Entering the Promised Land, 11:1-16:8

5. Epilogue

i] The burial of Jesus


Near the place of execution, a group of women gather in support of Jesus in his time of humiliation. Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger, and Joses the mother of Salome are present, among others. John tells us that the beloved disciple is also present with the women.

It is now late on the Friday afternoon and so it is necessary to see to Jesus' burial before sunset, the commencement of the Sabbath. Also, the law demands that a body should not remain on a tree after sunset, but must be buried, Deut.21:23. At this point, Mark tells us that a godly man, a man "waiting for the kingdom of God", bravely fronts the governor and asks for the body of Jesus. His name is Joseph, from the town of Arimathea. Pilate confirms that Jesus is dead and then gives his permission. Joseph shrouds the body and lays it in a rock tomb, rolling a stone over the entrance.

From a distance, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph, watch this kindness shown Jesus by Joseph.


Faithfulness follows the faithfulness of Jesus


i] Context: See 11:1-11. We now come to the last Markan sandwich, an epilogue to the gospel proclamation that Jesus is the victorious Son of God, a victory realised through the humiliation of a cross. In this sandwich we meet the post-cross response of believers: the bravery of Joseph and the faithfulness of the women.

A1. The women at the cross, 15:40-41

B. Joseph of Arimathea approaches Pilate, 15:42-46

A2. The women visit the tomb, 15:47-16:8


ii] Structure: The burial of Jesus:

The women watch from afar, v40-41;

Jesus is buried, v42-47:

Joseph requests the right to bury Jesus, v42-43;

Pilate gives his approval, v44-45;

Joseph lays Jesus to rest, v46;

Two women observe the burial, v47.


iii] Interpretation:

Mark presents us with the gospel / important news concerning Jesus the Son of God, 1:1. This news culminates at the cross, and it is there where the first of many proclaim Jesus as the Son of God; Jesus, through his ransom for many, is the saviour of the world.

A fundamental proposition of Pauline theology is that faith in the faithfulness of Christ produces the fruit of love. Mark concludes his gospel with this fruit evident in Jesus' female supporters and in a man called Joseph, from the town of Arimathea.

Mark tells us that the women were followers of Jesus, disciples, and that they provided for him. They came up with Jesus to Jerusalem, and unlike the apostles, did not run away, but stayed with him through his time of humiliation. At the cross, faithfulness flourishes; fear evaporates.

Another example of fear evaporating and faithfulness flourishing, is found in the example of Joseph. Approaching Pilate with a request for the body of Jesus comes with serious danger, let alone the danger of a member of the Sanhedrin having anything to do with Jesus, dead or alive. Yet, he makes the approach and tends to the body of the crucified one. Again, faith in the atoning death of Jesus produces the fruit of faithfulness rather than fear.


iv] Synoptics:

The women watch on: v40-41. Matt.27:56, Lk.23:49, Jn.19:25-27. Luke's "all Jesus' close friends", and John's "the beloved disciple", adds to the presence of the women.

Joseph of Arimathea, v42-47. Matt.27:57-61, Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:38-42. Matthew condenses the account and Luke adds nothing to it.

Text - 15:40

The burial of Jesus, v40-47: i] The women watch from afar, v40-41. Mark now makes mention of the faithful women who serve Jesus, and do so right to the end.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

qewrousai (qewrew) pres. part. "were watching" - [there were and = also women] looking, observing [from far off]. The NIV opts for a periphrastic construction, the present participle + the imperfect verb to-be hsan, producing an imperfect periphrastic. Most translations head toward an adjectival participle, attributive, limiting "women"; "There were also many women who were looking on from a distance."

en + dat. "among [them]" - in [whom]. Here expressing association, "among whom ....."

kai ... kai .... kai ... "......, and" - both [mary magdalene], and [mary the mother of james the younger and joses], and [salome]. Establishing a coordinate construction. Note the use of the adjectivizer articles limiting, so specifying the individuals in mind. So, Mary, is the Mary hJ, the one who comes from the town of Magdala. The other Mary is the Mary hJ, who is the mother of James. James being referred to is the James tou, who is little = shorter or younger. Obviously there is no confusion with Salome.


oJte "-" - [who], when [in galilee]. The temporal conjunction introduces a temporal clause; "When he was in Galilee", ESV. The preposition en, "in", is local, expressing space.

autw/ dat. pro. "[followed] him" - [were following] him [and were serving] him. Both uses of the personal pronoun are dative of direct object after the verbs "to follow (as a disciple)" and "to serve, minister to." Note that both verbs are imperfect, probably to indicate the provision of background information.

aiJ sunanabasai aor. part. "[women] who had come up with" - [and many others] having gone up with [him]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "women", "women who came up with him to Jerusalem", ESV. The sun prefix verb "to go up with, travel with, accompany", takes a dative of direct object. The allai pollai, "many others", is feminine, so "many other women."


ii] Jesus is buried, v42-47. As well as the faithful women, there is a faithful man, Joseph from the town of Arimathea, a man waiting for the fulfilment of "the kingdom of God", a kingdom realised in the victory of Christ on the cross.

genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. part. "as evening approached" - [and] having become [evening already, since it was preparation, which is day before the sabbath]. The genitive participle with its genitive subject, "evening", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV; "By this time it was evening, and as (causal epei, "and since") it was the day of Preparation (that is [o{ estin], the day before the sabbath)", Moffatt. The sense of "evening" is "late in the afternoon". This means that Joseph has only an hour or two to properly bury Jesus before sunset and the commencement of the Sabbath. Note how Mark explains what is meant by "the day of Preparation" for his Gentile readers.


Propriety may not apply to a common criminal, but for Joseph, it applied to Jesus. The body needed to be properly laid to rest, and this before the commencement of the Sabbath at sunset, and in accord with Deuteronomy 21:23 (that a body not be left hanging on a tree after sunset). A common criminal, upon execution, has no rights, even to a proper burial, and even more so if that person was convicted of treason. So, Joseph is wading into dangerous waters.

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "-" - having come. Decker suggests that the participle is adverbial, temporal, but it may just be attendant on the verb "to enter into": "Joseph of Arimathea, a Councillor of good standing who was himself in search of the Kingdom of God, went and made his way boldly into Pilate's presence", Rieu.

apo + gen. "of [Arimathea]" - [joseph, the one] from [arimathea]. Usually with the sense "away from", but here replacing ek, expressing source / origin. The town of Arimathea is possibly identified with a site known as Remtis northwest of Jerusalem.

bouleuthV (hV ou) "member of the Council" - a [respected, reputable, noble (possibly "wealthy")] councillor. This nominal phrase stands in apposition to "Joseph", explaining something about Joseph, namely, that he is a respected member of the Sanhedrin.

h\n prosdecomenoV (prosdecomai) pres. mid. part. "was [himself] waiting for" - [who and = also he = himself] was looking toward [the kingdom of god]. The present participle + the imperfect verb to-be forms an imperfect periphrastic construction, possibly expressing durative action - he was waiting, waiting, waiting. For "kingdom of God", see 1:15.

tolmhsaV (tolmaw) aor. part. "[went] boldly" - having daring [went]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his going to Pilate, as NIV; "courageously went to Pilate", NAB.

proV + acc. "to [Pilate]" - toward [pilate and asked him for the body of jesus]. Spatial, expressing movement toward; "He courageously went to see Pilate and asked for Jesus' body"


Only Mark records Pilate seeking to confirm that Jesus is dead.

oJ de "-" - but/and he. Transitional, indicating a change in subject to Pilate.

ei "to hear that" - [pilate was amazed, astonished] if [already he had died]. The conjunction is used here to introduce an indirect question, expressing what Pilate asks himself in his amazement, "has he died already?" Used again later in the verse to express Pilate's question to the centurion "if already he died" = "has he already died?"

proskalesamenoV (proskalew) aor. mid. part. "summoning" - [and] having summoned [the centurion he questioned him if already he died]. The participle is adverbial, temporal. It is unusual for a crucified person to die so quickly. The whole point of crucifixion is to prolong the punishment. "He then summoned the centurion and asked whether he had been dead for some time."


It is probably true to say that Pilate begrudgingly allows the crucifixion of Jesus and so there is a touch of humanity in his willingness to release the body for burial. Maybe it was a poke in the eye to the religious authorities, much in the same as the charge-notice "The King of the Jews" is somewhat in their face.

gnouV (ginomai) aor. part. "when he learned" - [and] having come to know [from the centurion]. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "when he ascertained this from the centurion ..."

Iwshf dat. proper "to Joseph" - [he gave the corpse] to joseph. Dative of indirect.


Mark's account is succinct and to the point. We are left with numerous questions, and few answers. Mark doesn't tell us if Joseph had assistants, but obviously he did. We are not told if Joseph prepared the body for burial. Custom demands the body be washed and scented before it is wrapped in a shroud and entombed. The act is allowed on the Sabbath, so we can assume that Joseph acted appropriately. The actual design of the tomb all came down to the wealth of the owner. The wealthier would have a cave like tomb, with a ledge for the body and 1 metre square entrance. A hewn round slab of rock would serve to seal the tomb. All we know is that the stone was "rolled" "against the entrance."

kai "So" - and. A consecutive sense is likely, as NIV; "and so ....."

agorasaV (agorazw) aor. part. "[Joseph] bought" - having bought [a linen sheet]. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "After buying a linen sheet", Moffatt.

kaqelwn (kaqairew) aor. part. "took down" - [and] having taken down [him, he wrapped him]. Possibly also adverbial, temporal, so Decker, but it may also may serve as an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to wrap in"; "he ... took him down and swathed him in the linen", Moffatt. None-the-less, the action is causative, as Lane notes; "he caused the body to be taken down from the cross, linen cloth to be purchased, and the body prepared for burial."

th/ sindoni (wn wnoV) dat. "the linen" - Dative of direct object after the en prefix verb "to wrap in." The linen sheet, length of linen, is properly "a linen shroud."

h\n lelatomhmenon (latomew) perf. pas. part. "cut" - [and placed him in a tomb which] was having been hewn, cut out. The perfect participle + the imperfect verb to-be, forms an periphrastic pluperfect construction.

ek + gen. "out of" - from [rock]. Expressing source / origin.

epi "against [the entrance]" - [and rolled a stone] upon [the door = entrance of the tomb]. Spatial, probably "against".


Two of the women, who had witnessed the crucifixion, take time out to observe the burial of Jesus. Presumably, they observe from a distance, given that Joseph, from their perspective, is no friend of the Christian fellowship.

eqewroun (qeaomai) imperf. "saw" - [and mary the magdalene and mary the mother of joses] were seeing. The imperfect tense is used to indicate the provision of background information. For the use of the article hJ for Magdalene, see kai v40.

pou "where [he was laid]" - where [he has been laid]. Here serving to introduce an indirect interrogative clause.


Mark Introduction

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