(Photo: Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, proposed as the place of Jesus’ burial. Photo credit Goway.com)
Darkness fell, His friends scattered, hope seemed lost – But heaven just started counting to three. (Bob Goff)
Luke 23 provides us with an account of Christ’s burial; for he must be brought not only to death, but to the dust of death (“you lay me in the dust of death” Ps. 22:15), according to the sentence (Gen. 3:19), To the dust thou shalt return (Adapted from Matthew Henry).
Certainly Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are the main elements of the Passion, and our salvation. The details of Jesus’ burial are important because they fulfill Biblical prophesies.
The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-55)
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
- Who was there?
Joseph, described by Luke as a person of “good and upright man”, a member of the Sanhedrin, one of the elders of the Jewish church. He was a member of the council responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion but Joseph had voted against it (Luke 23:50-52). Joseph was wealthy and had the social standing to hold a meeting with Pilate, the Roman Governor.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee. His mother and Mary Magdalene watched from a distance. They did not have the money or the power to claim Jesus body (Luke 50:55). After they watched the removal of Jesus body from the cross and laid in the tomb, Luke tells us that they “went home and prepared spices and perfumes” for His embalming. Luke also includes the detail that the women “rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment” (Exodus 20:8).
The disciples were not present.
- What did Joseph do?
He went to Pilate, the man who ordered Jesus’ death, and asked for His body. Joseph took Jesus’ body off the cross, by himself. Joseph removed the nails from Jesus’ hands and feet and removed His body from His cross. It had to have been messy; His body would have been heavy; the process would have been emotionally and physically exhausting, yet Joseph willingly petitioned for the chance to honor Jesus in this way. (Luke 23:53)
After Joseph removed Jesus’ body from the cross, he wrapped His body in linen burial clothes (Luke 23:53). Matthew Henry explains “that it was the manner of the Jews to roll the bodies of the dead, as we do little children in their swaddling-clothes, and that the word here used signifies as much; so that the piece of fine linen, which he bought whole, he cut into many pieces for this purpose. It is said of Lazarus, He was bound hand and foot, John 11:44. Grave-clothes are to the saints as swaddling-clothes, which they shall out-grow and put off, when they come to the perfect man.
- Where was Jesus buried?
Jesus would triumph over death and emerge from this grave!
- Was this burial practice typical?
No! From a strictly human vantage point, the burial of Jesus’ body in the manner described above was a radically unusual procedure. Christ was crucified. According to the Latin poet, Horace, it was the Roman practice to leave a body upon the cross until it decayed. He spoke about crucified slaves “feeding crows on the cross” (Epistle 1.16.46-48) (Adapted from Christian Courier, the Burial of Christ’s Body).
Jesus’ body, according to the custom at that time, would have been buried in one of two mass burial tombs overseen by the Sanhedrin. “It was the custom of the Jews that any sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin was “not to be buried in the sepulchers of their fathers; but two burying places were appointed by the council, one for those that were slain by the sword and strangled, the other for those that were stoned who also were hanged and burnt” (Lightfoot, 2.374; emp. original). (Adapted from Christian Courier, the Burial of Christ’s Body).
- What prophesy does the burial place of Jesus fulfill?
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)
Let’s break down the prophesy:
- “Jesus was assigned a grave with the wicked,” According to the Roman custom at the time of Jesus’ death, criminals- and Jesus was charged a criminal when He was crucified, would be “assigned” one of two mass tombs by the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion which certainly classified them as wicked.
- “and with the rich in his death,” Joseph was a rich man who took possession of Jesus’ body after He was crucified, personally removed it from the cross, wrapped it in fine linen, and buried it in his own personal grave.
- “though he had done no violence nor was there any deceit in his mouth” The Lamb of God; free of sin, violence, and deceit; crucified as a criminal, died on the cross and triumphed over death and sin for our salvation.
- Other prophesies related to the death and burial of Jesus:
Before we get to the other two prophesies related to the death and burial of Jesus, reflect on the power of God behind each prophesy. Isaiah 46:10 “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
Prophesy: His legs were not broken:
John 19:32-33 says, “Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first [one of the thieves crucified with Christ], and of the other who was crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs.” Even in His death prophecy was fulfilled. Psalm 34:20 says explicitly of the dying Savior, “He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.” We know that prophecy was intended for Jesus Christ because of the testimony of Scripture. John 19:36 says, “These things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.” (Grace to You: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)
Prophesy: Three days behind His death and resurrection
Matthew 12:40 Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (NASB). Jesus predicted that there would be three days between His death and resurrection–that He would be in the earth for three days. (Grace to You: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)