The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 15F

Chapter 15:40-47

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  • Over the past two weeks, we have covered one of the climatic moments of Mark’s gospel, the crucifixion.

    • The first three hours that Jesus hung on the cross represented the consequences of humanity’s sin.

      • And those sins would be laid upon the Son of God who vicariously identified himself with sinful men so that sinful men could be drawn near to the Father.

    • In the last three hours, the world would go dark as the wrath of God would be poured out upon Jesus.

      • It was Jesus taking this cup of wrath that would reconcile sinful humanity to a Holy God.

      • And with this cup of wrath meant that the Son of God would be forsaken for a time.

      • This reality for Jesus was crushing, yet this is what He had come to accomplish. (Mark 10:45)

    • Death would become the result of Christ becoming our substitute.

      • God’s Holiness demanded it, for as the scriptures teach – the wages of sin is death.

    • However, through the death of Christ would come life and life more abundant.

      • Salvation would be made possible because the Innocent One became a curse for us.

      • Once Jesus breathed His last, it was as if a time clock would begin because sundown would soon commence and His body would need to be placed into a tomb.

    • Within these 8 verses, we will observe the following:

      • 1. Need for Expediency (v.40-42)

      • 2. Solution to a Problem (v.43)

      • 3. Unexpected News (v.44-45)

      • 4. Proper Burial (v.46-47)

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text it would be: A Race to the Tomb.

      • With that being said, I invite you to meet me in our last few verses in Mark 15, verses 40-47 for the reading of the word of the Lord.

Mark 15:40  There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 
Mark 15:41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
Mark 15:42 When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 
Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 
Mark 15:44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 
Mark 15:45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 
Mark 15:46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 
Mark 15:47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.
  • As I mentioned in our recap portion, Christ has now died but has not officially been pronounced dead. This would have been verified by Pilate.

    • His body was now hanging as a spectacle for all the people to see.

      • I could imagine that perhaps His disciples were at a distance viewing the very event which Jesus told them He would undergo.

      • Interestingly enough, Mark mentions that there was a group of followers who were looking upon Jesus at a distance, but not the individuals we would have expected.

    • Verse 40 tells us that in the company of onlookers were women and among them was Mary Magdalene, from Magdala, a village west of the Sea of Galilee.

      • Mary the mother of James the Less (James the Younger) and Joses, and Salome, who was the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

    • It was these faithful women who had encountered Jesus’ ministry early on and served Him in Galilee.

      • These women found themselves now looking upon a dead Jesus, the one whom they loved and cared for.

      • This must have been a feeling of utter helplessness.

    • I find this most interesting because at no point during Jesus’ death, in Mark’s gospel, does he mention the sightings of the 11 disciples.

      • The only citing of a disciple on the scene is John himself, the beloved disciple.

      • So here we find the women faithfully at a distance and at a distance for a reason.

    • As I mentioned before, upon Jesus’ death, time was of the essence because with evening having already come meant that at 6 PM a new day began according to Jewish reckoning.

      • And the start of this new day meant that the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread would begin.

      • According to Jewish custom, the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread were always considered “High Sabbaths”.(Exodus 12:14-20; Leviticus 23:1-8)

    • And being that Passover fell on a Thursday in this year, meant that the High Sabbath would be followed by the typical weekly Sabbath.

      • So this year meant that there would be two Sabbaths back-to-back.

      • And being that this was the case, there was even more reason to be expedient with the removal of Jesus’ now dead body, off of the cross and into a tomb.

    • So, being that there was a double Sabbath this year meant that all work would cease until Sunday, and this included the preparation of burial.

      • And according to Jewish Law, it required a proper burial for all bodies including those who were executed criminals.

    • For a proper burial to occur before the Sabbath meant that, the body would:

      • 1. Need to be requested by the victim’s relative

      • 2. Properly wrapped and prepared for burial, according to custom

      • 3. Then be buried either in the family graveyard or a tomb.

        • All of this was to be accomplished before 6 PM.

    • Well according to our scene no relatives were there, no men were currently present to help remove Jesus’ body off the cross, and there was no tomb that was made available.

      • This potentially could have worried the women which is why they were looking from a distance.

      • For they certainly could not remove Jesus’ body from the cross themselves, they had no grave to put Him in as tombs were typically located where you lived (and very expensive).

    • I imagine that as these women were looking they were praying that someone would take Him down and properly prepare Him for burial before 6PM.

      • Because, at worst, those who were unclaimed would have been tossed in the Valley of Hinnom near the Kidron Valley.

    • Well, it would seem as if, despite these barriers, that the Lord had provided the means to properly bury Jesus.

      • And that solution was provided by a rather prominent yet familiar character who had everything in place.

      • Check out verse 43.

Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus
  • Mark mentions that Joseph of Arimathea, the prominent member of the Sanhedrin council would be the one used to expedite the process of Jesus’ burial.

    • This would have been an unusual sight to see, and request to make, by a man of much social and economic clout.

      • For someone of such clout to aid in the care and burial of Jesus, knowing what He was crucified for, would have caused much social alienation.

      • This would be the equivalent of wearing an “I love seafood” T-shirt in the midst of an anti-shellfish conference.

      • One seen as a Jesus-sympathizer could easily lead to one’s societal alienation and at best, death.

    • Joseph’s actions at this point seem to be a bit emboldened given his religious position.

      • Mark tells us he was one who was “waiting for the kingdom of God”.

      • This becomes an interesting statement to note because it goes beyond the fact that Joseph was awaiting the fulfillment of the Kingdom.

    • This was the anticipation for most in that day.

      • However, the distinction as to how that Kingdom would come about became the key.

      • Clearly, Joseph of Arimathea believed that Jesus was the promised One by which this fulfillment of the Kingdom would come about.

    • This becomes confirmed when we take a glance at John’s gospel (John 19:38). Check out the text.

John 19:38  After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.
    • So where there was a bit of trepidation regarding the request for Jesus’ body, Mark emphasizes the actions of Joseph beyond the fear he could potentially face.

    • Because the text mentions in verse 43b that he “gathered up” courage.

      • The phrase “gathered up” in Greek is tolmao which means to show boldness or resolution in the face of danger.

      • The CSB (Christian Standard Bible) translation states it this way: “..and boldly went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body”

      • In other words, nothing and no one was going to stand in the way of Joseph getting to Jesus because his mind was set.

    • Where Joseph once stood silently and secretly as a disciple of Jesus, his commitment would be made publicly known.

      • What a beautiful example of being bold for Christ despite the culture around you!

      • One applicational question comes about and that is: Is your discipleship relationship with the Lord secretive or bold?

      • In other words, if the Lord were to lead you to evangelize the loss, pursue ministry opportunities, or serve the needs of others, would you be moved boldly to do so or remain quiet and timid?

    • I believe what the text shows us is that from when Joseph and Jesus first met in the evening (secret) to now (public), there has been great growth in the heart of Joseph.

      • He moves from being a secret disciple to a visible disciple.

    • As Jesus mentioned in Mark 8:34-35, discipleship comes with great cost.

      • That to follow Jesus requires a denying of self and being invited to come and die with Jesus!

    • There is a death to our comforts, convenience, and cares and that is exchanged to pursue all that Christ calls and commands us to.

      • Discipleship is not for the weak or faint of heart. Discipleship is a choice.

      • You are either in or out, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • This is what Mark helps the reader see about Joseph’s actions and because of his bold actions, Joseph is forever etched within the gospel accounts.

      • Quick question to consider privately: How will your participation in Gospel work impact those you will never see?

      • In your home, in your marriage, on the job, at your school, with your neighbors. How will others be impacted by your boldness in the Lord?

    • It is from this demonstration of great boldness and allegiance to Christ that an inquisitive investigation arose by the request of Pilate.

      • Check out verses 44-45

Mark 15:44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 
Mark 15:45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.
  • Pilate receiving this request for the body of Jesus by Joseph seems to come at a bit of a surprise.

    • Mark says that Pilate “wondered” if He was dead by this time – for it had only been a few hours.

      • The Greek word for “wondered” is thaumazo which means to marvel or be amazed.

      • And the reason for Pilate’s amazement was that death by crucifixion was a very slow process.

      • Individuals who were being crucified could last up to 4 days.

    • So this announcement of death, so soon, moved Pilate to inquire further in an effort to validate this claim.

      • As a result, he summons the centurion, more than likely the one who witnessed Jesus’ last breath, to provide a report of sorts before him.

    • If the centurion summoned to Pilate was indeed the one in whom witnessed Jesus’ last breath, then the record would show that Jesus’ seemingly early death along with the unique events surrounding it was quite unique.

      • So, it would be after receiving this report confirming Jesus’ death that without requiring a fee, Pilate releases Jesus to Joseph.

      • This “release without fee” could also address Pilate’s wonderment about who Jesus was.

    • Mark transitions us immediately to the next scene where the preparation for a proper burial commences to meet the Jewish requirements of proper burial before the High Sabbath.

      • Check out our last two verses, verses 46 and 47.

Mark 15:46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 
Mark 15:47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid
  • Although Mark chooses to omit this detail, John indicates in his gospel that Nicodemus, a fellow Sanhedrin member, accompanied Joseph with the burial preparation.

    • It would seem as if this maturity and boldness has come upon Nicodemus as well because he too was a secret disciple and first inquired of Jesus at night.

      • And now both men have made a public declaration as to who their Messiah was and where their allegiance was.

    • Time is continuing to count down as 6 PM is approaching.

      • And I can imagine Joseph running, maybe out of breath as he arrives at Golgotha.

      • He probably summons the guards to take Jesus down and has men to remove the nails, the crown of thrones.

    • Alongside him is Nicodemus who, according to John’s gospel, has brought proper burial materials to prepare Jesus’ body.

      • They would begin by washing his body which was then followed by the proper application of spices and finally linen wrappings.

      • This is what John records in John 19:39-40.

John 19:39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 
John 19:40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
  • From this point, they hurry to the tomb which belonged to Joseph of Arimathea which was “hewn out of rock”.

    • And once they lay Jesus’ body in the tomb, they rolled a large stone in front of it.

    • This stone weighed up to half a ton and therefore required at least two men to move it into place.

      • On top of that, this stone was rolled down a slight incline toward the end of the ramp.

      • The door would almost lock into place causing it to be unopened from the inside.

    • Really quickly, I want to mention what Matthew states in his gospel here because he states that the tomb in which Jesus laid was Joseph’s “new tomb”.

      • This detail speaks to the sacrifice alone that Joseph made.

      • Being that he lived in Arimathea, perhaps he had a tomb there.

    • Whatever the case may be, in serving the Lord Jesus in His death, Joseph prepares and presents his best for the Master.

      • This becomes a core aspect of service within Christendom.

      • That our service to Christ and to others, although at times costly, is to the Glory of God and the good of the body!

    • Ultimately it is through Joseph’s extravagant giving that we see that his actions fulfilled scripture.

      • We find that prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 . Check out the text.

Isaiah 53:9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
  • Finally, Mark rounds out Chapter 15 with the same women who have both viewed the death of Jesus and the burial of Jesus.

    • Although these women were unable to physically assist in the preparation of Jesus’ body, they would soon be able to service Him as witnesses to His disciples.

      • But before that would happen, their ability to witness would first begin with great fear and astonishment, because their return to this same tomb would be met with complete shock come Sunday.

    • So with Chapter 15 coming to a close, I would like to use this time to address what may be the big elephant in the room and that is: “What day of the week did Jesus die?”

      • For some, the reading of the previous verses would seem to indicate that Jesus died on a Friday, given it was the day before the Sabbath.

      • However, there are three things worth considering which we mentioned earlier in the text and that is:

      • 1. John’s account mentions that this day was the “Day of Preparation”.

      • 2. Secondly, in the same account, the rationale for the rush to the grave was due to the High Sabbath for Passover.

        • The explanation of High Sabbaths during festival weeks was not anything new, but rather reflected in Hebrew Bible with verses such as Exodus 12:14-20 and Leviticus 23:1-8.

      • 3. Lastly, Jesus provided us with a “math verse” if you will of how many days He would remain dead and the time in which He would rise.

    • And we find this verse in Matthew 12:40, which was known as the “Sign of Jonah”. Check out the text with me again.

Matthew 12:40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
  • Jesus mentions that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights.

    • And as we have studied the Jewish reckoning of days, it refers to periods of dark and light.

    • By knowing the day on which Jesus rose from the grave, according to scripture, we can work backward to identify the day of the week He died.

      • As you may be aware, there have been many days debated and discussed regarding the day in which Jesus died.

      • Many theological writings have been done arguing everything from a Wednesday death to a Friday death, however, the best way to resolve it is by reading the scriptures.

    • So, to figure out the biblical day of Jesus’ death, let’s put up a graphic starting with the “traditional date” of His death which is said to be Friday.

      • And in our counting remember, we won’t include Sunday’s Light portion because the gospel records tell us it was “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark).

      • Now, Luke’s gospel states that “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week”.

    • According to the Greek-English Lexicon (LSJ) dawn is the period that proceeds daybreak while it is still dark.

      • Matthew’s gospel tells us in Matthew 28 verse 1, “As it began to dawn” which means we have not yet arrived at the light portion of that Sunday.

      • So, with that in mind, you will see that I will have the day portion on Sunday greyed out.

    • So, let’s now begin with a Friday date given our “math verses” in Matthew 28:1.

      • If we place Friday as the day of Passover, all the while not emphasizing the High Sabbath as mentioned in John’s gospel, and keep the weekly sabbath as is, we have this result.

      • So, a Friday date of crucifixion still leaves us with a remaining light portion and a dark portion unaccounted for.

      • Now let's examine a Thursday date.

    • If we place Thursday as the “day of Preparation”, which is Passover, and place Friday as the High Sabbath followed by the Weekly Sabbath, then that puts the third day as Sunday.

      • Furthermore, if we look at Chapter 16, the first two verses, we see that Mark mentions the Sabbath being over which is followed by the phrase “Very early on the first day of the Week” in verse 2.

      • I believe this further affirms a Thursday date and the exclusion of a day-portion counting.

      • Because, as we will see next week in Mark 16:2, Mark seems to suggest that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome left their homes during the early hours to arrive to the Tomb.

      • And it would be that upon arrival, the sun was beginning to rise.

    • But in an effort to not get ahead, I want to highlight a few things:

      • 1. Holding a high view of scripture is a huge benefit to understanding the scriptures and allows us to grow more in our faith.

      • 2. Trying to pinpoint the exact day and time in which Jesus died, although very beneficial, does not impact one’s salvation in the Lord Jesus.

        • It is His finished works alone that save us and so rest in that truth.

      • 3. Lastly, as we pursue truth, be grace-filled and seek not to prove to be right, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to bring about the necessary illumination.

      • The reality is, you too needed the grace and time to get to where you are today.

    • Lastly, as we prepare to begin the last Chapter of Mark, we will encounter one of the most debated textual criticisms within evangelicalism today and that is the last 12 verses of Mark 16.

      • The question that comes to mind for many is: “How does one deal with what is known as “the longer ending of Mark”?

      • I pray that you join us over the next few weeks as we tackle all 20 verses and come to a proper biblical conclusion as to the author’s intent.

      • Let’s Pray.