Joseph’s Tomb

Accompanied by Nichodemus they wrapped the body with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” [John 19:39-40 ESV] Jesus was accorded by these two members of the council a burial of an innocent man. Jesus’ entire body was covered in the spices and then wrapped tightly, the spices acting like an aromatic glue to reduce the odor of death and keep the body from falling apart. Rigor mortis had not yet begun so Jesus’ body was easily placed in a shape which would be fit in the place designed for a body in the tomb. After several years it was also the custom to open the tomb and collect the bones into a sarcophagus, or box large enough to hold the bones.

Here is a possible, even likely, image of the corpse. People were smaller 2,000 years ago than they are today. Jesus probably was not tall and may have weighed around 120 pounds. No one knows for sure. This is conjecture. Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus body after applying half his weight in spices and then bound it tightly with cloth. His body was imprisoned in a shroud. Next it would be imprisoned in a tomb. He was dead and not going anywhere.

Tombs in this area were cut into the sides of the mountains and hills, done so for those who were especially wealthy. Jewish culture demanded a body be buried immediately, or a soon as possible after death. Those crucified with Jesus, the executed criminals who deserved death, were taken down and thrown on the trash heap and eaten by scavenger animals. Jesus was buried according to current (for that time) Jewish custom. They put Jesus “in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock” [Matthew 27:60 ESV]. This tomb belonged to Joseph and where “no one had ever yet been laid” [Luke 23:53 ESV]. Then, they rolled a huge stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. This stone was cut in a circle, weighed probably several thousand pounds, and set in a groove so it could be rolled into place and not easily moved once in place. “And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away” [Matthew 27:60 ESV].

There is no doubt about Jesus’ death. They buried a dead body. He may have been able to raise others from death but now he was dead there was no expectation he could any longer do anything. It was fast approaching evening, which is the beginning of the Passover Sabbath, and they needed to be done with their morbid task. Joseph’s tomb was nearby and convenient. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” [John 19:41-42 ESV]. Those women who loved Jesus watched as Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body and placed it in the tomb. They saw where the tomb was and how Jesus body was placed in the tomb. “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid” [Luke 23:55 ESV]. As the Sabbath began they went to where they were staying and continued gathering spices with which they could further anoint Jesus body. They would not do this the next day but the day after. “Then they returned (to where they were staying during the Passover) and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” [Luke 23:56 ESV]. How they intended to open the tomb and accomplish their intended desire is not addressed in the documents. Perhaps they were relying on some of the disciples to roll the stone away so they could continue to lavish on his body more of the expensive spices they gathered.

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