Standing at the foot of the cross on that horrible, horrible Friday, Joseph of Arimathea made a decision.
He would give his family tomb away.
This is a little hard to describe to someone who’s never bought a few cemetery plots.
Places of burial are …
- For your family only.
Having a tomb built might be a little like having a second home constructed. Call it a lake house, or a cabin in the mountains.
It’s not cheap.
Joseph apparently had just contracted for the work to be done. His tomb was still brand new. It was finished enough to house a body, but not finished enough for it to have ever been used for his family.
It’s not just a “Jewish” tradition to not mix families in burial tombs. It’s probably your tradition, too.
Go to the cemetery where your loved ones are buried and you’ll see what I mean. There are groups of names, and all the last names are the same. There’s a shared marker for husbands and wives. Sometimes children are sad additions to the family place of weeping. There might be a sister or even a cousin.
But a stranger? Forget about it. He can find his own eternal resting place!
Once Joseph gave his tomb to Jesus, Joseph’s family would never use it. Whatever financial investment he’d made in his new tomb, it was all given away, in an instant.
So strange that it was used for only a few hours! Could the rabbis have figured out a way for him to only rent it out?
The final words of John 19 tell how Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus and how he and Nicodemus tended to the body as if they were tending to a beloved relative. Both of them had been secret followers.
Now they were out in the open, caring for the heretic’s body as if they loved him.
They did love him, of course. They would follow him the rest of their lives.
And Joseph’s new tomb would stay forever empty!