The Gift of the Body

And when evening was come (because it was the Parasceve, that is, the day before the Sabbath) a certain rich man of Arimathea, a city of Judaea, by name Joseph, who was a senator, a noble councillor, a good and just man, who also himself waited for the Kingdom of God, and was a disciple of Jesus, but in private, for fear of the Jews; this man had not consented to their counsel and doings; went in boldly to Pilate and besought that he might take away the body of Jesus. But Pilate wondered that He should be already dead. And when he had understood it by the centurion, he commanded that the body of Jesus should be delivered to Joseph. He came therefore and took away the body of Jesus. - Matthew 27:57-59; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-52; John 19:38

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1. The body of Jesus Christ must be disposed of, the body which has saved the world! Unless something is done for it by men, it will be thrown away into the common criminals pit, as so many bodies of His martyrs have been thrown away. But for us it matters little; His body must not be treated so. The occasion makes the hero. Joseph of Arimathea has hitherto been no man of action. He has lived his honoured life alone, a life that has for the most part been spent in smooth waters, respected by friend and enemy, moderate, prudent, committing him self in little or nothing. But now the time for the one deed of his life has come, and he is equal to it. For how many perhaps for the majority of people is life a preparation for, does life centre itself in, a single heroic deed!

2. In this precisely does Joseph of Arimathea contrast with Pilate. He, too, had his single chance, his one critical moment in life, and he failed. And now that all is over "Pilate wondered that He should be already dead." We may with reason wonder that he wondered. He knew all Our Lord had endured. He knew that no ordinary man could have gone through it all and lived. His enemies had feared that His life would ebb out on the road to Calvary, before He had been nailed to the cross. But with Pilate the wish was father to the thought. From the beginning he had hoped that he himself would be "innocent of the blood of this just man." He had tried to throw the responsibility on others; he had himself turned and writhed many ways; and he had hoped that this "King of the Jews" might at the very last yet "come down from the cross" and save His reputation and Pilate's. But now he hears the doom; the heart of the dead Jesus Christ has been pierced through; there is no hope; whatever men may say, whatever he himself may affect, he is the murderer of "this just man."

3. One's heart aches for Pilate, as it must ache for any soul that awakes to grievous sin, and hears the voice ringing in its ears: "What hast thou done?" He cannot restore that life. He cannot ever again restore his own life. But there is sorrow mingled with the remorse in the concession that is made to Joseph. Poor Jesus Christ! Though the Council has condemned Him and done Him to death, at least the most honourable member of the Council shall bury Him. Though He is so poor Himself that the soldiers shall have His clothes, and His very body shall be a thing to be given away, yet it shall be buried with the honour that is its due. What a host of mystical thoughts are contained in this gift of Our Lord's body by man to man!


1. The one opportunity in his life for Joseph of Arimathea is accepted, as with Simon of Cyrene.

2. The contrast between him and Pilate.

3. The body of Our Lord is given by man to man.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier