Mark 15:42

I. PROVIDED FOR BY GOD. There are several striking proofs of providential arrangement in the burying of the Savior. He never stipulated as to where or how he should be buried; his mind was too much occupied as to how he should die. Yet were great things to turn upon the manner, the time, and the place of his burial. He whose angels hid the grave of Moses, was equally careful to make known the place where his Son lay. The sepulcher was new, and in the midst of a garden, therefore isolated from other graves. The identity of the risen One is thus secured against all possibility of mistake. In inspiring the agents through whom the burial was effected, God fulfilled his own eternal appointment. The death, hastened by the unusual delicacy of the Sufferer, and the intervention of the sabbath, secured on the one hand that "not a bone should be broken," and, on the other, that he should be buried on the day before the sabbath, his rest in the grave coinciding with the sabbatic rest of the Creator, fulfilling the week, so to speak, of the old economy, and ending with the beginning of the first day of the next week, thus ushering in a new economy, a new creation. The garden-tomb of Joseph a fit resting-place for him who was to be the Firstfruits of the resurrection. If the cross was shameful, the tomb was honorable. "They had appointed him a grave with the despised; and among the honored (did he obtain it) in his death" (Isaiah 53:9, Lange's translation).

II. VOLUNTARILY EFFECTED BY MEN.

1. A Victory of faith. A "councillor of honorable estate" is moved by an inward impulse to make this his own special concern. The tragic circumstances of the last few hours had touched his heart and kindled his enthusiasm; and he and his friend Nicodemus - "the same who came to Jesus by night" - casting off all secrecy or fear of man, vied with one another in paying the last tribute of respect to the illustrious Dead. His simple request was an act of faith; the boldness which rendered it so effectual was a victory of faith. Already the power of the cross was being felt. The centurion, the governor, Joseph, and Nicodemus alike confess to its influence.

2. A tribute of love. How careful are the two in their preparations! The linen cloth and the spices are the offering of affection, which follows its object even to the tomb. As in Mary's spikenard, the question of expense is put wholly out of sight. The richest and best that they may offer are brought forth for the occasion.

3. In token of undying hope. The spices arrested the process of corruption, and witnessed to the expectation of the resurrection. - M.







Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor.
The record of spiritual progress through many years is given here. Long looking for the promised Saviour, almost convinced that Jesus is the Christ, yet for a while doubting so great a consolation, we find him at last settling in the great belief that He was the promised Saviour. With the timidity natural to a rich man and a ruler, he waits to be still more fully assured before openly committing himself to a discipleship which will involve him in persecution of the sternest kind. He, therefore, opposes in the Sanhedrin the persecution of Christ, but does nothing more. But the constraining power of the cross makes him abandon his policy of secrecy. It is not a time to shrink from shame or danger when Jesus hangs upon the cross.

1. Give men time to grow. "First the blade," etc.

2. Secrecy invariably kills discipleship, or discipleship secrecy. Here the latter happier result is seen; but beware of concealing God's righteousness in your heart.

3. The rulers had thought to rob Christ of His followers among the people; but all they really do is to give Him additional followers (Nicodemus, as well as Joseph) among themselves.

4. There is always "a remnant" that remains faithful to God. Even in the Sanhedrin there are some that believe.

5. In no circumstances is goodness an impossibility.

(R. Glover.)

This man becomes prominent on the momentous day of Calvary, but till then unknown. He belongs to a class who appear for a moment on the stage of the history, to teach some great lesson or to perform some special service, and then disappear. All we know of him is that he was of Arimathaea (the site of which is not certainly known), a man of wealth, a member of the Jewish Council, a good man and a just, who waited for the kingdom of God, and a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, through fear of the Jews; that his fear gave place to courage in that day of Christ's greatest humiliation, when he avowed himself His disciple, and boldly craved the body of the crucified Jesus; and that he had the high honour of laying it in his own new tomb, hewn in a rock, near the city. In his story we see how —

I. Faith is sometimes found in unexpected quarters.

II. Faith, hitherto weak, by God's grace may spring into strength to meet and surmount greatest difficulties.

III. Instruments are forthcoming at the right moment to fulfil God's purposes, when to man it would seem impossible.

(T. M. Macdonald, M. A.)

Secret discipleship like that of Joseph is truly excellent, inasmuch as times and opportunities will occur for it to render essential service to truth and virtue; but open discipleship is infinitely preferable, inasmuch as in season and out of season its example and action are continuously and powerfully influencing for good, more or less, all who come into contact with it.

(Dr. Davies.)

A special interest attaches to his name for Englishmen from his supposed connection with this country. He is one of the few Scriptural names that are associated with the early legends of British history. He shares the distinction with Pudens, Claudia, and St. Paul. Tradition says that he was sent by St. Philip as a missionary to this island, and that, settling at Glastonbury, he erected the first Christian Church in Britain, made of wicker twigs, on the site where the noblest abbey was subsequently built. His pilgrim's staff, which he drove into the ground, is said to have taken root and grown into an umbrageous thorn to protect him from the heat. We smile, perhaps, at the legend, but it was only the romantic dress in which an imaginative age clothed an important truth. It tells how, from a small and unpretending enterprise, the founder, whoever he may have been, was able to raise up a vast monastery, within the walls of which he took refuge himself, and offered means of shelter to others from the bustle and turmoil of the world.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

The Sanhedrin of Jerusalem consisted of seventy members, of whom twenty-four were the heads of the priesthood, twenty-four were heads of the tribes of Israel, and twenty-two were scribes learned in the law. Joseph was, no doubt, one of the noble representatives of the people, and, as such, shared in the functions of government, and was conversant with those sacred Scriptures which formed the basis of the Jewish Commonwealth. Arimathaea is thought to have been situated on the fertile plain of Sharon, where, probably, Joseph's property lay. He also possessed an estate in Jerusalem — possibly a house in the city — certainly a garden in the outskirts. Josephus tells us that the Holy City was in those times thickly surrounded by groves and gardens; shady retreats in the heat from the crowded streets of the metropolis. Captain Conder, and some of the leading topographical experts, are of opinion that recent research has fixed on the probable site of Calvary, and of Joseph's garden near at hand, some short distance outside the city, where an elevation of the ground, in the form of a skull, abuts upon an old Roman road; and near at hand, till lately buried under the accumulated soil, a sepulchre in the adjacent rock has been discovered, which, it is thought, may have been the very tomb happily concealed for so many ages from the corrupt worshippers and crusaders, who have lavished their regard upon a mistaken site inside the walls. Be this as it may, we know that Jesus died "outside the camp," and from St. John that "in the place where Jesus was crucified was a garden," and that "the sepulchre was nigh at hand" to Calvary. A place of public execution, and a garden nigh at hand, were both more probably situated outside the city wall, and abutting on some roadway, rather than within the immediate precincts of Zion. Here, then, under the shade and concealment of trees and umbrageous shrubs, we may think of this honourable counsellor as refreshing his spirit in peaceful meditations, by day and night, when his public duties permitted of repose. One's thoughts picture this good man sitting under the shadow of some terebinth or sycamore, in full view of the holy temple rising in the distance, and reading the prophet Isaiah, very likely reading sometimes the fifty-third chapter, and asking himself — "Of whom speaketh the prophet, of himself, or of some other man?" How little he imagined, as he sat there, poring over the sacred scroll, that he himself was denoted on that wondrous page as the "rich man" who should furnish a "sepulchre" to the crucified Messiah; much less did he imagine, as he paced along his favourite shady pathway, in the morning or the evening light, and stood before the door of his tomb, that that garden of his was destined to be most holy ground, the scene of an event on which the justification, redemption, and immortal life of mankind depended.

(Ed. White.)

I have been told that the bells in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, never toll save when the king or some member of the royal family dies. The thunders in the dome of heaven never tolled so dolefully as when they rang out to the world the news, "King Jesus is dead!" When a king dies, the whole land is put in black: they shroud the pillars; they put the people in procession; they march to a doleful drum beat. What shall we do now that our King is dead? Put blackness on the gates of the morning. Let the cathedral organs wail. Let the winds sob. Let all the generations of men fall in line, and beat a funeral march of woe! woe! woe! as we go to the grave of our dead King. In Philadelphia they have a habit, after the coffin is deposited in the grave, of the friends going formally up and standing at the brink of the grave and looking in. So, I take you all tonight to look into the grave of our dead King. The lines of care are gone out of his face. The wounds have stopped bleeding. Just lift up that lacerated hand. Lift it up, and then lay it down softly over that awful gash in the left side. He is dead! He is dead!

(Dr. Talmage.)

The power of religious character in men of high station. — The humblest Christian life has an irresistible influence for good in some measure and in certain directions. A man need not be nobly born, or distinguished for talent and wealth, in order to do brave work for God. And yet it remains true that those who are held in high esteem among men have an exceptional influence, and so are weighted with an exceptional responsibility. It is probable that no other of the disciples could have accomplished what Joseph affected. Mary Magdalene would have been turned away from the door of Pilate's palace; Peter and John would have been answered with a curt rebuff, even if they had gained a scant hearing from the Roman governor. But Joseph's social standing was such that he could not be dismissed with a sneer and a frown. He matched his station against that of Pilate, and so received courteous treatment, and had his request granted. Constituted as human society is, how often this incident has been repeated in history. Constantine embraced Christianity, and all the idolatry of the empire shrank in sudden collapse. President Garfield confessed Christ in creed and life, and the nation kindled with a new reverence for the faith of the gospel. His dying bed was a pulpit that preached more emphatically than all the other pulpits of the land. Men in authority, civic or social, by reason of their opportunities, owe more to God than the great multitude. Their service need not be ostentatious. Rulers and statesmen and scholars need not flaunt their piety in the eyes of men, but if it is genuine and earnest it can make channels of influence for itself, as the streams from the mountain tops cleave their way to the sea by simple momentum, through intervening ridges and barriers of rock, beautifying all the leagues through which they flow. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities. It is well for men in high places when they recognize the fact and accept the burden.

(E. S. Atwood.)

A great deal of talent is lost in the world for the want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves a number of obscure men, who have only remained in obscurity because their timidity has prevented them from making a first effort; and who, if they could have been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great lengths in the career of fame. The fact is, that to do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can. It will not do to be perpetually calculating risks and adjusting nice chances; it did very well before the flood, when a man could consult his friends upon an intended publication for a hundred and fifty years, and then live to see its success afterwards; but at present a man waits and doubts, and consults his brother and his particular friends, till one fine day he finds that he is sixty years of age; that he has lost so much time in consulting his first cousins and particular friends that he has no more time to follow their advice.

(Sydney Smith.)

Some natures need powerful incentives to draw out their better traits and nobler qualities. Close to Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, is a bell buoy marking a concealed rock. This bell rings only in the storm. It is only when the wind is high and the billows roll and beat against it that it gives forth the music that is in it.

You are invited —

1. To witness the crucifixion of Christ.

2. To attend the burial of Christ; and —

3. To watch at His grave.

I. YOU ARE INVITED TO WITNESS THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST. "It was the third hour of the day, and they crucified Him." Here you will naturally mark —

1. The instrument of His torture. It was a cross — a cross composed of two pieces of timber; one a transverse beam, and the other a perpendicular one, the foot of which was inserted into the ground; and then the sufferer was nailed to that cross, and suspended in bleeding anguish, till life became extinct. It was not only a most ignominious, but it was a most agonizing death; and not only was it agonizing, but it was lingering. You will naturally think of the place of His crucifixion. "They led Him to a place called Golgotha," which signifies, the place of skulls. There it was that malefactors were executed. In that gloomy, melancholy, horrifying spot, did the Saviour pay the forfeiture of our guilt. You will naturally revert, not only to the instrument of His torture, and the place of His suffering, but to the time of His crucifixion. It was a very remarkable season; at the particular moment when the Jewish Passover was held, and when, consequently, there was a vast concourse of persons gathered, both Jews and proselytes from among the Gentiles, in order to keep this annual feast. This was remarkable, both with respect to the typical relation of Christ's death, and with respect to the open publicity or popularity of His death. You will not only think of the instrument, and the time, and the place, of His crucifixion, bet you will think of the aggravations of it. In His agonies He met with mockery, insult, and derision. He was exposed to the rude treatment of the soldiers, and had the mortification of beholding their avaricious contention among themselves, when they "parted His raiment, and for His vesture they did cast lots." There are those who care little for Christ, beyond His robes and His vesture. If they can enrich themselves with the smallest perquisite from His wardrobe, this is all that concerns them, and all that they are disposed to contend about. But that which seems to have constituted the greatest aggravation of His crucifixion, was this — the withdrawment of the light, and sensible consolation, derived from the presence of His Divine Father. You will not only notice the instrument, and the place, and the time, and the aggravations, of His crucifixion, but you will advert to those supernatural portents which accompanied this transaction, and which proved it to be decidedly extraordinary, and of what we may call a miraculous character: for you will remember that while He was suspended on the cross, darkness extended itself over the whole land. He was crucified.

II. WE ARE FURTHER INVITED, THIS MORNING, TO ATTEND HIS BURIAL. This demonstrates, in the first place, the truth and indubitable certainty of His death. All this was not an imaginary scene; it was no fantastic illusion. He really suffered, and He really died. The character of His death deserves our particular notice. He died not an ordinary or common death, but He died as a public person; and His death was of a threefold character.

1. It may be considered as a satisfaction for sin.

2. As a glorious triumph.

3. As an edifying example.

III. AND NOW, MY DEAR HEARERS, FOR A SHORT SEASON, YOU ARE INVITED TO WATCH AT HIS GRAVE. "Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

1. It was a new tomb — it had never been previously occupied. By which, I think God intended, in His Providence, to put especial honour upon the mangled remains of His Son; "that in all things, He might have the preeminence" — that precedence might be given to Him, even in the lowest depths of His humiliation.

2. It was the tomb which Joseph of Arimathaea had prepared as his own resting place. How willingly should men sacrifice everything for Christ; the honour of an honourable interment, not excepted. Then, it was well for Joseph of Arimathaea, that Christ, by condescending to occupy his grave, seasoned it and perfumed it, and left there a lasting fragrance.

3. It was a tomb singularly guarded and fortified. I have only to add, once more, that it was in a garden. It was in a garden that man lost his innocency; in a garden that Adam sinned; and therefore in a garden Christ was buried, that He might expiate the guilt of sin, and take away the sting of death. Now, brethren, in retiring from the crucifixion, from the burial, and from the grave, of Jesus, we must first observe the vehement displeasure and indignation of God against sin. Secondly, in departing, let us bitterly bewail those sorrows which we have been instrumental in inflicting upon the immaculate Redeemer. Thirdly, let us accept the oblation and sacrifice of the Son of God. In the fourth place, how little reason have we to fear death. If we are united to Christ, "death is ours" — "to die, is gain." Lastly, how reasonable it is that we should give our lives to Him, who has encountered death in all its bitterness for us.

(G. Clayton, M. A.)

No mention is on record concerning the final disposal of Jesus' crucified body, except the somewhat bare statement that a stranger asked the privilege of laying it in his family tomb.

I. THE FRIEND IN NEED. It was a settled principle of the Mosaic law, that, if a man had been executed for a capital crime, his body should not be suffered to remain unburied even over a night; for he that was hanged was accursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23). This seems to have been borne in mind by the chief priests when they suggested that Jesus' legs should be broken in order that he might not be dilatory in dying (John 19:31). And after He was dead the same recollection led a new man — a stranger from one of the towns in Ephraim, but having a residence in Jerusalem — to the carrying out of a much more generous purpose. On Friday evening he went to the governor, and gained permission for the interment of the body.

1. Who was Joseph of Arimathaea? Mark tells us he was a councillor who like old Simeon had "waited for the kingdom of God" (Mark 15:43). John says he was a true disciple of Jesus, only he had hitherto been afraid to confess Him openly (John 19:38). Matthew adds that he was a "rich man" (Matthew 27:57). And Luke informs us that in character he was a good man and a just, and that although he was a member of the Sanhedrin, he had refused to vote for Christ's condemnation (Luke 23:50, 51).

2. What was his special usefulness?(1) He furnished generous help. Just then there was a supreme need in the circle of Jesus' friends. Crisis periods in the providence of God, occurring now and then, cause even commonplace services to become intensely important. Who else would have buried Jesus, when all the disciples had forsaken him and fled?(2) He fulfilled an embarrassing prophecy. It had been declared many hundred years before that the Messiah should make His grave with the rich in His death (Isaiah 53:9). There surely was no wealth within reach for those faithful women who were exhausting their resources on the costly spices they purchased for the embalming. Joseph was raised up for this grand office. Noble opportunity always discloses the needed man.(3) He obtained a valuable argument. In the endless debate about Christ's resurrection from the dead, it has pleased some reckless disputants to assert that the reason why Jesus was found alive on Sunday morning, was because he had never been actually dead after all. Joseph's request for the body surprised Pilate, for he did not suppose that the man he had crucified would have died so soon; hence he instantly took measures to ascertain from the military officer who had conducted the execution the facts in the case. Satisfied on this point, he gave his consent at once (Mark 15:44, 45). Thus Joseph's consideration and courage added another unanswerable testimony to the truth for the Church's use.

II. THE NEW SEPULCHRE. Our next question arises most naturally concerning the exact place where our Lord Jesus was laid. Joseph did not find it necessary to consult anyone as to the disposal of the body his bold petition had gained. He seems to have had his own way about everything.

1. What tradition has to say concerning the locality is easily stated; but it will bring no satisfaction. There stands in Jerusalem to this day what is called the "Church of the Holy Sepulchre;" a dirty, rambling, old structure, which the resident priests of many faiths assert was raised upon the precise field of the crucifixion, and now covers the whole area of Golgotha. The tomb of Jesus is represented by an imposing mausoleum in the midst of it; and beside it, and around it, is almost everything else under that extensive roof which the imagination could wish or the purse could pay for. Calvary is a domed room upstairs and in the air. A knob in the floor marks the exact "centre of the earth." Underneath this is Adam's grave, and the tomb of Melchizedek is close by. One can have almost any historic site within this absurd enclosure, at a proper price and with fit notice. It is evident at once, when a man in simplest of candour sets his eyes upon this place with its surroundings, that such an edifice, with its populous shrines, could never by any possibility have been situated beyond the city wall, "without the gate," and yet have left room for Jerusalem to exist on its sacred hills.

2. The Scriptures do not pretend to give any aid in locating the tomb of Jesus. Matthew says Joseph laid the body in a sepulchre which was "his own," and which was "new" (Matthew 27:60). Mark relates that this burial ground was hewn out of the rock (Mark 15:46). Luke adds that it had never been used for an interment before (Luke 23:53). John furnishes all the hints of help we have, when he states that it was in a "garden," and the garden was "in the place where Jesus was crucified" (John 19:41,42). Some of the best scholars on both sides of the ocean are coming to believe that the spot which best answers all the requisitions of the inspired narrative, is to be found in the neighbourhood of the northern wall of Jerusalem, close by what is called the Damascus Gate; and that to the rounded knoll, of slight elevation, but resembling a skull in general shape so strikingly as to arrest the attention of every beholder, — the knoll, which arches over what is known as the "Cave of Jeremiah," — was once given the name of Calvary.

3. The decision, even if it could be made, however, might prove far from valuable now. When we remember the follies of devoteeism, and the offensive wrestle of the Eastern national churches over so-called holy shrines for many a century, we may perhaps be willing to think it is better that the exact locality of Jesus' burial should never be known, and Golgotha remain unmarked on the map.

III. THE FEW MOURNERS. To most of us it appears passing strange that not one of the disciples is recorded as having been present at the burial of Jesus. John tells us that Nicodemus, that other wealthy ruler of the Jews who once came for an interview with Our Lord in the night, was associated with Joseph in these kind offices of affection (John 19:39). Mark mentions the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene by name (Mark 15:47). This is confirmed by Matthew (Matthew 27:61). Luke, by a singular form of expression, seems to refer us to another verse in his own gospel (Luke 23:55). These "women also which came with him from Galilee" are named once before (Luke 8:2, 3). And Mark likewise identifies them for us by the same expression; those who "ministered unto Him when He was in Galilee" were "looking on afar off" during the crucifixion (Mark 15:40, 41). Thus, as we compare the narratives of the different Evangelists, do what we will, we cannot find that more than these seven or eight persons — two men and five or six women — assisted in this last service.

1. As to the men — Joseph and Nicodemus — it is suggestive to remark that they resembled each other in public position; they were both senators in the grand council of the nation. Moreover, they had both been timid and backward all along, till this great crisis in affairs brought them out. They periled fame and fortune now in uniting themselves to the cause of Christ, when the look of it on the human side was most melancholy and desperate.

2. As to the women — Mary the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; Joanna; Susanna: Mary the mother of James; and Salome, — some few particulars may profitably be noted.(1) How tender was their spirit! For of course we reckon them in that pathetic group of the "daughters of Jerusalem," to whom, as they wept, Jesus had spoken on His way to the cross (Luke 23:27, 28). Some of them had stood patiently at His feet all through the dark time when He was dying (John 19:25).(2) How grateful were their memories! It was impossible for Mary of Magdala to forget the favour she had received. Each of them all must have recalled some good deed Jesus had done, or some kind word He had spoken.(3) How lavish were their offerings! They had been in the habit of ministering to Him "with their substance" while in Galilee; and even now, on that melancholy Friday evening, they were at much expense preparing unguents and "sweet spices" with which to anoint His body (Luke 23:56). So we conclude as before, that these devout and honourable women have a right to have the grand memorial that remains of them. Wherever the Bible goes, will go the story of that gentle group of Christian friends around Jesus' grave in the garden.

IV. THE SILENT TOMB. Our study closes today with the vision of that impressive scene still resting upon our imagination. A few reflections arise as we remain sitting among the shadows by the sepulchre.

1. Things are not what they seem. What contrasts are here of the mean with the majestic! A poor crucified body lies in a borrowed tomb. A slender company of friends are in waiting. A band of drowsy soldiers are stationed before the sealed door (Matthew 27:66). But within the enclosure, unseen as yet, there are already two angels from heaven, one at the feet, one at the head, reverently keeping watch (John 20:12). And the supreme God is looking down providently; for He is not going to suffer His Holy One to see corruption (Acts 2:31).

2. Redemption is not yet fully completed. We ask curiously, Where was our Saviour's soul during those three days? The Apostles' Creed assumes to answer "He descended into hell;" thus it follows David's Psalm (Psalms 16:10). But it cannot mean what it appears to say. Simon Peter (1 Peter 3:19) speaks about His preaching to "spirits in prison;" but commentators differ sharply concerning the interpretation his words will bear. We do not know: this mystery lies concealed in the infinite reserve of God.

3. Our only glory is in the cross (Galatians 6:14). We have nothing to glory over in the burial. It seems sad and lonely: but the resurrection was coming.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Some topics of interest present themselves for our consideration, on a view of the conduct of Joseph and Nicodemus; such as the fact of their discipleship; the secrecy of it; the noble avowal of it on occasion of our Lord's deepest humiliation; and the bearing of this On the evidence of His Divine mission, and of His resurrection from the dead. In the fact that our Lord was buried by Joseph and Nicodemus, and in the grave of the former, we have the accomplishment of an important prediction respecting the Messiah, while, at the same time, it served to render the fact of His resurrection undeniable.

I. We notice THE FACT THAT JOSEPH AND NICODEMUS WERE THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS; and the first thing which strikes us in connection with the fact of their discipleship, is their position in society. They were distinguished at once by their wealth, and by their rank and influence. "Not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble, are called;" and, while our Lord was yet on earth, His enemies asked, with an air of triumph, "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on Him?" And it is certain that He had but few disciples amongst the respectabilities of His day. But yet He had some, and Joseph and Nicodemus were of them. This fact also suggests a very cheering reflection, that true piety may sometimes be found where we least expect to meet with it. Joseph and Nicodemus were the disciples of Jesus. This expression cannot signify less, in ray opinion, than this, that they believed His Messiahship; they believed, not only that He was a just man and a prophet, but that He was the Christ — the long-promised and earnestly-expected deliverer of Israel. The professed disciples of Jesus avowed this as their belief, and were understood to avow it. But as Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples secretly, they did not avow it, but they inwardly cherished it; in their hearts they believed that Jesus was the Christ. They, too, had found the Messiah, but in how strange an environment! How different the reality from all the expectations which they had formed of Him! "Blessed are our eyes, for they have seen the Lord's Anointed; blessed are our ears, for they have heard Messiah's voice." They were the disciples of Jesus. This suggest, another reflection: how great the diversity of opinion which obtained amongst the Jews respecting the character and claims of the Redeemer! We find amongst then all shades of opinion respecting Him, from the most exalted conceptions of His dignity, and the most profound veneration for His worth, down to the most profane and impious ideas of His character. And yet, believe me, the truth you will never receive unless you are yourself true. They were the disciples of Jesus. How or when Joseph was convinced of the Messiahship of Jesus we are not informed; but an interesting narrative, in the early part of St. John's Gospel, acquaints us with the introduction of Nicodemus to our Lord, and informs us of the subject of their conversation. It appears that, from that time, Nicodemus was inwardly persuaded that Jesus was the Christ. And as the miracles of Jesus convinced him that He was a prophet, so His wisdom and knowledge convinced him that He was the Messiah. From that night he appears to have been the sincere, though secret disciple of Jesus.

II. And this leads us to our next topic, THE SECRECY OF THEIR DISCIPLESHIP. They were the disciples of Jesus sincerely, but secretly; they were inwardly persuaded of His Divine mission, and of His Messiahship, but they kept their convictions and feelings to themselves. How far did they proceed in the concealment of their attachment to Jesus? We are mistaken if we imagine that they were guilty of positive duplicity, or that they used any art to conceal their real sentiments. But why did they hesitate to avow their conviction? They were evidently amiable, and perhaps, also, they were timid men. The amiable are often timid, though not always, or necessarily so, by any means. The amiable, but, at the same time, thoroughly principled and devout man, is not unlike the verdant slopes in the midst of rugged rocks, which you sometimes see beside our broad rivers, where all seems so soft, so gentle, and so green, and presents an air of so much tranquility and repose, that the eye delights to rest upon it, and the mind is soothed and refreshed by its sweet influence; but around and underneath that softness and gentleness, there is a solid rock, on which the fiercest storms may beat in vain. The Jews had resolved that whosoever confessed that Jesus was the Christ should be "cast out of the synagogue" — should be excommunicated. This was a terrible evil, amounting, in its severest form, to nothing less than civil death; and Joseph and Nicodemus had much to lose. We are mistaken if we suppose that the rich and powerful can more easily avow their convictions, especially in times of danger, than the poor and destitute. The more men have to lose, the greater in general is their reluctance to part with it. Under these circumstances, Joseph and Nicodemus, while in reality yielding to the fear of man, perhaps thought, that in not avowing their belief of the Messiahship of Jesus, they were but acting with justifiable prudence and caution. This is one way in which we often deceive ourselves. We would fain be persuaded that we are exercising a moral virtue, that we are even wiser than other men, when, in truth, we are yielding to temptation, and falling into a snare. The language of Scripture would lead us to regard the situation of these men as one of great peril. It is the duty of all who receive the righteousness of God to make it known. In making man the depository of His richest treasure, Divine truth, it is God's gracious design, not that it should be concealed, but communicated. To hide the truth that is in us, is, therefore, unfaithfulness to God and man; and this, surely, is a state of guilt and of danger.

III. We proceed to notice the NOBLE AVOWAL of their real sentiments and feelings, which Joseph and Nicodemus made on the occasion of our Lord's death. How strange that these men who begged the body of Jesus, and who united in showing the utmost respect to His lifeless remains, did not rise up, some hours before, to demand, or, at least, to solicit, His acquittal! While the trial proceeds, no voice is heard on His behalf; He must be condemned — He must die. But no sooner is He condemned than tones of the bitterest woe are heard in the temple: it is Judas, exclaiming, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood!" As He is led away to be crucified amidst the tramp and confused noise of myriads moving in one mass through the streets of Jerusalem, you distinctly hear the sighs and cries of those who bewailed and lamented Him. While He is hanging on the cross, the penitent malefactor testifies to His innocence, His power, and His grace. When He is dying, all nature sympathizes with Him; Gentile soldiers smite on their breasts, and exclaim, "This was the Son of God." And no sooner has He expired, than the flame of love, which had been long pent up, blazes in the hearts of these noble counsellors, and a spirit of holy courage animates them, and they beg the body of Jesus; and they bury Him with the profoundest respect, with their own hands performing the funeral rites. The conduct of these noblemen appears remarkable when contrasted with that of the apostles. They all forsook Him when He was apprehended; and afterwards, they seemed, for the most part, ashamed to show themselves openly. Their conduct is still the more remarkable when taken in connection with their own previous history. When Jesus was alive and at liberty, when all confessed His power, and the world went after Him, their attachment to Him was a secret; but now that He is publicly condemned and crucified, and His chosen disciples have deserted Him, they come forward and beg His body, and honour His sacred remains. How strangely men change! Often do they change with circumstances; sometimes they change even against them. With what feelings did they bury Him? With what faith? Did they still believe that He was the Messiah?

IV. We must just advert to the BEARING OF THIS FACT ON THE EVIDENCE OF OUR LORD'S DIVINE MISSION AND OF THE TRUTH OF HIS RESURRECTION. The fact that our Lord was buried by these noblemen in the grave of Joseph of Arimathaea, affords one more evidence of His Divine mission: it was necessary to complete the proof of His Messiahship; for thus was fulfilled a very remarkable prophecy concerning Him: "His grave was appointed with the wicked; but with the rich man was His tomb" (Isaiah 53:9. [Lowth's translation]). But this fact has also an important bearing on the resurrection of our Lord: it has served to render it undeniable. If Jesus had been buried with the malefactors with whom He suffered, in some common grave, His resurrection might have been very doubtful; an air of uncertainty might always have attached to it. But the circumstances of His burial wore so ordered that there could be no possibility of a mistake touching His resurrection; that if He were not risen there could be no doubt about it, and that, if He were risen, the fact must be unquestionable.

(J. J. Davies.)

The Pulpit.
A counsellor is a man who studies the law, to qualify himself for defending the life, property, or reputation of his client. To become an honourable counsellor, a man must be —

1. Perfectly satisfied that the basis of the law is justice; and —

2. He must be irrevocably determined neither to engage in an unjust action, nor to continue the defence of one from the tinge he discovers it to be so.(1) Because be will thereby take part with the oppressor, and become an accomplice in depriving the injured parties of their rights.(2) Because, in such an action he must speak against his conscience, and advance untruths to support his cause, and must descend to despicably mean arts to confound the evidence, and to influence the jury to decide in opposition to justice.(3) Because nothing less than total depravity could, for the love of money, induce a man to appear in defence of injustice, at the hazard of his conscience, his integrity, his veracity, the salvation of his soul, and the esteem of man.(4) Because retrospection must be painful.(5) Because to obviate the consequences of such proceedings, it will be absolutely requisite that restitution should be made to every one whose injury he has been the means of occasioning.

(The Pulpit.).

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