget about Him.
The soldiers went about their horrible work without showing any emotion. They saw that the robbers were still alive, so they broke their legs with a heavy hammer to make them die faster.
Jesus' body was not struck as it hung on the cross, for the soldiers could see that He was already dead. One of them, still doubtful, stuck a spear into His side. Water and blood came out at once. Then they were sure He was dead, and they did not break His bones. An age-old prophecy of David was fulfilled, "No bone of His was broken."
While the soldiers were busy by the crosses in the reddish evening light, two prominent men came up the hill in a great hurry, followed by their servants. They were rabbis from Jerusalem. The two were even members of the Sanhedrin. But they had not joined the dignified circle of rabbis who condemned Jesus the night before. They had not joined because they loved Jesus in their hearts.
But they hadn't done anything to defend Jesus either. They were fearful disciples with little faith, and they had never dared to admit that they believed in Jesus. Day after day they had denied Him, for fear of the other Jews. Now, after Jesus' death, they showed their respect and their faith.
One of them, Joseph of Arimathea, had summoned all his courage to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. The governor sent for the captain, who told him that Jesus was already dead. The request was granted.
The other rabbi was Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus once during the night. He had heard some amazing, wonderful words: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life."
Now he had seen for himself what Jesus meant, for the Son of man had indeed been lifted up on a wooden cross. Nicodemus's faith now overcame his fear. Together with Joseph he came to Golgotha with precious spices, about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.
Carefully and reverently, the two wealthy, dignified rabbis took the torn body of Jesus down from the cross. They carried it to a garden not far from Golgotha. Mary of Magdala and some other women who had not yet been able to forsake their Master followed, weeping.
The garden belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. He had planned to be buried in that quiet garden. Therefore he had had a grave carved out for himself in the rock wall. He now gave up that grave for Jesus.
Together Joseph and Nicodemus anointed Jesus' body with sweet-scented, costly oil. They wrapped the body in pure linen and put a cloth over Jesus' face. They carried it into the cave and put it down on a bed of spices. That way it would not immediately be attacked by decay.