These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 15:42-47 Inductive Bible Study
What is the preparation day? What would people do to prepare for the Sabbath?
What is the council that is referred to?
What kind of person was Joseph of Arimathea?
What was his relationship with Jesus?
Did he agree to the plot to crucify Jesus? How do you know?
Did he speak out loudly and publicly to defend Jesus? How do you know?
What lessons can we learn from Joseph? What are his good qualities? What are his weak qualities? Do you think he is a true believer? Why or why not?
Did Joseph finally overcome his fear? What shows us that he did?
Who else helped Joseph bury Jesus (see John 19:38-42)? How are these two men similar?
How did Pilate react when Joseph asked for Jesus’ body?
Why do you think he granted this request?
What prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus’ burial?
How do you think the disciples felt at this time? How about the rulers?
Do we know anything about where Jesus’ soul went during the time between the death and resurrection? Or what He was doing?
Matthew 27:57-60, Luke 23:50-55, John 19:38-42 – More references for Joseph of Arimathea.
1 Peter 3:18-20 – Christ made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.
Luke 23:43 – Today you will be with Me in paradise.
Acts 2:22-24 – Death could not hold Him.
Ephesians 4:9 – Jesus descended to the lower parts of the earth.
1 Corinthians 15:55 – Where O death is thy sting?
1. The preparation day – Jews did not work on the Sabbath. While the Old Testament command appears to mean doing manual labor or furthering one’s career, by this time the Pharisees had an extensive guide of rules about what could and could not do. Because one could not do work on the Sabbath, many things had to prepared the day before including food to eat for the Sabbath, water to use, and so on. It’s kind of like the person who prepares everything ahead of time for a major holiday so that on the holiday they can just relax.
2. Joseph of Arimathea – What do we know about Joseph? Do you think he was a real believer? (Instead of answering, go through the study of Joseph and then ask again.)
A. He was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57)
B. He was wealthy enough to own his own tomb (Matthew 27:59)
C. He was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:50, Mark 15:43)
D. He was good and righteous (Luke 23:50)
E. He did not agree to the plan to crucify Jesus (Luke 23:51)
F. He was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews (John 19:38
G. He was from Arimathea (Mark 15:43)
What were his weaknesses?
1. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus. He had faith in Jesus. The fact that he was called a disciple of Jesus shows that this faith was real and sincere. But at the same time, had not made a public statement of faith. He had not publicly identified with Christ. This is clearly very important as Luke 9:26 tells us that those who are ashamed of Christ in front of people, He will also be ashamed of. It is likely that the peer pressure of his peers in the Council were too much for Joseph to stand up to. If they knew, he would have been mocked. Beyond that, he could have jeopardized his position on the council. As a rich man, he had a lot to lose. While he should have boldly took a public stand for Jesus, instead he opted for the easier way to follow Christ secretly while standing aloof in public.
2. Joseph was fearful of the Jews. This fear prevented him from speaking out as a disciple of Jesus. We learn from Luke 23:51 that Joseph did not agree to the plan against Jesus. But we do not see that he publicly defended Jesus. He should have loudly insisted that Jesus go free. He should have been doing this at both Jewish trials and the Roman trial. But in those stories he is nowhere to be seen. Why? We don’t know for sure. He could have conveniently missed the meetings to escape making a public decision. He could have just watched on in silence. Whatever the reason was, his fear prevented him from taking the appropriate action. For verses reminding believers not to fear see: 2 Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 41:10, 1 John 4:18, Psalms 56:3-4.
What were Joseph’s strengths?
1. Joseph took initiative. No one gave Joseph the assignment to take Jesus’ body. There was no meeting in which the disciples divided up various responsibilities. Joseph saw what needed to be done and he found a way to get it done. This is likely one of the reasons he was well to do. Taking initiative and being a man of action is a key to success. Do you observe when something needs to be done or never notice it at all? If you notice it, do you take action to do it or wait around for someone else to do something?
2. Joseph had compassion. Jesus was hanging on the cross for all to see. This was a shameful event. If Joseph did nothing, Jesus probably would have been buried by the Romans in a common grave. But Jesus was anything but a common criminal and Joseph could not stand to see Him hanging there on that cross any longer. His compassion drove him to take action. Do you exhibit compassion for others and does it drive you to take action?3. Joseph exhibited wisdom. He knew the right channels to go through to accomplish what he wanted to get done. If he had gone to the Jews, he would have reached a dead end. But Joseph was wise enough to notice that Pilate was sympathetic toward Jesus and likely to grant his request before the Jews could raise any objection.
4. Joseph had a mind of his own. He did not blindly follow the rest of the Jewish leaders. While he should have gone even further and spoken out against what they were doing, at least he didn’t just follow group think.
5. Joseph was generous. Joseph donated his own grave to Jesus. Graves were not cheap to buy. This grave was hewed out of a stone. That takes a lot of manual labor and manual labor costs money. Joseph could have quickly bought a cheap grave for Jesus. But instead he gave the one that he had bought for himself. This is what true generosity is. Generosity is not giving the worst that we have to others. It is giving the best that we have and doing it with a good attitude. Proverbs 11:24-25 maybe shows us why Joseph was rich. God gives the gift of generosity to some people and it seems that because those people are so willing and happy to give, He blesses/entrusts them with more and more. This is not a promise that 100% of the time you are generous to others God will give you more, but God often does this.
6. Joseph had a servant’s heart. Burying Jesus was not a pleasant task. Jesus’ body would haven bruised and cut and bleeding almost beyond recognition. Mark 15:46 tells us that Joseph took Jesus down. He may have had help, but nonetheless, this was a messy job. No one was around to thank or pay him for it. He didn’t do it for the recognition. He did it out of love for Christ. This love drove him to action and that is what real love is.
7. Joseph persevered. He didn’t wimp out in the middle of this and say that it was too difficult. He finished it through to the very end of rolling the stone against the entrance of the tomb (he may have had help for this as well).
8. Joseph was courageous. Huh? Why do you think I say he was courageous? Well, where are the rest of the disciples now? Who else is coming to bury Jesus? No one. They are not there. While others are still fleeing/hiding, Joseph finally gathers up courage to act. More on this later.
What lessons can we learn from Joseph?
1. People can change. Prior to this day Joseph had been a secret disciple of Jesus afraid to speak out his belief in public. Was he a secret disciple anymore? No. Mark tells us that “he gathered up courage” and went to Pilate. No longer was his life characterized by fear. It was instead characterized by courage. It wouldn’t be long before the Jewish leaders knew what Joseph had done and guessed that he was a disciple of Jesus. His silence or lack of support at the trials combined with those would show them clearly that Joseph was not in their camp. This was not an easy thing for Joseph to do. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was the signature moment of his walk with the Lord. He was at an intersection. His conscience burned within him. In order to do what was right, he had to go public. Or he could ignore his conscience and remain silent. It doesn’t appear to be an easy decision. The term “gathered up courage” seems to indicate this decision was not made in an instant. It is like the person who is getting ready to dive into a pool for the first time, they walk to the edge and look at the pool for awhile and think about it. Finally the person has to make a choice, either dive in or walk away. Joseph decided to dive in.
2. Joseph illustrates God’s grace – It is fairly easy to accuse Joseph. Why wasn’t he more brave? Why didn’t he speak out? Many ask, was Joseph a real believer? What do you think? I firmly believe he was. His biggest challenge was fear. And finally because of God’s grace he was able to defeat this fear and demonstrate courage. That is what God does in our lives. He changes us. He patiently gives us time to grow. He doesn’t cast us out when we first commit a mistake or show weakness. Instead he wants to turn our weaknesses into strength. If Joseph was not a real believer, he never would have been able to summon up the courage to do this.
3. God is sovereign. If Jesus was buried in a grave with common criminals, there would have been little or no evidence for the crucifixion.
1. Do not be in a hurry to pass judgment on others. God is patient with us and we should be patient too. Instead of looking down on weaker brothers and sisters (and we are sometimes the weaker ones ourselves!), we should help them grow. See 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
What applications can you make based on what you learn from Joseph?
Teaching Points Continued
3. Pilate grants Joseph’s request – Pilate first wanted to make sure that Jesus was in fact dead. After doing so, he releases the body to Joseph. This actually saves work and resources for the Romans. Perhaps Joseph used his position on the council to get Jesus’ body. If so, it could be for this very reason that God put him on the council and thereby fulfilled prophecy such as Isaiah 53:9.
4. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus – The women who were followers of Jesus continue to exhibit more commitment than the disciples did. Perhaps it was their emotional bond with Jesus. Regardless they appear at the cross, at the burial, and at the resurrection.
5. Why is the burial important for apologetics? The burial together with the centurion’s declaration that Jesus was dead put to rest any ridiculous notion that Jesus merely fainted/swooned and didn’t die. This has been a popular theory attempting to explain the resurrection as a mere revival of a not-yet dead Jesus. The fact that Jesus was buried in this exact grave and not in a common grave with other criminals also allowed for there to be Roman soldiers guarding the tomb and later evidences of the empty tomb and missing body which prove Jesus’ resurrection.
6. Where did Jesus go or what did He do during this three day time gap? See 1 Peter 3:18-20. This was not a second chance for people who had rejected God before. Hebrews 9:27.
“Jesus visited the bound demons in the abyss to proclaim His victory to them. God allows most demons to wander the earth and tempt people. They are a very real reality in our present day just as they were during the time of Christ. Perhaps God does this to give people a choice between good and evil, a choice to follow Him or not. However, some demons committed such terrible evil that it was messing up God’s natural order. They went even beyond the limits God imposed on them (notice that in the book of Job God gives Satan some limits). As a result, God decided to bind these demons in the abyss prior to the end judgment when the remainder will be thrown into hell permanently. See cross-references and Genesis 6. It seems that these demons lusted after human women and had relations with them, giving birth to the Rephaim, unnatural giants. It was this group of demons that Jesus visited in between His death and His resurrection. He visited them to announce His victory over Satan and all evil. What can we learn from this?
a) Although this world looks dismal and hopeless at times, we must remember that God is always in control and even imposes limits on Satan and his demons. It is because of God’s power restraining evil that this world is not even worse than it is. We should pray more for God to intervene in this world to restrain evil.
b) Jesus is the victory. He has put the final nail into Satan and his forces’ coffin, although this coffin hasn’t been buried yet. Because Jesus is the victory and all His enemies will be punished for eternity in the lake of fire we should make sure we are on His team.
c) Satan and demons are very real. We must be alert and wary to escape from temptation and pray for God’s help to face the evils in this world and conquer it.”