This is a three-part series called Death to Life that addresses the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These notes and commentary have not been proofed for grammar or spelling. It is presented as is.
Most of what God asks us to do is routine, but there are other times He calls us to do the remarkable. Routine things that God wants us to do is to love the people in our life, be kind, gentle, and be patient with people. He wants us to give, worship with others, and read His Word. These are actions of faith that are routine. But there are those times where God wants us to do the remarkable. However, the remarkable will always involve risks. From time to time God will have you do something out of the ordinary for Him. It will be risky for you.
What does it mean to take a risk for something or someone? It means to expose yourself to danger, harm, or loss. Just like the disciples and the first Christians you will be asked to take a risk for God.
When you take a look at the burial of Jesus you come across a person who took a risk. He willingly exposed himself to danger, harm and loss for the sake of God’s kingdom. Today we are going to see some lessons about taking a risk for God.
Last week we looked at the death of Jesus and saw that Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” We learned that Jesus was abandoned by God so that you and I would never be abandoned by Him. He was rejected, so that we could be accepted. He was forsaken, so we could be forgiven. We also saw that the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom indicating that personal access to God had now been opened by Jesus’ death on the cross. Then we are told that Jesus died. Today we pick up the story at this point. Jesus had died, but He is still on the cross.
In Mark 15 beginning in verse 42, This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid. (NLT)
Today we are introduced to man on mission. Actually he is part of a team of servants living on mission for God. His name is Joseph. His other team members include Nicodemus and two women named Mary. We are going to focus on Joseph. From Joseph we see some Biblical principles of what it means to take a risk for God.
Taking a risk for God involves urgency
Number one, taking a risk for God involves urgency. Verse 42 says, This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached.
The phrase “This all happened on Friday,” is referring to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. During the time of Jesus the “Sabbath” was the day of worship and that was on Saturdays. But they had very strict religious laws they followed when it came to work. For them no one did any work on the Sabbath, not even the farm animals. They would not cook, clean, travel, or do anything that was considered work. Because they didn’t do any work on Saturday, they had to get a lot of things done on Friday in preparation for Saturday. So all, the meals for Saturday had to be cooked on Friday. All the clothes for Saturday had be made ready on Friday. They considered any kind of work on the Sabbath sin, especially if it was connected to a special religious holiday like The Passover. So, Friday was known as “the day of preparation.” You are getting ready and prepared for the Sabbath. To take a body down from a cross, prepare the body for burial, and bury him was all considered work.
Then Mark adds the phrase “as evening approached.” The Sabbath began on Friday at 6:00 p.m. and lasted until Saturday at 6:00 p.m. The Bible tells us that Jesus died at 3:00 in the afternoon. This left only three short hours for Jesus to be buried within the restrictions of the religious laws. Here is why this is significant. The bodies of the crucified were not handled with dignity. If the Romans removed their lifeless bodies, they were merely dumped into the trash heap, without any means of burial. Some were even left upon the cross for the vultures and animals to consume. This was done as a warning to others of the consequences of committing crimes within a Roman province. If Jesus’ body was to be buried, instead of being thrown into the trash heap, or left upon the cross for at least 27 more hours, His burial had to happen quickly. The statement by Mark, “This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached,” establishes a since of urgency, if something was going to be done it had to happen quickly.
Often times when God wants you to do something that involves risk, there is usually a time line on it. There is this window of opportunity that will be open for only a few hours, a few days, or few weeks. When you sense God wanting you to do something you will feel a sense of urgency. When Joseph decided to take this risk for God he felt the sense of urgency and so will you.
Taking a risk for God involves your reputation
Number two, taking a risk for God involves your reputation. God will use your reputation and your position to advance the gospel, but sometimes in the process you may lose part of your reputation in the eyes of some. Notice in verse 43 that Mark points out, Joseph was an honored member of the high council.
The “high council” refers to the powerful Sanhedrin, who were also the Jewish Supreme Court. They were the ones who consented to Jesus’ death and brought Jesus to Pilate for trial. We are given more insight into Joseph by Luke when he wrote, “Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come” (Luke 23:50-51, NLT). In Matthew 27:57 we are told that he was also a “rich man.”
Joseph was “an honored member of the high council” so he had power and influence. He was considered “a good and righteous man” so he could be trusted. He also had considerable wealth. He was also a confident man who disagreed with “the decision and actions of the other religious leaders” when it came to Jesus.
Like Joseph, God will place you in certain positions in life. Because of who you are, who you know, what you have done (good or bad) you will have influence in certain arenas in your life. God will use your reputation to achieve His purposes through you. However, as we will see, your reputation and position in life may need to be sacrificed for the kingdom of God. This is part of taking a risk for God.
Taking a risk for God involves growth
Number three, taking a risk for God will involve growth. When you take a risk for God you are going to grow. You will be stretched. You will be challenged. Notice this key statement by Mark in describing Joseph in verse 43, and he [Joseph] was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. Joseph was a spiritual man. He had a spiritual perspective. This statement, “he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come” shows that he knew there was more to life than this life.
John tells us that he was “a secret disciple of Jesus” (John 19:38, NLT) and Matthew points this out when he describes Joseph as someone “who had become a follower of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57, NLT). Up until this point we could call him a closet Christian because he was quiet about his faith in Jesus. This risk he was taking was going to bring his faith from private to public. He had already grown spiritually, but he was about to go to the next level.
As a follower of Jesus, you can be private about your faith in Jesus for awhile, but eventually God is going to have you go public with that faith. That can be risky for some people.
Taking risk for God involves courage
Number four, taking risks for God involves courage. Mark tells us in verse 43 that Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. This was bold because he was not related to Jesus and as a member of the Sanhedrin that had forced Pilate to crucify Christ he was likely not real popular with Pilate. In addition, this was risky because he was identifying himself with Jesus, who had just been crucified as a traitor. As a sympathizer, Joseph could have earned the same fate. On top of all that, this meeting with a pagan and the handling of a dead body would have made him ceremonially unclean and therefore disqualified him from worship on Sabbath.
By making this request he was also openly confessing his personal loyalty to Jesus and putting his career in jeopardy. When you think about it, there was nothing in it for him. Jesus was now dead and his dream of a kingdom to come was likely dashed. He did what he did out of love and honor for Jesus.
We are talking about risk and courage, but listen to what John said about Joseph, “Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body” (John 19:38, NLT). The reason Joseph was “a secret disciple of Jesus” was because “he feared the Jewish leaders” and what they could do to him if they ever found out. If they wanted to, they could have him crucified just like Jesus, as a common criminal. I want you to notice that John referred to Joseph as someone “who had been” a secret disciple of Jesus. He was not secret about it anymore.
So, Joseph goes to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate does several things.
- Pilate was surprised at Jesus’ death: Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead. The wording here actually means “astonished”. Pilate was amazed that Jesus was already dead. The reason is because the Romans had perfected crucifixions to be painful and to keep the criminal alive for hours or days.
- Pilate investigated Jesus’ death: so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. Pilate wants to make sure that Jesus is dead so he summons the officer in charged to get the details of Jesus’ death. By the way, the death of Jesus was not disputed by anyone who witnessed the crucifixion of Christ.
- Pilate verified Jesus’ death: The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead. The officer probably told Pilate that when they checked on Jesus they noticed he was not breathing. To make sure that he was dead they took a spear and jabbed it into Jesus’ side and blood and water came pouring out. The blood and water had already started separating which is a clear sign of death. There was no doubt Jesus was dead.
- Pilate granted the dead body of Jesus to Joseph: so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. The idea of Pilate giving the body of Jesus to Joseph carries the implication of someone giving a gift. Pilate could have asked for a fee for the body of Jesus, since Jesus was considered as a criminal but Pilate didn’t.
It’s notable that Pilate did this because those guilty of treason were not normally permitted burial. I wonder if this was Pilate’s way of saying he never believed Jesus was guilty. This may also have been a way to get back at the religious leaders, like he did when according to Matthew 27:37 he put the words, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” on the sign that hung above Jesus head. Pilate made sure it could be read in multiple languages. John 19:22 tells us that when the religious leaders protested, Pilate said, “What I have written I have written.”
But coming to Pilate took courage. When doing what God wants you to do, it will take boldness. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love” (NLT).
Taking a risk for God involves sacrifice
Number five, taking risk for God involves sacrifice. We have already seen some of the sacrifices Joseph was willing take for Jesus, but we are about to see some more. Risk always involves sacrifice at some level. For Joseph there were several sacrifices and these sacrifices may be involved in your risks for God as well.
There is a financial sacrifice. Verse 46 says, Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Joseph had been blessed financially and was generous with what he had so he went to the market to buy the necessary cloth to bury Jesus. This cloth was not cheap. In your risk for God, God may have you invest financially into His kingdom by blessing someone, giving and tithing on a regular basis, or helping a family financially in some way.
There is an emotional sacrifice. Verse 46 goes on to say, Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross (46). It was no doubt difficult to lift the cross out of its socket and it must have been emotionally excruciating for Joseph as he pulled the 5-inch spikes out of the wrist and feet of Jesus and removed the sharp crown of thorns form his head. Besides, the body of Jesus had been ripped to shreds by the Roman soldiers. He was covered in blood. I’m sure it was emotionally traumatic to handle the body of Jesus.
Taking a risk for God sometimes can be emotionally challenging. You get involved in helping others carry their burdens, helping others overcome a sin in their life, or to pick up the pieces of a life that has been shattered by sin in some way.
There is also a time sacrifice. Verse 46 says Joseph wrapped it in the cloth. He would have first washed the body like we see in Acts 9:37 and then taken strips of linen and wrapped them around his body. It’s at this point according to John 19:39 that another closet Christian steps up: “With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth” (NLT).
So Joseph bought the linen cloth and Nicodemus bought the spices. These aromatic spices were designed to offset the smell of decomposition and would have been placed between the wraps. The body of Jesus would have been wrapped like a mummy, with a separate cloth laid over his head. Because of the time crunch, this was a quick job. The women were planning to come back after the Sabbath and complete the task as we see in Mark 16:1: “Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body” (NLT). All this would take time.
There is also a personal sacrifice. Regarding the body of Jesus we are told Joseph and Nicodemus laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock (46). The body would have been placed on a stone shelf. Being cut out of the rock, this tomb would not have had a secret back exit like some caves did, which shows that no one could have snuck in to steal his body. A tomb cut out of rack was also more expensive. We know from Matthew 27:60 that this was Joseph’s own tomb and that it was new: “He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock” (NLT). This reveals again how generous Joseph was. This is significant because this too fulfills a prophecy with pinpoint precision from Isaiah 53:9; “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death” (CSB).
When you take a risk for God take it to the end. Don’t go half way, go all the way with God on this. Mark tells us that when Joseph had completed the task, “he rolled a stone in front of the entrance” (46). Matthew 27:60 adds that this was a “great stone,” which is the word megas, meaning large. Archaeologists estimate that this could have weighed a couple tones and would have been rolled down an incline in front of the entrance. To roll that stone back up again would require the strength of several men. We read in Matthew 27:66 that Pilate put his official seal on this stone and stationed soldiers to guard the tomb.
Joseph stepped out of his routine and did something remarkable, but now the stage is set for what seems impossible. Is God wanting you to step out of your routine and take a risk for Him in some way? Maybe this risk for God has something to do with…
- Going public with your private faith.
- Rearranging your financial priorities in order to bless others or to give and tithe regularly.
- Sitting down and having a loving and honest conversation with someone about Jesus and how He has changed your life.
- Asking for forgiveness or giving forgiveness
Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right. Great things never come from comfort zones.