38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Joseph of Arimathea was, apparently, a wealthy man, with some political pull; after all, he got an immediate audience with Pilate and asked to take away Jesus’ body, and Pilate gave him permission. But don’t you wonder what he feared? A prominent, wealthy man, yet he feared the religious leaders. Perhaps if he defied them he would lose position, or business? Perhaps worse? And then there is Nicodemus, who joins him – a member of the Sanhedrin, he had come to Jesus at night to ask questions and try to understand. Now, he joins in Jesus’ burial, brings spices for wrapping the body. And so, Joseph and Nicodemus wrap the body in linen with the spices, and they take it to a garden where there was a new tomb (other gospels say the tomb belonged to Joseph) and they laid Jesus in the tomb. John says they laid him in this particular tomb because it was getting close to sundown and they had to place Jesus in the tomb quickly.
Why does the author tell such details about the burial of Jesus? There were those who claimed he was not really dead; those who claimed that it was someone else who died (that is still what the Muslims believe); those who claimed the disciples stole the body. It was important to establish, by reliable testimony, that Jesus was really dead. The testimony of the soldiers who pierced his side, and the presence of blood and water that flowed from there was told for this reason. But here, two reliable members of the religious elite, men whose testimony could not be questioned, together wrapped the body and laid it in the tomb. They testify to the humanity of the man, Jesus, and to his human death. It is this that makes the rest of the story all the more shocking!
The picture is worshippers gathered at "The Garden Tomb" in Jerusalem.