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©Clay Eldridge

Chapter 19:38-20:9 (ESV)

Posted on September 28, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 19:38-20:9 (ESV) - After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Question to consider: What do we know about Joseph of Arimathea?

In today’s passage, John let us know that two secret disciples stepped up and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. We already knew Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to Jesus in secret earlier in John’s gospel. Mark and Luke both mention that Joseph of Arimathea was also part of the council and was secretly against the crucifixion. Matthew added that Joseph was a wealthy man and had purchased the new tomb in which lay Jesus and treated His body with spices. Though they were secret disciples of Jesus, it was obvious that they were not anticipating the resurrection since they had come with seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes in order to wrap and treat His body. Someone wouldn’t treat the body this way if they were expecting Him to rise from the dead a couple of days later, and yet it was the custom practice of burial.

The first day of the week is Sunday, and Mary Magdalene came with the other women who were at the cross to make sure Jesus’ body was treated correctly for burial. From the other gospel accounts, we can gather that the tomb was guarded because rumors had been circulating about the possibility of resurrection, and they wanted to keep the disciples from stealing the body. These guards were scared to the point of fainting, and the women encountered angels saying that Jesus was not in the tomb. It’s apparent that Mary Magdalene assumed that these angels had something to do with taking the body of Jesus so she reported the information to Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. Earlier, I had suggested that maybe Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, or Lazarus could have helped John write the gospel account as an amanuensis, and may have been the unnamed disciple who let Peter into the courtyard of Annas during Jesus’ trial.

It would be hard to imagine that the disciple whom Jesus loved mentioned with Peter could be anyone other than the apostle John. He and Peter were fishing partners and best friends, and unlike the gentleman listed above, John was a teenager so it makes sense that he would be eager to race Peter to the tomb and point out several times that he got there first.

Both witnessed the empty tomb. If Jesus had indeed been stolen from the tomb and laid somewhere else, the scene would not have been as described. The description was one of order with the linen shroud being carefully folded. If someone had broken in and stolen the body, there would have been dead soldiers outside who would have guarded the tomb with their lives, and the place where Jesus’ body once lay would be in disorder since the thieves would have acted quickly to keep from being caught. Instead, the disciples went home confused as to what could have happened.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for providing an unmistakable description of the empty tomb and the witnesses given by the women, Peter and John. May we also believe the witness of the four evangelists and declare along with them, “Christ has risen! He had risen indeed!” Amen.