The resurrection of Jesus – unimportant people
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. (Luke 23: 44 – 56)
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Jesus had been crucified, and hung dead on the cross. The women who came with him from Galilee were still there, watching. They intended to prepare Jesus’ body for burial in accordance with Jewish Law. They didn’t know what was going to happen to the body, but one thing they knew; if they weren’t there when the body was taken down it could finish up anywhere.
Where were the eleven disciples? Nowhere to be seen.
But Jesus had other disciples, even among members of the Jewish Council. Joseph of Arimathea was one of them. He was a man of substance, a man with access to Pilate. St Luke tells us this: Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. (Luke 23: 50 – 51)
All four gospels tell us that it was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Mark also tells us that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had already died; so surprised in fact that he summoned the centurion and asked if it were true, only releasing the body after hearing the centurion’s confirmation of death.
Joseph and (according to St John) Nicodemus (another member of the council who had sought teaching from Jesus, see John 3: 1 – 21), took down Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen and laid it in a new tomb cut in the rock. St Matthew tells us it had been prepared for Joseph himself. There is a minor discrepancy between St John’s gospel and the synoptic gospels, in that St John says that Joseph anointed Jesus’ body with myrrh and aloes as well as wrapping it in linen.
And who’s there watching the interment? Why, the women of course. All three of the synoptic gospels agree that some of the women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee were present. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were both there, and possibly others. They are our principal witnesses that Jesus was dead and laid in a tomb.
The chosen disciples have fled. They have despaired. Their faith has crumbled.
But Jesus can’t be abandoned even in death; that would be unthinkable! He must be buried with the proper observances. The women don’t know what will happen afterwards, but that doesn’t matter; they will do the right thing for him.
Once again it is the humble, those who are prepared to continue walking with God one step at a time, who are the means of great blessing to the world.
Thank you for all people who trust you and are obedient to your will. Thank you especially for the women who accompanied Jesus, and stayed with him after death, giving us a record of Jesus resurrection.
In Jesus’ name, Amen