The Burial of Jesus — Overlooked but Very Significant — Mark 15:42-47

Everybody knows the attention given to the first born … and of course the baby of the family remains significant forever … it is the child or two in the middle that can sometimes be lost in the shuffle.  That’s how it is with significant events as well.  1 Cor. 15 makes it plain that the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection are all key components of the gospel message.  Yet how much prominence is given to the burial?

MacArthur: Those are two very, very significant marks in the life and ministry of Christ. There is one, however, in the middle of them, between the cross and the resurrection that is equally monumental, although it is usually overlooked. It is the burial of Jesus. Maybe you’ve never even thought about that. Maybe you’ve never even taken time to consider the significance of the burial of Christ. It had human elements, but was no less supernatural than what was happening at the cross, or the Resurrection. This is an amazing, supernatural, divinely orchestrated event. And I mean by that, the burial of Jesus Christ. You might even say that when He was dead in the body, He was alive in the Spirit and He basically coordinated His own funeral. He controlled every detail of His own burial.

The burial of Jesus is strong affirmation of His deity and His Messiahship, strong affirmation of the veracity of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the sovereignty of God and the purpose of history. All of that from the burial of Jesus.

Staging for the coming resurrection

All things are accomplished by the Sovereign hand of God in accordance with His providential plan


Same with the details of our lives as well



And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day,

that is, the day before the Sabbath,

Jesus died at 3 pm; was buried before sunset; probably around 4 pm when Joseph secured permission for the body

For the Jews … 2 evenings – first began a 3 pm – that is what is referenced here; the second began at 6 pm

Hiebert: Since no work was to be done on the Sabbath, the preceding day was customarily used to prepare all that would be needed during the Sabbath day.  The burial must be completed before the Sabbath began, for no Jew would think of doing it during that day.  A further motive was the law in Deut. 21:23 that the dead bodies should not remain hanging on a tree over night.  Only the fourth gospel recorded the steps the Jewish leaders took to assure the removal of the bodies before sundown  (Jn 19:31-37).

MacArthur: He’s being moved along by divine power. He’s moving at divine speed. It’s not just about an honorable burial for Christ. It’s about getting Him off the cross, in the grave, on Friday so that He’s there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because He promised that He would be three days in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12 verse 40, “The Son of Man will be three days, three nights and a day and a night is simply a Jewish way to refer to any part of a 24-hour period. He will be there for three days. That meant that Jesus had to buried before the Sabbath began at sundown.

Illustration: cf. timing of Uncle Mark’s death – we serve a precise God




A.  Courage Initiates

Joseph of Arimathea came,

from the city of Samuel; distinguishes him from others with that common name; he was now a resident of Jerusalem;

did not have to come and ask for the body of Jesus;

nobody was pushing him to come; he took the initiative on his own;

everyone else was fleeing and protecting themselves;

often courage stands alone –

  • look at story of David and Goliath – nobody else was willing to step forward and challenge the pagan champion who was openly mocking God and His people

Some of the lines from the famous Hymn:

Who is on the Lord’s side, who will serve the king?

Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?

Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe,

Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine

Hiebert: he now stepped forward to prevent the body of Jesus from being profaned by being thrown rudely into a common grave with the two criminals.  . . The action of Joseph is a remarkable instance of God’s ability to raise up the needed help from an unexpected source.

B.  (Luke 23:50) Courage Flows From Godly Character

a good and righteous man

C.  Courage Leverages Positional Advantages

a prominent member of the Council,

Matthew identifies part of his prominence consisted in him being a wealthy individual;

Also a member of the prestigious Sanhedrin

D.  (Luke 23:51) Courage Resists Peer Pressure

(he had not consented to their plan and action),

Either he was there and didn’t consent, or he was absent.

  • Maintains a good conscience
  • Takes a stand for what is right even when all others pressure you to cave
  • Person of principle and conviction and integrity

Yet Courage does not have to be perfect and complete – note the reference in John’s gospel that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus because of fear of the Jews – now he is coming out of the closet (Jn. 19:38)

E.  Courage Aligns Itself with God’s Kingdom Priorities

who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God;

  • Requires spiritual discernment
  • Requires patience and perseverance – not immediate gratification
  • Sees the Big Picture

F.  Courage Overcomes the Fear of Failure or of Danger or of Opposition

and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate,

not an easy thing for Joseph to attempt – had to gather up courage

Gk word = being bold enough to defy danger or opposition;

Phil. 1:14  “have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” – as they see how Paul faces imprisonment and their faith grows

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

— Meg CabotThe Princess Diaries

Mark Twain: Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.

William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar: “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”

G.  Courage Acts Boldly

and asked for the body of Jesus.

James teaches us that one main reason we don’t receive from God is because we fail to ask of God or we ask with wrong, selfish motives (James 4:2-3)



A.  (:44) Perplexed Pilate – How could Jesus be dead so soon?

And Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.

Sproul: It was not unusual for a crucified criminal to live for two or three days as he hung on the cross.  Death was ultimately the cumulative effect of blood loss, dehydration, exposure, and hunger.  Sometimes, to hasten the process, the Romans would break the legs of one they had crucified.  When the victim could no longer push his hanging body up in order to breathe more freely, death came quickly by asphyxiation.

Psalm 34:20  “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.”

Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 say, “The Passover Lamb cannot have a broken limb.”

B.  (:45a) Convinced Centurion – I saw it with my own eyes!

And ascertaining this from the centurion,”

Wayne Jackson: Additionally, it has been noted that for Pilate “to release the body of a condemned criminal — especially one condemned of high treason — to someone other than a relative was highly unusual” (Wessel, 8.785).

It was essential that the location of the tomb be readily known, in view of the fact that some, likely in their opposition to the doctrine of the resurrection, would protest that Christ had not been raised, but the location of his grave simply was unknown, or had been misidentified.

C.  (:45b) Body Bearer = Joseph – the Burial Detail

he granted the body to Joseph.”

Problem with many murder cases – difficult for the prosecution to prove without a body – you have to know the person is dead; you need evidence of the crime

This was no murder … but this was a confirmed death by crucifixion; the body was delivered over to Joseph

IV.  (:46) CAREFUL BURIAL – 5 Step Process


A.  Required Purchases

And Joseph bought a linen cloth,”   

On his way back to Golgotha, stopped to buy the necessary burial cloth

Spared no expense when it came to the necessary spices, etc.

B.  Custody of the Body

took Him down,

helped by Nicodemus – John 19

C.  Preparation for Burial

wrapped Him in the linen cloth,

D.  Entombment

and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock;

Is. 53:9 fulfillment

His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”

MacArthur: So how did that work? You put the body there on a shelf. A tomb hewn out of rock might have a number of shelves. Put the body on the shelf. When it decomposes down to the bones, you collect the bones, put them in a box called an ossuary, take the box somewhere else. Put that…and put the next person who dies on the same shelf. That’s how they did it.

E.  Closure

            and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.



A.  Faithful Women

  1. Mary Magdalene

And Mary Magdalene

look at how they persevere in their devotion to Jesus

  1. Mary the mother of Joses

and Mary the mother of Joses

B.  Focused Interest

were looking on to see where He was laid.

There would be no mistake as to which tomb contained the body of Jesus


Application for Communion: Romans 6:1-7