There is no description in the Gospel accounts of the removal of Jesus from the Cross, and only bare elements are given on how the body was prepared for burial. Regarding the former, one can assume that Joseph was assisted by others. Concerning the preparations for the burial, we can draw both on the information provided in the Bible and what is known from ancient Jewish sources.
According to these sources, the preparatory rites normally included closing the eyes, binding the jaws, combing the beard and hair, washing and anointing the body, covering the face with a cloth (sudarium); then followed the funeral procession for transporting the body to the tomb, with feet and hands bound.
Were all of these measures carried out? The Gospels are silent on most of these points, and in view of the exceptional situation it seems likely that things were done in haste.
The Gospel authors give particolar attention to aromatic spices and clothing. Mark and Luke speak of spices and perfumed oils being used in the burial of Jesus, while from John it would appear that the perfumes were solid ones. In fact, in this fourth Gospel, the only one that makes reference to Nicodemus, John mentions an exorbitant mixture of one hundred (Roman) pounds – about 33 kilograms – composed of myrrh, an aromatic resin, and aloe, a perfume, undoubtedly with the aim of showing that the dead person was truly king, as had been written on the tablet attached to the Cross, and as he had been treated.
Moreover, the tomb used for Jesus was new, as was customary for the burial of a king. Aromatic spices were sprinkled on the body and between the folds of the clothes, ensuring their adhesion with the linen bandages, and were also left beside the body.
It is difficult, relying solely on the Gospel texts, to get a precise idea of the burial cloths and their number. Normally the principal fabric consisted of a proper mortuary tunic, or of a piece of sufficiently precious linen, that was used to wrap the deceased’s body, which had to be totally covered. Jesus’ body was then laid in the tomb which, the authors of the Gospels tell us, was a new one, carved out of the rock, and located in a garden not far from the site of the Crucifixion.
The tomb was closed by rolling a stone in front of its entrance. At the time of Jesus the poor were buried in the earth; Jesus received the burial that only the rich were entitled to.
The group of women made up Jesus’ funeral procession which, in view of the proximity of the tomb to the site of the crucifixion, must have been very short. Christian piety has always seen Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as one of these women, ready to welcome the Son to her heart as an ultimate act of piety.
The women serve above all as witnesses: they have followed Jesus from Galilee to Calvary, they have seen him die on the Cross and now they are watching the tomb: they will be the first to see him risen, receiving from him the command to proclaim the Easter message to his disciples.