Tag Archives: Pilate

KING of Kings

Meditations on the Psalms

“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:6 ESV)

God speaks, His words thundering His proclamation throughout heaven and earth. How can those rebelling against Him hear and ignore His dire and dreadful declaration?

If they are a king of a nation, it is because God said they would be king. If they are rulers, God made them rulers. Both kings and rulers work for God’s purpose first, whether they realize it or not. Pharaoh was God’s appointed servant and performed at His discretion. “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16; see Romans 9:17). So, every other authority in the world serves at God’s pleasure for the time God has resolved and the purposes He has determined and will fulfill.

God sets His King over His dominion. Zion is another name for Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was also known as Salem, then Jebus. David conquered the city, removing the Jebusites, changing its name to Jerusalem. He also called the city Zion, the city of David.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. (2 Samuel 5:6-7 ESV)

God declares Zion His holy hill, which is a sacred place to Him and those who are His. In Jerusalem, the temple was built to house the ark of the covenant. The people were commanded to come worship before God in Jerusalem at the temple. Jerusalem held the government and was the religious center of Jewish life. Yet, God does not live in Jerusalem but in the heavenly places. Jerusalem is a physical representation of a spiritual reality.

When God put His King in Zion, He welcomed His Son, who sits at God’s right hand. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12-13 ESV).

When standing before Pilate during His trial, before His crucifixion and resurrection, the Roman governor, the ruler of the land under the authority of the Roman emperor, declares he has sole authority to release or to crucify Jesus. “Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:11 ESV). Jesus recognized Pilates authority but also understood his limitations. Pilate would have no authority had God not given it to him. This is a common misunderstanding in the thinking of the hearts of those in the world. They believe God has nothing to do with them or any circumstance, acting as if He does not care.

Paul, instructing Timothy, succinctly states the issue, illustrated by this verse and the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Jesus is God. This makes Him King of kings and Lord of lords.

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 ESV)

Christ’s resurrection from the dead shouts at the world His authority over the world and command for all to repent.


Introduction to Psalm 2

Meditations on the Psalms

God tells us bluntly the entire world is fighting against Him, not only refusing to obey Him but actively conspiring against Him. Psalm 2 takes up the theme of Psalm 1, expanding and explaining the extent of the war raging against Him, and by extension, against those who are His.

God speaks in the first person of His completed actions. Psalm 2 begins with God asking a rhetorical question, then He answers His own question with statements of eternal truth found in the rest of the Psalm. Though the Psalm does not speak directly to idolatry, those who are in authority, who teach and train others, instruct their students in the worship of idols because they refuse to worship God. Idolatry is replacing that which only God is and does with anything not God. Those who insist upon setting up for themselves useless idols in the place of the eternal God find themselves destroyed, along with their idols. God will not tolerate continued rebellion, or those who teach and train others to rebel.

Jesus is given all authority over the peoples, kings and rulers of the world. All people mutiny against His authority, refusing to acknowledge Him as King or Creator. All people build up idols to take His place. These idols are blatant creations of their own minds, the thinking of their own hearts, so they might imagine they control their own destinies. How foolish.

Kings carry authority to make and uphold laws. Yet, even kings of the world cannot change that which is set in eternity. They may decree something different than what God has established but they cannot change reality or truth. It is the duty of kings and rulers to uphold truth, not to change truth to suit their individual ends and desire. Idolatry, at its basest level, is the individual changing the truth of God into a lie and saying the lie is true.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20 ESV)

Jesus instructs His disciples to not adhere to the teaching of those whose sole intent is to usurp the authority and place of God. “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6 ESV; see Matthew 16:5-12). Initially, His disciples did not understand these words.

They watched Jesus feed thousands, taking the food available and creating more food for the people. Jesus did that which only God can do, creating one substance out of another. God created Adam out of the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7). He then created Eve out of the rib of the man (see Genesis 2:22). By creating lots of food out of a little food Jesus showed He is God. He then told His disciples to beware of the teaching of those who value tradition over the words of God. Their teaching would lead people away from Him, not toward Him. Jesus thunders severe words against those who lead astray people created in the image of God.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:13-14 ESV)

Standing before Pilate, who thinks he has greater authority, Jesus declares those who brought Him for execution face greater condemnation. “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11 ESV).

Psalm 2 addresses those with worldly authority, placing them directly under the eternal authority of God and warning them of the consequences of rebellion.  God set His Son, Jesus Christ, on the everlasting throne, placing Him over all in the heavens and in the created universe. This is not a debatable fact.

Sinless One

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man … nor stands in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

Secondly, the person who is righteous before God is not a sinner. He is sinless. Sinners are those with the predisposition and internal bent to rebel. There whole being is built to fight against God. They can do nothing but defy God. They are on a road leading them away from God. To stand in the way of the sinner is to be on the road which leads away from God.

Nor does this blessed Man stand with the attitude of, or being the servant of, those who move purposefully away from God. The way is that which defines them, not just their lifestyle, whose journey and manner of living is as a sinner. To stand is to steadfastly take an unmovable position where, no matter the assault, the person will not budge. They are intractable. Whatever it is that sinners do, the blessed man does the opposite.

When Jesus was tried by the world, the second of the three juries was the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. He was a leader of convenience, caring nothing for anyone but himself. Pilate is mentioned only a few times in the Gospels and then mostly during the trial of Jesus. Luke tells us Pilate was the Governor of Judea (see Luke 3:1). Jesus was told Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and mingled their blood with a sacrifice yet Jesus did not focus on the outrage of the Governor but on the reality of sin and the need for repentance.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3 ESV)

All four Gospels record the interaction between Pilate and Jesus. Perhaps the most revealing exchange is when Pilate asked Jesus a sarcastic and disingenuous question. Jesus told the Governor those who love and embrace truth would follow Him. Pilate contemptuously asked “what is truth?” (John 18:38 ESV). Jesus did not answer him, nor does Scripture suggest Pilate waited for an answer. He cared nothing for truth, deciding to do what he wanted without being encumbered by moral obligation.

Pilate declared Jesus innocent yet, at the insistence of the Jewish leaders, had Him scourged and crucified. Turning Jesus over to the Roman guard, who equally cared nothing of a man’s guilt or innocence, Jesus was cruelly mocked before they tortured Him to death.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:24-31 ESV)

Pontius Pilate shows the depths of the hold of sin on human nature. Pilate stood in judgment against the Son of God, found Him innocent and then put Him to death. Pilate obstinately stood on his sin, on the path moving away from God, even when confronted with absolute truth and the Son of God in the flesh.

God Is Not Mocked

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. [Luke 22:63-65 ESV]

People mock that which they do not know or care to understand. People who mock think they have the upper hand over someone they consider inferior, undeserving of respect or compassion and mercy. It is the guilty who mock the innocent, the strong who mock the weak, those who have control who mock those who have no control.

It is the Jewish Temple guards and authorities who mock Jesus. Soon, the Roman guard will mock Him and put Him to death. Their mockery shows they are aware of what others have claimed about Him and what He has claimed of Himself.

Like His cousin John, Jesus was deemed a Prophet similar to those of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hebrew history it was God’s prophets who came to the rulers and peoples of Israel and Judah telling them to stop sinning and return to worshipping only God. They stood before kings and priests, before the thrones and inside the city gates, telling all that if they did not return to worshipping only God they would die or be taken into exile to die away from their land. These who spoke for God were held in contempt because God is held in contempt. They were treated shamefully because the people did not believe their words. They did not believe God. Those who speak for God will encounter those who would silence them because of the hatred they have toward God.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. [Hebrews 11:36-38 ESV]

Writing through David 900 years earlier Jesus told what would happen to Him. “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” [Psalm 22:7-8 ESV]. Pilate examined Jesus and found no guilt in Him. Pilate’s solution is to “punish and release Him” [Luke 23:22 ESV]. Pilate’s punishment is physical abuse. If Jesus is not guilty of anything why punish Him? Pilate’s punishment is a mockery.

Herod examined Jesus because he wanted to see Jesus perform a sign, a token miracle, as if Jesus were a performer sent to entertain. Jesus would not perform for Herod. “Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him” [Luke 23:11 ESV]. Pilate and Herod were enemies until they stood before the condemned Jesus. Afterward they became friends.

When Jesus was delivered over for crucifixion the Roman guard treated Him with their fullest contempt. These men were experienced at dehumanizing their prisoners and making sure they died in excruciating agony.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. [Matthew 27:27-31 ESV]

A sign was made and placed over Jesus as He died on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” [Luke 23:38 ESV]. Pilate ordered the sign inscribed and placed above the condemned man. While Jesus hung on the cross many of the people there challenged Him to take Himself off the cross miraculously. Even those crucified with Him (at least one of them) suggested He save them when He saved Himself.

Jesus did not come to save Himself. Everything which happened to Jesus was predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Perhaps the most insidious and disturbing evidence of hatred for God is the motives and actions of the religious leaders tasked with upholding the Law of God. In their zeal for looking superior before the people they violated the Law they were responsible for knowing and enforcing. Jesus taught against the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders, quoting Isaiah written 700 years earlier, to show He knew their hearts from eternity.

So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” [Matthew 15:6-9 ESV; quoting Isaiah 29:13]

Jesus’ life, His motives and actions, His teaching and healing, His miracles culminating in His resurrection from the dead, show He is God, the Author of the Law and the Prophets come to fulfill them. God will not be mocked.

Examples of Meekness: David

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7 ESV]

David’s legacy, as found in Scripture, comes from God’s perspective not man’s. All of the kings descended from David are compared to him. He is the standard by which God judges their actions. For, from before David was anointed by Samuel as king of Israel until his death, David sought the Lord with his heart. Either the future kings of Judah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, walking with God as David their father had done, or they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did not wholly follow God, as David had done.

Everyone with a Bible may read about David. His devotion to God was unparalleled. His sins, though, were typical. Yet, because he was the king, the leader of the nation of Israel, when David sinned, not only did he bear the consequences of his sin but so did the entire nation.

David demonstrated specific characteristics throughout his life. He did not set himself up as king as soon as he was anointed, grasping after the throne or trying to displace Saul. Saul was still alive and David would do nothing to shorten the life of the living king. Everything David did, in relation to Saul, reinforced the kingship of Saul though Saul was rejected as king by God. David fought for truth, God’s truth, true truth, not Saul’s or his own perception of truth. David recognized man’s eyes and the thinking of their hearts were corrupted by sin. When David sinned he not only recognized his sin but grieved deeply over the consequences of his sin. He was “poor in spirit” and he “mourned” over sin, especially his own.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. [Psalm 51:15-17 ESV]

David intimately knew God and saw how He worked from before he was anointed king. As the youngest of eight sons David was not pampered but sent to work caring for his father’s sheep. The simplicity of his work ethic and his experienced trust in God comes through when Israel is challenged by Goliath. His duty was to mind the sheep. He did this in spite of dangerous circumstances and the occasional predator. How many of us would run from a lion or the bear even if the sheep they were attacking were ours? They are just sheep! Not David. He fought the lion and bear, killing both, because he knew God would fight for him. He believed God. He trusted God. He obeyed God. No matter the circumstances.

David relied upon the strength of God whether to defeat his enemies, make decisions or repent of the most grievous of sins. He was the youngest and least of the sons of Jesse. But God chose him because of the thinking of his heart showing the meekness of his life before God. He was the greatest king of Israel. David relied upon God’s strength working through him under God’s control and inherited a name by which all of the true kings of Israel were judged.

From David’s descendants, from the city of Bethlehem, came the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ. When Scripture speaks about a future king In Him is no sin. In Him is justice and mercy and an unshakable government. There will be no divided kingdom and He will reign forever.

Everything Jesus did, his miracles and care for the people pointed to His divinity. Yet the people He encountered either hated Him or wanted to make Him an authority over them thinking He might be the one who would remove the presence of the Romans and help establish a geographical kingdom if Israel. Jesus came to establish a kingdom but not one constrained by physical boundaries. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” [John 6:14-15 ESV]. He removed Himself from a place where the people might take control. When the people of Israel asked for a king it was in rebellion against God because they wanted to be like the nations around them. “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah  and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” [1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV].

Yet, Jesus recognized His heritage, that He was descended from King David and that He was the spiritual king of His eternal kingdom. He accepted the worship and adoration of those who were His but on His terms.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” [John 12:12-15 ESV]

He was not fighting for something which He already owned. Like His ancestor David, who did not lay claim to his rightful place as king of Israel once he was anointed but waited for God to work Jesus fulfilled the command to obey even under the most tortuous circumstances. While David fled from Saul, who wanted him dead, Jesus stood before Pilate and the religious leaders who wanted Him dead.

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” [Luke 23:2-3 ESV]

David did not fight for his kingdom trying to claim that which was already his.  But, he did fight for his kingdom, protecting and growing and establishing it at God’s direction. Jesus did not fight for His kingdom, laying claim to a people already His. He did die for His kingdom, redeeming those who are His from the kingdom of sin. David inherited the earth, the geographical area established by God as the nation of Israel. Jesus owns the earth and eternity and give it to whomever He wills. He gives it to those who recognize sin, realize the consequences of sin and relinquish control of self to Him gaining His strength in them under His control.

A Secured Tomb

Jesus’ murder is complete. Caiaphas, the chief priest, and those who participated in the decision to have the Romans execute an innocent man have spent the night thinking about what had just occurred. It was Passover, the holiest Sabbath of the year. There verbal intent to Pilate was to celebrate Passover without the spectacle of dying people hanging on crosses outside of Jerusalem to offend God.

Passover originated when God brought His people out of Egypt. It is a day of remembrance. He wanted those who are His to concentrate on what He had done freeing His people from the slavery of the Egyptian nation. His last plague, the plague which broke the grip of Pharaoh on the people he enslaved, was the sudden death of all first born in the entire nation from the lowest slave to the highest official including his own first born son. Israel was exempted from the death of the first born in their homes when they spread the blood of a lamb on their doorposts before eating their meal while waiting expectantly to be freed. All of Israel was commanded by God to remember His deliverance every year.

Were these people remembering what God had done for them so long ago as God commanded? Had they prepared themselves to celebrate the historical event which solidified Israel as a nation with their own land? Were they even thinking about God?

Apparently, they were more concerned about what they had just done than in anything God had done. They were consumed in their thinking and feeling and actions in making sure Jesus stayed dead. Not that they thought Jesus would become not dead but that his disciples would make it look like he was resurrected. Remembering Jesus words, they paid attention only as far as it suited their emotional need to keep control of the people, they went back to Pilate with a request. They did not rest on the Sabbath as commanded by God but instead went and presented themselves to the executioner, a Greek, the Roman Governor on the day of the Passover. “The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate” [Matthew 27:62 ESV]. Whether they entered Pilate’s residence like they had done the day before or sent in a messenger to speak with him is unknown. What we do know is they gathered together and went to him as a group.

Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first. [Matthew 27:63-64 ESV]

They remember Jesus saying he would be resurrected which means they knew he would have to first die. Thinking Jesus’ disciples capable of engineering a lie of outrageous proportions they asked Pilate to secure the tomb for at least a few days. Did his disciples have a plan, could they even think of such a plan, where they would steal a corpse and then claim the corpse was still alive, or had never died, or was raised from death? Devious thinkers believe everyone as devious as they. There was no concept of what Jesus’ disciples were thinking or feeling. Jesus’ disciples followed a man the Chief priest and his followers considered an imposter making them as much like their teacher as they thought their teacher had been. Jesus was a fraud in their minds and hearts. His disciples were also frauds and capable of defrauding everyone in their lust for control. Jesus was deluded. So were his disciples. Perhaps if they had listened to all of the words of Jesus their thinking would have been different? But now that Jesus was dead they wanted his influence to die with him.

Pilate didn’t care about them or the man he executed, let alone anyone associated with them or Jesus. He gives them permission to do what they think necessary for whatever reason. Jesus was dead. He was not coming back to life. What anyone did with a dead body was no concern of his. His response shows his lack of caring. “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” [Matthew 27:65 ESV]. Use your own guards. You’re not taking any of my men for such a silly request. Keep the corpse in the tomb. Don’t let anyone steal a dead body.

Caiaphas and those with him had obviously been thinking about what they could do. They had a plan to thwart the supposed preparation of the disciples to deceive everyone. They would lock the tomb with wax and a seal and post a group of armed men around it to keep anyone from opening the tomb. “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” [Matthew 27:66 ESV]. By sealing the tomb they would know if anyone broke the seal and could declare to the world the evidence of intent. By posting the guard they could keep anyone, even a mob, from approaching the tomb for any reason.

Jesus was dead. People saw him die. Jesus was buried, placed in a tomb by men from their own ranks. A huge stone was rolled in front of the tomb which would take many men to move. A seal was placed on the tomb. A guard was placed around the tomb to make sure the corpse in the tomb was not removed. How much more could be done?

Jesus was resurrected. What God does no one can stop.

Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ Body

As the sun went down the Jewish Sabbath began. This evening was the beginning of the Passover Sabbath commemorating the Exodus of God’s people from slavery to freedom. It was a holy day and the Jewish leaders, who had used the Romans to murder Jesus, asked the crucified men die quickly and be taken off their crosses. Pilate agreed and ordered the condemned men’s legs be broken so they would die before sundown. Jesus’ legs were not broken because he was already died.

All four documents tell about Joseph of Arimathea. He was two things. He was a disciple of Jesus. “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus” [Matthew 27:57 ESV]. But, he was also a respected member of the council, probably the Sanhedrin. “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” [Mark 15:43 ESV]. According to Luke, Joseph had not agreed with the High Priest and others who wanted Jesus executed. “He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action” [Luke 23:50-51 ESV]. He is called honorable and good and righteous, and was “looking for the kingdom of God” [Luke 23:51].

John gives what may be considered conflicting evidence about Joseph. Whereas the three synoptic documents tell Joseph was a disciple of Jesus and voted against the rest of the council when they wanted to murder him John says he was a secret disciple of Jesus because of fear. “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” [John 19:38 ESV]. John also tells us he was accompanied by Nichodemus, another member of the council. Nichodemus visited Jesus several years earlier and at night so he might not be seen talking intimately with someone the rest of the council had already condemned as dangerous. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him” [John 3:1-2 ESV]. John was known by the High Priest and admitted into the courtyard where the hastily assembled council met at night to pass judgment and condemn him (see John 18:15). He watched some of what occurred and may not have seen Joseph disagree with the council. Since Joseph and Nicodemus may have been secret disciples of Jesus before his crucifixion it is not hard to understand John’s comment about Joseph being one secretly.

Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He was no longer a secret disciple of Jesus. This was a bold move on his part. Going to the Roman Governor as a known member of the council and asking for the body of a man condemned by the council would compromise any political influence he may have had. Jesus was dead, executed as a common criminal, and there is no indication they would have treated his body with respect after he died any more than they would have while he was alive and during his death. Pilate may have already given the order to finish off the criminals at the request of the council but was surprised Jesus was already dead when Joseph made his request. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph” [Mark 15:44-45 ESV].

When Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body from the cross they made themselves ritually unclean and were then unable to participate in the Passover celebration. They touched a dead body. They not only touched him but wrestled him from the cross, carried him to a tomb and prepared his body for burial.“And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud” [Matthew 27:59 ESV]. When Joseph took Jesus’ body he had to first take it off the cross. Luke’s says he “took it down” [Luke 25:53] while Mark says he “took him down” [Mark 15:46 ESV]. This is a curious mix of English phrases translated for identical wording in the Greek. Luke, a physician, would look at the body as a thing no longer inhabited by a person while Mark would still see a person. This does not explain the differing translation of the identical words.

Had Jesus still be alive, even a spark of life in the body, these two men, and the servants who accompanied them, would have seen it. Jesus was dead and they are reliable witnesses to his death. Even the confusion of phrases between the documents is not evidence of the reality of the actions of these men. When Jesus was seen alive a few days later it was not resuscitation but a resurrection.