Today, as we wait in puzzled grief, we also remember that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus body and laid it in his own new tomb. This little vignette in the gospels is a store of riches.
One thought is that Joseph would have laid Jesus body in the tomb with a plan for the body in his mind. Customarily, bodies were placed on a rock-shelf in the tomb and left there to decompose. Once a body was decomposed, the bones were placed in a bone-box in the tomb, together with the bones of deceased relatives. The shelf was then empty, ready to receive the body of the next person in the family who should die. So, Joseph had plans for Jesus’ body. But, Joseph was never able to complete these good plans . . .
Another thought, Joseph laid Jesus in the tomb that he had prepared for himself and for his household. In doing so, Joseph was enfolding and honouring Jesus as his kindred—which is exactly what Jesus had done for Joseph in calling Joseph to be a follower.
A final thought is that Joseph of Arimathea was a “rich man” (Matt 27:57). In first century Palestine, the ‘rich’ were viewed with suspicion, thought to be greedy and sinful and taking from others for their own benefit (cf. Mark 10:22, 25). Yet, Joseph was also a “disciple of Jesus” (Matt 27:57). Here in the moment of Jesus’ burial we see, yet again, how Jesus loved those who were considered evil in the eyes of the society, in this case, a man who had been selfish and greedy.
Tonight, we know that as we sleep—but many years ago—, shortly before dawn, the Holy Spirit entered this tomb in power, and with a life-giving jolt, . . . but no more may be said on this until tomorrow.