The Burial of Jesus

Key Texts: Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42

Isaiah 53:9, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death”  Jesus was buried with sinners, as a sinner for sinners, in a sinners graveyard, but Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He gave the corpse of Jesus a new place. Wherein our new life would emerge with a new promise and law for us and all “Good and Upright” people who would imitate the faith of Abraham that was in Jesus. Another man called “Good”, was Barnabas, Ac. 11:22-24. The goodness of Joseph was from God, (2Ths. 1:11), and we too can be counted worthy by God, for his power to fulfil every desire for goodness and work of faith. Goodness truly is a fruit of His Spirit in us, Gal. 5:22-23. In this hour of crisis for Christ, most disciples abandoned Christ and ran away, while others, like Joseph, stepped forward to do the will of the Father. What will we do, when Christ is being treated ill by others around us? What do we say, when people take His name in vain? Joseph “begged” Pilate (Mt. 27:58) for the corpse of Christ to be taken off the cross for burial, and it was publicly made official. Joseph must have expected that his gift of the tomb was a permanent contribution. What Joseph gave to Jesus he received back “good as new” three days later. God raised up a Joseph… to save the Israelites from famine…to save the infant Jesus from death at the hand of Herod…to save the body of Jesus from being buried along with the robbers in a potter’s field. What we give to Jesus we receive back in heaven “with interest!”

The gravesite was obvious, both Joseph, Nicodemus and at least two Marys knew exactly where it was, when he was laid inside. Also the Jews laid their own sentry and seal upon it, so there could be no confusion amongst his enemies or disciples, about the location of God’s greatest miracle. Why do we know so little about it today?

A long tradition going back to the first century, however, maintains that Jesus’ tomb is at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the 4th century, Constantine supposedly located the tomb site beneath a second century Roman temple. He constructed a church over it. This church has been restored and maintained over the centuries ever since. It is today shared by six faiths: Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrian, Copts and Ethiopians. If it could be proved beyond a shadow of doubt, that this was truly the place, we would surely see it made into an idol. Humanity would exalt it higher than Jesus himself. Jesus doesn’t want a grave to be the memorial of the resurrection, he wants our hearts to maintain the resurrection!

Matthew 27:65, Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. This may indicate that Pilate was prepared to believe Jesus might well rise from the dead… or was it just to pacify the Chief Priests and Pharisees? So much had happened on the crucifixion day that Pilate didn’t know what might happen next. Even the hardened Roman centurion declared, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” The Pharisees now assumed they could relax thinking they had finally silenced Jesus of Nazareth. On the Sabbath Jesus was in the tomb.  The Sabbath was not Jesus’ day of victory.  The Lord’s Day was the first day of the week, the resurrection day. 

Consequently Christians worship on the day of Christ’s great victory, not on the day of his being dead and buried, a day of apparent defeat. We need to die to our old self and let God’s new creation in our new life rejoice in Sunday the Lord’s Day. God has saved the burial story for us to learn this from: Our Lord knows what it’s like to die and feel like all is lost, but faith in His power, goodness and promise is our victory. Baptism as a burial in where that faith is rewarded by forgiveness and His Spirit’s presence.

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