The day we call “Good Friday” was a Day of Preparation for the people of Jerusalem, where they were busying themselves to prepare for the rest of the Sabbath. This Day of Preparation, however, was special, because it fell during Passover, where they annually relived the eve of the exodus. God had caused his judgment passed over the people of Israel because of the blood of the lambs that they had smeared on their doorposts, and he had instead judged their enemies in Egypt by killing every firstborn son in the land.
In Mark 15:42-47, we read of Joseph of Arimathea’s role on this Day of Preparation:
 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.  And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
The faith of Joseph of Arimathea is astounding. Instead of busying himself with making preparations for the Sabbath and the Passover feast, we read that he was “looking for the kingdom of God.” Certainly, few would discourage such a search, but what on earth could he have been thinking by looking for the kingdom of God in this crucified Jesus?
Of couse, while Jesus had been alive and promising great things to the great multitudes who gathered to listen, we could understand it if Joseph had gotten caught up in the Messianic Fever of the day. At the time, who knew where this Jesus might lead?
But now, the game was over. Jesus had clearly been conquered, defeated, and exposed as a fraudulent blasphemer. “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree” (Deut. 21:23), and Joseph had witnessed the bloody, gory curse of God placed on this Jesus. How, then, could he possibly imagine that the kingdom of God could be found in this corpse? What part of God’s kingdom would be established in burying this broken body?
In fact, quite a bit–the Scriptures foretold that Jesus would be buried with the wicked and the rich (Isaiah 53:9). Joseph was playing a role in fulfilling the mission of God’s Suffering Servant, whether he understood what he was doing or not.
You see, in the light of the resurrection, it’s easy for us to imagine that we would have done the same thing that Joseph did. Anyone who knows and loves the Lord Jesus Christ would feel compelled to lay his precious body to rest in a tomb–but we would be armed with the knowledge that he wouldn’t remain there long. What if we didn’t know that?
Joseph looked upon a beaten, broken, crucified man and perceived the Kingdom of God. It is unclear whether he understood that this Jesus was the true Passover Lamb AND the true firstborn Son, whose blood would cause God’s judgment to pass over his people. Nevertheless, Joseph believed, he took courage, and he obeyed.
Following in the footsteps of Joseph’s faith, we must pray that God would grant us eyes to look upon our own suffering, broken families, unfulfilling jobs, and yet unanswered prayers, and in those things perceive the expansion of the Kingdom in our own lives. We must see that when the enemies of the gospel mock our faith, our despised Savior only becomes more radiant. We need faith to grant us courage to march into suffering with the knowledge that through it, Jesus Christ has built, and will continue to build, his Kingdom.
There could be nothing more counter-intuitive than the gospel proclamation that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), but Joseph somehow understood this perfectly. Pray that we might understand it today as well.
This is Good Friday, the Day of Preparation.
Post Series on Mark 15:42-16:8:
- Three Glorious Days, Part I: The Day of Preparation (Mark 15:42-47)
- Three Glorious Days, Part II: The Sabbath of Holy Saturday (Mark 16:1a)
- Three Glorious Days, Part III: Easter Sunday (Mark 16:1-8)