From Debra Rienstra
“Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” (John 20:25)
Joseph of Arimathea appears in all four gospels, but I am particularly drawn to the account in John, which includes some details beyond what the synoptics provide. Here Joseph is accompanied in his ministrations by Nicodemus—that other recorded member of the Secret Disciple Club. Nicodemus shows up with seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes, and the two of them together get the job done. We can imagine them, grim and hurried, managing the mangled body, one spreading the spices while the other pulls a fold of linen over and around. Perhaps on another occasion they would have had their own servants or a hired expert do this work, but I like to think of them glancing at the rapidly setting pre-Sabbath sun and agreeing, “Let’s just do it ourselves.”
Luke describes Joseph as “a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to [the Council’s] decision and action” (23:50-51). Matthew mentions that he was rich (27:57). John says that Joseph “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (19:38). John is the only one who notes Joseph’s discretion about his loyalty to Jesus, but if this is an offense, John seems to forgive it easily, perhaps exactly because Joseph rose to the occasion in this terrible hour. No one else could have done what Joseph did. Who among the terrified disciples or the women had the standing to dare a request to Pilate for the body of a crucified enemy of the state? Joseph must have known how to negotiate his way through the halls of power and make the ask. He also had the means with which to obtain the proper embalming materials was able to secure rights to a nearby tomb, a new or at least never-used one, according to Matthew, Luke, and John. He, and let’s say Nicodemus and a couple servants, must have marched back out to that gruesome hill, right through the dispersing but still-gawking crowds, and talked the soldiers into taking the body down and handing it over. At this point, Catholic tradition allows us to imagine them pausing to allow a heart-broken mother a moment to embrace her son’s tortured body.