Today’s reading: Mk 15:40-47
Today we read Mark’s account of the burial of Jesus. It’s a relatively short simple passage constructed to convey one main simple message – Jesus died and was really buried.
Mark makes several distinct points to establish the facts:
- Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. This established that a Jew and a respected member of the opposition to Jesus confirmed he was dead.
- Pilate summoned the centurion and confirmed Jesus was dead. This establishes that the pagans, the government of Judea and the known world confirmed he was dead. Further, it would have meant the death penalty to the centurion if he was wrong or lied to Pilate.
- Joseph bought a linen shroud. This shows that preparations were made in haste, consistent with the overall tone of the story. Joseph of Arimathea invested his own money in the burial process.
- Jesus was taken down from the cross. He didn’t get down on his own. He wasn’t taken down and his body given to the family later allowing for a possible switch. Those that knew him took custody of the body directly from the cross.
- Jesus was laid in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. He was taken directly to the tomb so time elapsed. He was dead when he came down, not sometime later.
- The tomb was closed with a large stone rolled against the entrance. Tombs were sealed with heavy stones to keep grave robbers out and odors in. One person alone could not have moved the stone. A human Jesus didn’t get up and walk out of the tomb it was sealed and a regular person could not have opened it.
- Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Other followers of Jesus were also witnesses to this. They saw that he was dead. Further, they know which tomb Jesus was laid to rest in, thus later when then return and find the tomb empty, it is not a mistake – they do not return to the wrong tomb.
If you’re an attorney, and this is an excellent closing argument. The facts are established from different perspectives with reference to people who have different motivations. Corroborating details are included that could be confirmed if necessary. Jesus really died and he was really buried.
While the passages main theme is to unequivocally establish the death and burial of Jesus like all scripture more can be gleaned from it. For example, Jesus’ burial in a tomb hewn into the rock is reminiscent of his birth in the manger which was also likely hewn into a rock face. Israel is a rocky place and animal mangers were generally cut into the rock with a wooden awning and fence completing the enclosure. The rock section would be cool during the day and warm at night. Thus Jesus began and ends his life sheltered in the rock.
Particularly interesting to me is the linen shroud. The linen cloth that is thought to be the shroud now hangs in a Church in Turin, Italy. Although it cannot be definitively proven that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial shroud of Jesus, I think that the evidence is sufficient to establish the likelihood that it is. If you are interested in learning more about it now check out www.shroud.com
Tomorrow: Mk 16