YOU REMEMBER that’ from the garden of Gethsemane, very early on Friday morning, Jesus was brought before the high council of the Jews for trial, and that by the council it was ordered that Jesus should be put to death as one who falsely claimed that he was Christ, the King of Israel. But not all the members of this council were enemies of Jesus. A very few of them were his friends, but in secret, not daring to speak for him or to vote for him, for fear of the rulers and the people.
One of these secret friends of Jesus was Nicodemus the ruler who had come to see Jesus at night three years before, on his first visit to Jerusalem. Another was a good man named Joseph, a rich man, who lived at a place called Arimathea, some miles out of Jerusalem, in the country. This man, Joseph of Arimathea, did a very bold thing. He went to Pilate in his palace, and asked Pilate to allow him to take down, from the cross the dead body of Jesus, and to bury it. To us this may not seem a brave act, but it was, for the Roman rulers were very suspicious of anybody who appeared to be the friend of one who had been condemned to death. Some time before this, when a man asked the governor for the body of a man who had been put to death; the governor ordered that his friend should also be slain as an enemy of the Romans and the governor’s enemy. It might be said that Joseph of Arimathea “took his life in his hands” when he asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.
But Pilate was not angry with Joseph; and at heart he was not an enemy of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus was already dead, for sometimes upon the cross men lived several days of terrible pain. He sent for the Roman captain who had been in charge at the cross, and asked him if Jesus the Nazarene was dead. When the captain told him that Jesus was dead, he allowed Joseph to take away the body and do with it as he pleased.
Then Joseph, with some of the disciples of Jesus, carefully and tenderly took down from the cross the body of Jesus; and after the manner of Jewish burials at that time, wrapped it round and round with long strips of linen cloth. They also tied a napkin over the face of Jesus. Nicodemus came to help in the burial, bringing with him the weight of a hundred pounds in fragrant and costly spices, aloes and myrrh, which they laid in the linen cloth around the body.
Near the place where Jesus was crucified was a garden belonging to. Joseph of Arimathea, and in the side of the rocky hill was a cave which Joseph had hollowed out for his own tomb. No dead body had ever been buried in this tomb; and there they laid the body of Jesus. Then they rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and left it.
Near by, at this time, were some of the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee; looking on while .the body of Jesus, whom they had loved so fondly, was laid in the tomb. One of these women was Mary Magdalene, or “Mary of Magdala” by the Sea of Galilee, a woman from whom Jesus had driven out evil spirits more than a year before. Another woman was Mary, the wife of Clopas; and another was named Salome, who may have been the mother of the disciples James and John, and the wife of Zebedee the fisherman. These women noticed carefully the place where the body of Jesus was buried.
On the next morning, which was the Jewish Sabbath day, the chief priests and leading men among the Jews came to Pilate and said to him:
“We remember, sir, that while this man who deceived the people was alive, he said, `.After three days in the tomb I will arise again.’ Now, then, give orders that the tomb where he is buried be kept under guard for three days. For if it be not watched, his disciples may come and steal his body out of the tomb and hide it, then they will tell the people, `He is risen from the dead,’ and the last false report will do more harm than the first, that he was the King of Israel.”
“Take a guard of soldiers,” said Pilate, “and make it just as sure as you can.” .
So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the great stone at the door. Also they placed a guard of soldiers in front of the tomb, with orders to stay there for three days.
On one side of the rounded skull-like hill which may have been Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, there has been found a very ancient tomb, which may have been the place of the Saviour’s burial. No one can be sure of this; but we may be certain that either in this tomb, or in one like it, not far away, Jesus was buried.