Christianity Knowledge Base


All four gospels of the New Testament [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John], despite some minor differences, tell what happened to Christ’s body following His death. They reveal that on the evening of our Lord’s Crucifixion, the day of “Preparation,” Joseph of Arimathea, a reputable member of the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin[3] [4]) demanded the body of Jesus from Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. Joseph then wrapped the body in fine linen and placed it in his new and unused tomb. From the gospels we also learn that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus Christ, “ ” who was “waiting for the kingdom of God to come.” [Luke 23:50]. What makes Joseph of Arimathea such an important and intriguing figure isn’t the scant biographical information we have received about him, but the righteous and extremely courageous deed which he performed in his service to our eternal Lord and Savior.

Joseph's Role in the Sanhedrin during Jesus' Trial[]

As mentioned before, the Sanhedrin was a very powerful law-enforcement body within the Jewish community. It was this council that condemned Jesus Christ to the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, a reputable member of the Sanhedrin, was nevertheless, not in agreement with their decision concerning the Lord, being himself one of Christ’s devoted disciples. In fact, we read at Luke 23:51, that Joseph was absent when they made their dreadful decision.

Joseph’s role as a council member must have been very uneasy at this time based on what we learn about their attitude and feelings towards the Lord. A passage from the gospel of Mark makes their ill feelings towards Jesus very clear. Mark 14:55 states, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. From such a revelation, we also understand the love and courage that Joseph of Arimathea must have had while carrying out this most sacred mission [foretold by the prophet, Isaiah]. [1]

The Four Gospel Accounts of the Burial of Jesus[]

Below are the actual gospel accounts of Jesus Christ’s burial by Joseph of Arimathea with a description in John, of Nicodemus’ role. The basic information about what took place is more or less identical in all four gospels, with a few additional details supplied by each writer to give a fuller view of what occurred.

The Gospel of Matthew[]

Matthew 27:57-61 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Gospel of Mark[]

Mark 15:42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. 44Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

The Gospel of Luke[]

Luke 23:50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

The Gospel of John[]

John 19:38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus [5], the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. [Additional information about the acts of Pontius Pilate can be found in the apocryphal text refered to as the "Gospel of Pilate."][2]


Veneration of Joseph of Arimathea[]

Joseph of Arimathea is venerated as a saint by the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and a few Anglican churches. His feast day is March 17 in the West, and July 31 in the East. The Eastern Orthodox church also commemorates him on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers [the second Sunday after Pascha (Easter)]

Notes and References

  1. Isaiah’s Prophecy at Isaiah 53:9 "9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
  2. The "Gospel of Pilate" is a book of New Testament apocrypha.[1];
  3. Christian tradition asserts that Nicodemus was martyred sometime in the first century. Nicodemus is venerated as a Saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Roman Catholics celebrate his memorial on August 3. The Franciscan Order erected a Church carrying his name and the name of St. Joseph of Arimathea in Ramla. The Orthodox Church celebrates him on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, a variable date falling always on the third Sunday of Easter and also on August 2, the date when tradition states that his relics were found, along with those of the Apostle and Protomartyr Stephen and Gamaliel (another member of the Sanhedrin who, according to a disputed Christian tradition, converted to Christianity). [2]