Matthew, Jesus’ eye-witness biographer, recorded these simple facts. As evening approached, a rich man came from the town of Arimathea. His name was Joseph. He had become a follower of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. Then he went away.
That’s interesting, isn’t it, from another point of view. Even though Jesus was dead, Joseph of Arimathea, who had become a disciple of Jesus, still did what he could for Jesus. Despite being wealthy he cared for the body of this convicted and executed criminal. Somehow, he knew the truth.
Another interesting thing in Matthew’s biography is that, as soon as Jesus’ body was in the tomb and the great stone rolled over the entrance, Matthew then uses the word “grave” instead of tomb. He wrote. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there across from the grave.
What’s the difference between a tomb (Greek mnemeion from the verb “to remember”) and a grave (Greek taphos from the verb “to bury”)? Well, the word Matthew used for tomb describes an empty memorial space prepared for a dead body. When the body’s there in that space, the space becomes a grave.
Jesus made no arrangements for his own memorial place or for his burial place. Joseph had made arrangements for his own memorial dead body but, instead of using it for himself, placed the dead body of Jesus there. Jesus took Joseph’s place in Joseph’s tomb.
I wonder: did Jesus also – in addition - take Joseph’s place in death, in the grave, so that Joseph would not see death but only, one later day, see his own resurrection with Jesus?