Women, Pagans and Pharisees – Gospel in Life

Women, Pagans and Pharisees

Tim Keller |  April 1, 2007

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  • Jesus' Death & Resurrection
Mark 15:39-47
RS 191-24


In the burial of Jesus, we see three classes of people who are brought together by the death of Jesus.

There is the Roman centurion, who is a pagan. There are the women who stay with Jesus all through this time. And there’s Joseph of Arimathea, who is a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee, a member of the ruling party. Women, pagans, Pharisees—three groups of people who don’t usually hang out together. Yet something has brought them together. These are three groups all making positive responses to the death of Jesus.

What we learn here is 1) the world we all want, 2) the change we need, and 3) how we can get it.

Mark 15:39–47

At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus is buried. This event brings together three very different groups: a Roman soldier, faithful women followers, and Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council. Their unity and reactions to Jesus’s death show a shared desire for a better world and the personal changes necessary to create it. This also helps us understand how we can bring about this better world.

1. The world we all want

Despite the fact that women’s testimonies were often dismissed in ancient times, God chose a group of women to bear witness to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This shows God’s commitment to fairness and His stand against misuse of power and privilege. Personal change is key, but we also need to address wider injustices in society. No political or economic system can fix problems that are deeply rooted in our hearts.

2. The change we need

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were secret followers of Jesus, risk their social standing to honor Him after His death. This shows a change in their understanding of power and humility. They challenge societal norms, showing a shift in their values. This story reminds us that we can’t save ourselves through wrongdoings or strict laws. Instead, it shows the power of grace and spiritual rebirth, as reflected in the lives of Joseph and Nicodemus.

3. How we can get it

Jesus’s death and the role of the Trinity in glorifying each other highlight the importance of thinking about others. God is depicted as a dynamic, dance-like activity, with Jesus’s life of service as a model for selflessness. The gospel’s power to change people and the church promotes fairness and unity. This is seen in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation,” where a self-righteous woman experiences a deep change in her sense of self and beliefs.



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