John 19:38 MEANING

John 19:38
(38) For the burial (John 19:38-42), comp. generally Notes on Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.

But secretly for fear of the Jews.--This is the only additional fact which St. John supplies with regard to Joseph. He places him in these verses side by side with Nicodemus, and ascribes the same trait of character to both.

Verses 38-42. -

(7) The burial - the two friends, Joseph and Nicodemus. Verse 38. - After these things - i.e., after all these transactions and impressions, after the crurifragium and the piercing and the proceedings of the soldiers with Pilate's permission; after, that is, time was left to see the full issue of the previous act, and the awful fact was patent to all - Joseph, who is from Arimathaea. This "Joseph" is introduced with the article (), and a second before ἀπὸ, implying to the reader that he is now. by reason of thesynoptic narrative, a well-known person. This Arimathsea is probably the Ramathaim of 1 Samuel 1:1, the birthplace of Samuel, known now as the Nebi Samwil, about two leagues north-west of Jerusalem (Caspari, § 49). Hengstenberg thinks the site is Ramleh, eight hours from Jerusalem. The maps of the Palest. Explor. Fund place it about a league to the east of Bethlehem. He was a "rich man" (Matthew 27:57) - a fact which the First Gospel recalls without quoting the remarkable oracle of Isaiah 53:9, that Messiah, Servant of Jehovah, was with the "rich in his death." We may judge that Joseph had a residence in Jerusalem, even though he may still be known as belonging to and "from" Arimathaea, because he bad prepared, hard by the metropolis, a sepulcher which as yet had never been used. He was, moreover, a βουλευτής (Luke 23:50; Mark 15:43), a member of the Sanhedrin, of high character, "good and just.... waiting for, expecting the kingdom of God' (say Mark and Luke), "and by no means consentient to the counsel and deed of his colleagues" (adds Luke). The whole position is briefly put by John: Being a disciple of Jesus, but a hidden one (κεκρυμμένος), who had been concealed as such up to this crowning climax of his Lord's humiliation, not daring to confess Christ, by reason of his fear of the Jews. Strange that he and Nicodemus should have cast away their fears at such a moment! Joseph asked of Pilate (ἠρώτησεν); a word that implies something of claim and confidence on his part. The synoptists all three use ἠτήσατο, which rather denotes the position of a suppliant for a favor. That he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. This is supposed by some, who are anxious to make difficulties where none exist, that (according to Mark 15:43) Pilate had already given permission for the crurifragium, and yet was astonished that he was dead already. The statement of Mark is perfectly consistent with this and with the ἀρθῶσιν of ver. 31. Joseph, when all the transactions were over, sought for himself the privilege of a friend to take the body and bury it. Roman law permitted this privilege to friends; as Luthardt says, "The Christian martyrs of Rome were often buried in the catacombs." Not until death was obvious was it lawful to remove a body from the cross. The death had taken place; the Jews were prepared with Pilate's authorization to remove the corpse to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Joseph comes with a permission to take the corpse for honorable burial. He came therefore - by reason of the permission - and took the body (of Jesus).

19:38-42 Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Christ in secret. Disciples should openly own themselves; yet some, who in lesser trials have been fearful, in greater have been courageous. When God has work to do, he can find out such as are proper to do it. The embalming was done by Nicodemus, a secret friend to Christ, though not his constant follower. That grace which at first is like a bruised reed, may afterward resemble a strong cedar. Hereby these two rich men showed the value they had for Christ's person and doctrine, and that it was not lessened by the reproach of the cross. We must do our duty as the present day and opportunity are, and leave it to God to fulfil his promises in his own way and his own time. The grave of Jesus was appointed with the wicked, as was the case of those who suffered as criminals; but he was with the rich in his death, as prophesied, Isa 53:9; these two circumstances it was very unlikely should ever be united in the same person. He was buried in a new sepulchre; therefore it could not be said that it was not he, but some other that rose. We also are here taught not to be particular as to the place of our burial. He was buried in the sepulchre next at hand. Here is the Sun of Righteousness set for a while, to rise again in greater glory, and then to set no more.And after this,.... That is, after Jesus had given up the ghost, when it was a clear case that he was dead; as it was before the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified, and before one of them pierced the side of Jesus with his spear, though that confirmed it: but it seems to be before these last things were done, and yet after the death of Christ, that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, and desired leave to take down the body of Jesus. This Joseph was a counsellor, one of the Jewish sanhedrim; though he did not give his consent to the counsel of the court concerning Jesus: he is here described by the place of his birth, Arimathea. This place has been generally thought to be the same with Ramah or Ramathaim Zophim, the birth place of Samuel the prophet; and so I have taken it to be in the note See Gill on Matthew 27:57 but there seems to be some reason to doubt about it, since Ramathaim Zophim was in Mount Ephraim, or in the mountainous parts of that tribe, 1 Samuel 1:1 whereas Arimathea is called a city of the Jews, Luke 23:51. But if it was in the tribe of Ephraim, it would rather, as Reland (o) observes, be called a city of the Samaritans, to whom that part of the country belonged; besides, as the same learned writer shows from Judges 4:5 the mountainous parts of Ephraim were about Bethel, to the north of Jerusalem; whereas Arimathea is mentioned along with Lydda, which lay to the west of it, as it is by Jerom, and others: that ancient writer says (p), that not far from Lydda, now called Diospolis, famous for the raising of Dorcas from the dead, and the healing of Aeneas, is Arimathia, the little village of Joseph, who buried the Lord; though he makes this elsewhere (q) to be the same with Ramathaim Zophim: his words are, Armatha Zophim, the city of Elkanah and Samuel, is in the region of Thamna by Diospolis, (or Lydda,) from whence was Joseph, who, in the Gospels, is said to be of Arimathia; and so in Josephus (r), and in the Apocrypha:

"Wherefore we have ratified unto them the borders of Judea, with the three governments of Apherema and Lydda and Ramathem, that are added unto Judea from the country of Samaria, and all things appertaining unto them, for all such as do sacrifice in Jerusalem, instead of the payments which the king received of them yearly aforetime out of the fruits of the earth and of trees.'' (1 Maccabees 11:34)

Lydda and Ramatha, or, as in the latter, Ramathem, are mentioned together, as added unto Judea from the country of Samaria; which last clause, "from the country of Samaria", seems to bid fair for a reconciliation of this matter, that those two are one and the same place: and as the birth place of Samuel the prophet is called, by the Septuagint, Armathaim, as has been observed see Gill on Matthew 27:57 so it is likewise called, "Ramatha", by the Targumist on Hosea 5:8 as it is also by Josephus (s). The city of this name, near Lydda, is now called Ramola, and is about thirty six or thirty seven miles from Jerusalem. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, "who was of Rama". Some take this Joseph to be the same with Joseph ben Gorion, the brother of Nicodemus ben Gorion, and who is supposed to be the same Nicodemus mentioned in the next verse. The character the Jews (t) give of Joseph ben Gorion is, that he was a priest, and of the richest and most noble of the priests in Jerusalem; that he was a very wise, just, and upright man; and that three or four years before the destruction of Jerusalem, he was about sixty seven years of age.

Being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews; not one of the twelve, but a private hearer, who had sometimes secretly attended on the ministry of Christ, loved him, and believed in him as the Messiah, but had not courage enough to confess him, and declare for him, for fear of being put out of the synagogue and sanhedrim: but now being inspired with zeal and courage, "went in boldly", as Mark says,

and besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: from off the cross, that it might not be any more insulted by his enemies, and might not be thrown with the other bodies into the place where the bodies of malefactors were cast, but that it might be decently interred. This Pilate, the Roman governor, had the disposal of, and to him Joseph applies for it; which was a great instance of his affection for Christ, and was a declaring openly for him, and must unavoidably expose him to the malice and resentment of the Jews:

and Pilate gave him leave; having first inquired of the centurion, whether he was dead; of which being satisfied, he readily granted it; not only in complaisance to Joseph, who was a man of note and figure, but on account of the innocence of Jesus, of which he was convinced, and therefore was very willing he should have an honourable burial:

he came therefore; to the cross, with proper servants with him,

and took the body of Jesus; down from the cross, and carried it away. The Alexandrian copy, different from all others, and in language uncommon, reads, "the body of God".

(o) Palestina Ilustrata, l. 3. p. 581. (p) Epitaph Paulae, fol. 59. A. (q) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 88. K. (r) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 4. soot. 9. (s) Ib. l. 5. c. 10. sect. 2.((t) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol 25. 1. & 27. 1.

Courtesy of Open Bible