As we celebrated on Holy Friday, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was hanging crucified on a cross on the holiest day of the year, in the most important city of the Jewish world, in front of the entire city. When He died, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. Jesus had died in front of huge crowds of people, but Pilate was not convinced that He was dead, so he sent soldiers to make sure He was dead. This was an important point in history. If the people never believed He was dead on the Cross, they would never believe He raised from the dead when the time came.
The Gospel today makes a point of emphasizing this reality. In fact, we hear the word “dead” several times during the reading. “And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; 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 body of Joseph.” (Mark 15.44) The next scene we hear is the faithful women who went to anoint the body of Jesus before dawn on Sunday morning, and they found that He was raised from the dead.
Why is it so important that Jesus was dead? Why does the Evangelist makes such a big deal about this point? If Jesus never died, then we will never live. The mystery of the resurrection of Christ is solidified in the fact that huge crowds saw that Jesus was dead. Without the belief in His death, the crowd would never care if they saw Him again three days later. He would have just been another magician. But He is not just another magician; He is God.
Since nobody was present when Jesus was actually resurrected, it is crucial that they knew He was dead. This is one reason the Jewish leaders never denied His death, but claimed His body had been stolen. With a living Jesus walking around for forty days, nobody would be able to deny the great miracle of His Glorious Resurrection.
Today there are many who refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is their free choice, but the only way they can substantiate their belief is to claim that He never died. This is why the Evangelist insisted in reaffirming the death of Jesus before sharing the Good News of His Resurrection.