There was no pomp and no procession filled with mournful criers lamenting the death of a loved one. The crowds had diminished and returned to their homes. Three men hung on wooden trees of death with soldiers milling below with no concern. All the acquaintances of Jesus, the women who followed Him from Galilee including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Luke 23:48,49; Matthew 27:55,56) looked on with dispassionate despair. The screams of the two thieves whose legs had been broken to hasten death still linger in the air. The man in the middle hangs limp in death with his side pierced; blood and water staining his body.
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50-52). Consent was given and Joseph, joined by Nicodemus (John 3:1-15; 7:45-52) went to Golgotha to retrieve the body of Jesus. Removing the nails from the feet, the body of Jesus was let down to the ground to remove the nails from his hands. The face of kindness, compassion and love was now stilled in the gray shadow of death. The soldiers removed the cross and the body was taken up to be prepared for burial.
How does one feel the emotions of sadness to carry the body of Jesus to a place of preparation? His hands lie still that once gave sight to the blind. His voice is silent that once taught the beatitudes of grace. The smile of compassion is faded to a mask of death. Eyes that once gazed into the lives of men are closed in silent repose. The body of the Son of God is bloody, dirty, filthy and bruised with the lashes of a terrible scourging and crucifixion.
The men lay Jesus down to wash his body. Are tears mixed with the careful love these men have to clean the body of Jesus? Do their voices tremble as they speak to one another in moving the body of Jesus? When they turn the body of Jesus over and see the ribbons of flesh remaining from the scourging, do their hearts break in despair? The washcloths are filled with blood. Their hands are stained with the stench and horror of death. Finally the body is cleaned.
A mixture of myrrh and aloes (about a hundred pounds – John 19:39) is used to cover the body of Jesus. The two men take the fine linen cloth and wrapping the body with the spices and cloth enclose his body (John 19:40). The scent of death is removed by the perfume of Jesus life filling the world by His sacrificial love. The preparation finished, the two men carrying the body to the tomb of Joseph. Entering they lay the body of Jesus in the new tomb. A handkerchief is placed around the head of Jesus. Leaving, Joseph rolls a stone against the entrance of the tomb. “Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid” (Luke 23:55).
The funeral is over. The friends pause for a moment to think of their Lord inside the tomb. They return home to prepare spices and perfumes for a proper burial later. They need not have bothered. When they return on the first day of the week, Jesus is risen – He lives – He reigns – He has conquered death. This lonely funeral brings hope to all men in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).