Joseph of Arimathea was a highly visible, distinguished member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council led by the high priests. The seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin were the wealthiest and most powerful men of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Matthew calls Joseph rich, a fact which is verified by his ownership of a tomb carved in the rocks. Scripture gives no indication of what he did for a living, however, unsubstantiated legend has it that Joseph was a dealer in metal goods.

To make sure Jesus received a proper burial, Joseph of Arimathea boldly asked Pontius Pilate for custody of Jesus' body. Joseph's desire to properly bury the dead despite personal risk showed that he was a devout Jew. Not only did he risk ritual uncleanness by entering the quarters of a pagan, but together with Nicodemus, another Sanhedrin member, he further contaminated himself under Mosaic law, by touching a corpse.

Joseph of Arimathea donated his new tomb for Jesus to be buried in. This fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9: "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (NIV)

According to Jewish custom, Jesus' body was anointed with spiced oils of myrrh and aloes, wrapped with a linen cloth to preserve it, and placed in the unused tomb.

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