Luke 23: 50-56a – Burial of Jesus


With their accounts of the burial of Jesus both Mark and Luke close their narratives of Jesus’ Passion. Gospel of Matthew, however, has an additional narrative about the posting of a guard at the tomb (Mt 27: 62-66). The Lukan description of Jesus’ burial is based on gospel of Mark 15: 42-47. In his redaction of the Markan parallel, Luke has omitted certain details, for example, Pilate’s verification of Jesus’ death (Mk 15: 44-45), the closing of the tomb (Mk 15: 46), and the names of the women who witnessed the burial (Mk 15: 47).

In all four gospels the burial of Jesus was not carried out by his disciples but by a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who, according to gospels of John (Jn 19: 38) and Matthew (Mt 27: 57) was also a ‘disciple.’ Luke gives detailed information about this man, besides his name and place of origin. Luke says that Joseph of Arimathes was a member of the Sanhedrin, that he was a good and righteous, that he had not agreed with the decision of the Sanhedrin and that hes was looking for the Kingdom of God (Lk 23: 50-51). All this detailed information is meant to emphasize the moral character of the man who obtains the body of Jesus from Pilate and buries it relevantly. Although Jesus was reckoned with transgressors and criminals he is not buried like them in common grave. Wrapping Jesus’ body in a linen shroud, Joseph of Arimathea places it in a previously unused tomb (Lk 23: 53). The notice about the day of Preparation and the dawning of the Sabbath in Luke 23: 54 seem to be unconnected. Mark, who gives this time-element at the beginning of the narrative (Mk 15: 42), seems to relate it to the actions of Joseph in burying Jesus without delay (cf. Jn 19: 31). In gospel of Luke, however, the indication of the approaching Sabbath seems to be related to the actions of the women, namely, the preparation of spices and ointments before Sabbath began (Lk 23: 56). Both in the Crucifixion and burial narratives Luke mentions the Galilean women as witnesses (Lk 23: 49, 55). The evangelist does not mention their names here (but cf. Lk 24: 10). These women saw the tomb and how Jesus was buried. They then return home and prepare spices and ointments in order to give Jesus a more fitting burial according to the Jewish customs. But this can be done only after the Sabbath is over (Lk 23: 56).

Luke’s mention of the women who witnessed the Crucifixion and the burial of Jesus and who made ready the spices and ointments immediately prepares for his narrative of the resurrection (Lk 23: 56b24: 12). These women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James, and other women – Luke 24: 10) are the first witness of Jesus’ resurrection as the testimony about the resurrection is first made to them (Lk 24: 1-12).

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