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Matthew 27:55-61: Joseph Begs Jesus’ Body

Posted by adventbiblestudy on September 22, 2012


Matthew 27:55-61 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. (56) Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (57) As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, (58) went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. (59) Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. (60) He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. (61) Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

 

Nicodemus could not wait to tell someone, anyone about his meeting with Jesus. But who? It seemed as if he was stuck in two worlds. As God’s new truth worked on his heart, Nicodemus began to realize he could not control his ambitions. He also began to see how the treachery was effecting his faith, other religious leaders and all of Israel. Nicodemus realized he could not trust anyone. On one hand he want to leave the Pharisees. On the other hand he thought he could use his position to help Jesus. Nicodemus began looking for anyone open to Jesus’ teaching. He prayed he could find someone to share his experience with.

 

Joseph was his best friend, maybe this was a good place to begin his search. But how? How was he going to find out if Joseph was interested in Jesus? Nicodemus once again prayed. His reputation, maybe his life depended on the next step.

 

After a meeting with the Pharisees, Nicodemus asked Joseph to walk with him. As with all the meetings over the past months, Jesus was the main topic. On the way home Nicodemus asked Joseph what he thought about Jesus. “I really don’t know. We hear the reports, he doesn’t seem to be the threat they make Him out to be. One cannot be certain until..” Joseph stopped short of answering the question. Sensing Joseph had more to add, Nicodemus asked, “cannot be certain of what?” He could tell Joseph was uncertain of what he wanted to say, so he gave him the time to compose his answer. Finally Joseph finished his answer. “Until I hear Him speak.” Nicodemus asked, “you never went to hear Him speak?” Joseph questioned Nicodemus. “Have you heard Him speak?” Nicodemus knew this was not the time to tell Joseph about his meeting with Joseph. He had to be certain of what Joseph thought about Jesus. Instead Nicodemus offered a suggestion. “The report said Jesus is near. Why don’t we take a little time and investigate the situation for ourselves?” Joseph agreed. In the morning they would set off together to find and hear Jesus teach for themselves.

 

After a filling breakfast and packing some fruit, nuts and bread for lunch, Nicodemus and Joseph headed towards the location Jesus was last reported. It didn’t take long before they met groups of people along the road. They quietly followed the group as they listened to the conversations about Jesus. They listened to stories of hope. How people hoped to meet Jesus so He could heal them or a loved one. They saw people helping others walk the path, some dragging stick on litters, or carrying the sick and injured. As they ascended a small hill they noticed those in front stopping for a moment, as Nicodemus and Joseph did to take in the scene. Hundreds gathered around Jesus. They scanned the hillside. People of all ages and classes traveled to see Jesus. They could see the reports on His following were not exaggerated. Only a few hours past dawn and hundreds already arrived. Choosing a comfortable location where they could sit and observe the entire scene they watched both the people and Jesus for a time.

 

Jesus healed every type of person. Beggars, prostitutes, tax collectors, so many common people the poor, and yes, Nicodemus and Joseph saw some they recognized approaching Jesus. One rich friend with a son who suffered from many ailments for years. Some claimed he was possessed by a demon. Watching Jesus work with the father and small boy made them wish they had chosen a closer location. Not wanting to miss anything, they started down the hill closer to Jesus.

 

Sitting in silence they watched Jesus heal for more than and hour. The He began to teach in parables. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:4-7)

 

Nicodemus and Joseph had a difficult time relating to this parable. Their only experience with sheep was watching them prepared for a sacrifice. They wondered why anyone would rejoice over a lost sheep that was found only to be sacrificed. They had no clue how a lost sheep could be compared to one lost sinner who repents and returns to God. They thought their efforts to turn people to God was all that needed to be done and they never saw anyone praising them.

 

Jesus continued with the next parable. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

 

When they heard this parable Nicodemus and Joseph thought they would have a better understanding. Money was something they understood. To loose a silver coin would have been a major concern, especially if someone only possessed ten. They could understand how diligent the woman must have searched for the lost coin. But calling all her friends when she finds it, why would she announce her funds to neighbors? Wouldn’t that be inviting temptation?

 

They listened to Jesus for hours, enjoying their lunch as they listened. Soon after midday the sun became too much for them and the two of them decided to head home. On the way Nicodemus and Joseph discussed one of the parables they heard. Nicodemus asked, “what did you think of the story about the lost coin?” “I can understand the woman’s concern over the coin but I have no idea how Jesus related it to a lost sinner,” Joseph replied. Nicodemus wanted to tell Joseph everything about his meeting with Jesus. He remembered it took weeks before he understood what Jesus meant by being born again. Without thinking about it, Nicodemus added, “I suppose it has a deeper meaning.” Joseph asked, “what do you mean, a deeper meaning?” Nicodemus had no other way of explaining it, so he answered Joseph with, “a spiritual meaning.” Joseph continued to question his friend. “What do you mean by a spiritual meaning?” Nicodemus thought about the answer for a while. He wanted to answer, but was not certain Joseph would understand. As he thought about the questions the only answer he could see was the same he was taught by the lesson of being born again. It was the only thing on his mind, so Nicodemus replied, “the coin is used as a symbol. It is a physical thing that points to a spiritual meaning.” “Like what?” Joseph asked. For some reason a Psalm popped into Nicodemus’ mind. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalms 12:6) “Your saying the lost coin represents God’s Word? Which one?”

 

They walked along in silence for a while as each thought about the dilemma. If anyone could figure it out they thought they would be the one to unravel the mystery. Finally Joseph cried out, “I have it! The coin represents God’s law.” Nicodemus asked, “how do you figure that? How are they associated?” Joseph answered, “easy, The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (Psalms 119:72) Without thinking Nicodemus questioned, “which one?” Without hesitation Joseph answered, “the first, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” They both had something to think about. On the surface the answer seemed obvious, but the Spirit was leading them to a deeper meaning. One could say the parable related to the heathen which never knew God, but the parable clearly stated both the coin and the sinner were lost and found. It must relate to someone who was once close to God, but was lost. They walked in silence as each applied the lesson to their own lives.

 

It didn’t take long before each man wondered what the other was thinking. Joseph asked, “do you think the two stories together teach a lesson?” Nicodemus was thinking further back than the two parables. He was looking at how the lesson Jesus taught him about being born again tied everything together. Nicodemus suddenly realized Joseph was open to Jesus’ preaching. He saw his answer to pray. Finally he had someone to share his story with.

 

“I never did tell you about the time I met with Jesus, did I?” Joseph stopped, turned and inquired, “you met Jesus?” Nicodemus replied, “yes!” Joseph continued to question, “alone?” “Yes?” What did you talk about?” Nicodemus’ eye lite up as he began to relate his story. “He told me all about the Spirit. How the Spirit is like the wind. You can see the effects of the Spirit, just like you can see the wind blow about leaves and branches, but you cannot see the wind. The Spirit works the same way. Jesus told me you need to be born again. Not a physical birth, but a spiritual one.” “How does that happen?” Joseph asked. Nicodemus continued to explain. “The Spirit changes you, gives you a new life. Since talking with Jesus I have been able to see the faults in the temple practices, especially the sacrificial system. We’re told all these changes to the law are for the best, to collect money so we can effectively battle outside influences. In reality most of the money is used to support our standard of living and all those working in and for the temple. I can’t help but see changes have to be made.”

 

After hearing about the Spirit and how He changes lives, Joseph began to piece the three together. “Your right, we do need changes to the temple services. I see points where we have drifted away from the laws given to Moses. I can see how the parable of the lamb was directed at us. It points straight to the sacrifice which is like a lost sheep. It wondered away from what God intended the sheep to be. He is trying to call us back to understand what the lessons the system originally taught. The Spirit wants us to relearn these lessons, to change the system.” Nicodemus added, “that is why Jesus added the story of the lost coin, so we would see the connection between the sacrificial system and God’s commandments. The sacrificial system was turned into a money making system for the priests and Pharisees. Not only money, but the entire system became a personal idol. This is going to require a total change.”

 

Joseph wanted to hear more from Jesus. The next day he purchased a whole new wardrobe of common, middle class clothing so he could come and go without being noticed. He measured the risk, composed a plan and listened to Jesus teach as often as he could. With every word Joseph heard, he could see how far the religious leaders strayed. As he listened to Jesus, he wondered if God had a plan to correct the errors and restore the temple services to what they once were.

 

As Joseph stood and watched Jesus dying on the cross, his hopes of seeing the temple service restored to its glory disappeared. His mind went over scriptures about the laws and services Moses handed down. He could see how the sacrificed lamb offered forgiveness for sins, not an obligation to God as the religious leaders taught. He wondered why a lamb was sacrificed for the congregation, but a bull was required for the priests and their families. Was God holding them to a higher standard? And if God was holding them to a higher standard, what was God thinking now, watching an innocent man die on the cross? What if Jesus is the Son of God as He claims? It was a thought Joseph could not wrap his mind around at the time. He could not imagine God sending His Son here to die. Not on a cross. Not at the hands of the Romans and surely not at the hands of the religious leaders. Joseph could not deny, Jesus explained scripture better than anyone. As he thought of the parables Jesus taught, he began to realize Jesus was talking about His own death. In the parable of the ungrateful tenants, the landlord sent his son, and they killed him.

 

As the sky darkened Joseph was alone with his thoughts. No one deserved to die like this. Especially not an innocent man. Certainly not Jesus. Greed and jealousy put Jesus on the cross. There was nothing Joseph could do about Jesus on the cross. He prayed the Spirit would guide him, show him a way to reach the other Pharisees and priests, so nothing like this would ever happen again.

 

When the sun reappeared the ground began to shake. Everyone on the hill fell to the ground. Joseph felt no fear. He looked around the hill. Soldiers, priests, Pharisees, Jesus’ followers, all were on the ground before the cross. Many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. This was the greatest miracle Joseph witnessed. He vowed to give Jesus a proper burial. After that; his mind went blank. At this moment he didn’t know what would happen after that. He knew his act of respect would cost him his position with the Pharisees, most likely his business and maybe his life. There comes a time in every mans life when he has to decide what type of man he will be, and walk the road no matter what the consequences.

 

After seeing Jesus die nothing seemed to matter to Joseph. He turned and started down the hill. Nicodemus asked him where he was going. “To beg Jesus’ body from Pilate.” He knew going to Pilate’s palace would render him unclean for the Passover, but it didn’t matter. Something told him that was only a tradition handed down by the religious leaders and not a commandment from God. He remembered Moses. They celebrated Passover in the wilderness and many of the people with him were Egyptians and people from all over the world. Without hesitation Nicodemus offered to escort Joseph to Pilate’s palace. “No need for you to go along, I have to do this myself. Evening is coming and so is the Sabbath. We have little time. You go, buy the spices and cloth for the burial and meet me back here,” Joseph commanded.

 

Joseph was surprised how quickly he was granted an audience with Pilate. He tried to come up with a plan, some type of story during his walk to the palace, but no words seemed adequate. He simply asked to see Pilate and the soldiers allowed him to pass unescorted. Joseph walked through the court, past the guards at the palace doors. Neither one of the guards questioned him. Joseph paid no attention to the stately pillars and lavish furnishing as he felt himself guided to Pilate. He finally found him sitting at a table with a number of his commanders. Joseph walked in and said, “Jesus has died and I am here to ask your permission to bury His body.” Pilate looked at him, recognizing Joseph as one of the Pharisees. This appeared as the opening Pilate had been waiting for to pass the responsibility back into the hands of the religious leaders. He sent a guard to confirm Jesus’ death and asked Joseph to wait outside while they waited for confirmation.

 

Joseph went outside the door. Leaning against the wall he left as if all the strength in his body had left him. He began to perspire, wishing he had something to drink. He suddenly remembered hearing Jesus say he provided the water of life. He also remembered when Jesus told the priests and Pharisees they must drink His blood and eat His body. He still didn’t understand what this meant, but thinking about it passed the time.

 

Soon the soldier returned confirming Jesus was dead. Pilate thought this was rather quick, wondering if the meeting he had with the priests minutes before Joseph arrived had anything to do with it. That didn’t seem to matter, Pilate issued an order to release Jesus’ body to him.

 

Joseph carried the written orders to the cross and delivered them to the guard. He noticed the other prisoners slouching on their crosses. Both legs had been broken. Joseph wondered if the act caused more sever pain or was an act of mercy. He looked at Jesus’ legs. Neither was touched. In all he witnessed today, there were little things he felt thankful for. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth.

 

Some of the other disciples helped Joseph and Nicodemus as the took Jesus off the cross. He recognized them from some of the meetings. He looked around and saw some of the other Pharisees watching him. It didn’t matter what they thought any more. He was tempted to comment to Nicodemus, but was certain he felt the same way. They carried Jesus down the hill and along the edge of town for a short distance. He placed Him in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching. With Sabbath approaching all they could do is wait to come back and finish the burial preparations.

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