Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to die by Pontius Pilate. Like a common criminal, he was executed by crucifixion -- he was hung upon a cross, with nails driven through his hands and feet. A Roman soldier stabbed him in the ribs with a spear. He died after hours of torment and exposure to the elements, with his followers at his feet. Many of his followers and disciples came together to plan and execute a proper burial for their beloved messiah.
Joseph and Nicodemus
Although it was not traditional for executed Roman prisoners to be given back to their families, Joseph of Arimathaea, a wealthy man from Judea, asked for the body of Jesus and was granted this wish by Pontius Pilate. According to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, Joseph, along with Nicodemus, brought Jesus' body away from the crucifixion site to prepare him for burial rather than leaving him exposed like other crucified people.
Jesus was washed, although there is no explicit detail in the New Testament about what was used to clean his body, which was covered in blood and other soil from his time on the cross. After washing Jesus, Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped his body carefully in linens, according to Jewish practices of the time. Each of his limbs was wrapped and his entire body was encircled in a shawl. The linen was of good quality, and roughly 75 pounds of spices were used to soak the cloth and anoint the body. Joseph and Nicodemus used myrrh and incense to mask the odors of death and prevent decay. Unlike pagans of the time, Jews did not practice cremation, and embalming or removing the organs was only an Egyptian practice at the time of Jesus' death.
Several women, followers and family of Jesus, came from Galilee to mourn their savior and prepare the body. They saw that Nicodemus and Joseph had already anointed Jesus with spices and perfumed oils. The women mentioned specifically in the Bible are Mary, Salome and Mary Magdalene, although it is implied that others may have been present to help prepare Jesus for burial. Since the day after Jesus' death was the Sabbath, the women rested rather than adding additional ointment and perfume to his body on that day. When they returned on the first day of the week, the tomb was empty.
In addition to retrieving the body of Jesus and helping to prepare him for burial, Joseph provided an elegant tomb for Jesus. The tomb had been his own, located in a garden and cut from stone. Once they placed the body of Jesus in the tomb, they rolled a large stone in front of it to seal the tomb. A guard was put in place to keep people from stealing or vandalizing the grave site.
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