Chapter 30 The Burial Of Our Lord

A new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus (John 19:41,42).

There is not much written or spoken about the interment of the Lord Jesus. His burial is emphasized as part of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. “He was buried.” The Lord Himself in several Scriptures made direct reference to His burial, as, for instance, in John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone”; also in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”; also in Matthew 26:12, “For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial.”

Remarkable Arrangements for Interment

His own disciples had fled and left Him with the approach of danger. Yet it was at such a time that two remarkable men were emboldened to come forward and do in His death what they had not dared to do in His life.

First, there was Joseph. His name and birthplace are given. He was named Joseph and his birthplace was Arimathaea, which some believe to be the new name for Ramah, the birthplace of Samuel. His condition and rank are also given. Matthew 27:57 tells us he was “a rich man” and Luke 23:50 that he was “a counsellor.” His character and conduct are also given by Luke, “He was a good man, and a just,” and that he had not consented, presumably in the Jewish Sanhedrin, to put Jesus to death. We are also told concerning his faith that he was a secret disciple, “For fear of the Jews” he had not made any open profession of his faith. It was this man who begged the body of Jesus from Pilate, wrapped it in linen, the whiteness of which would speak of our Lord’s innocence and purity, and laid it in his own tomb. This was a very courageous thing to do as the Jews afterwards concocted a story that His disciples had stolen the body of Jesus and Joseph could have been implicated in that supposed plot.

Secondly, there was Nicodemus. This was the same man who came to Jesus by night (John 3), and was taught that he needed to be born again. It is said that he was the third richest man in Israel and was also a member of the Sanhedrin and had rebuked the council for condemning Jesus without having heard Him. He was a very learned man, some Jewish writers think he was a brother to the great historian Josephus—and, strangely enough, had a Greek name though altogether Jewish. It was Nicodemus who brought the hundred pound’s weight of costly spices to anoint the body of Jesus. This was not to embalm the body. There was no time for that, and also Nicodemus may well have believed the word of the Lord Jesus that He would rise the third day. His offering did fill the tomb with fragrance and this was testimony to the love and respect that Nicodemus had for the Lord.

It was these two men, therefore, who took charge of our Lord’s funeral arrangements, otherwise the Romans would have dug a pit at the foot of the cross and thrown His precious body into it.

Reasons for the Interment

1. It proved the Lord had actually died. He had died when “He bowed His head and gave up the ghost,” or, as it means, He dismissed his own spirit. Had He not been dead the Jews would not have allowed His body to be taken down from the cross. Had He not been dead His friends would not have buried Him. Everything was being governed by God to meet and forestall every deceit which Satan could think of. Pilate was made to put the matter beyond all doubt when he called the centurion and was assured that Jesus was dead. A soldier had also thrust a spear through His heart.

2. It fulfilled all prophecy. The chiefest of the prophecies concerning the Lord’s burial is Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This could only be fulfilled by His interment in burial. Another important prophecy was written in Isaiah 53:9, “He made His grave … with the rich in His death.” How could this be when the Lord “was made poor” and lived poor? This came by the intervention of the rich man Joseph who provided his own rich tomb hewn out of stone in a beautiful garden.

3. It testified to His resurrection. You will notice an emphasis on the fact that it was “a new tomb” and that “wherein was never man yet laid.” Why this, pray tell? In the Old Testament there is the story of the death of Elisha. Because of the invading Moabites a body was cast into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched the bones of Elisha, it came to life (2 Kings 13:21). Had our Lord been put where another had been laid the Jews would certainly have said it was the other man who arose. We again see God governing to countercheck every device of Satan.

Reflections on the Interment

1. There was no elaborate ceremony. Some of our kings and great men have the most magnificent pageantry—but not our Lord! Even His loved disciples had fled and there seemed none but Joseph and Nicodemus and a handful of women.

2. There is an example for us. The Lord was buried. Personally, I do not think we have the right to burn up what has been a temple of the Holy Spirit. Abraham buried Sarah. Our Lord was buried. And so should we be!

3. We should not fear either to die or to be buried. Remember what was said to Jacob—“Fear not to go down into Egypt… and I will also surely bring thee up again” (Genesis 46:3, 4).

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst,
But Christ their legions hath dispersed:
Let shouts of holy joy out-burst.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The three sad days have quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead:
All glory to our risen Head!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell:
Let hymns of praise His triumph tell.
Alleluia! Alleluia.

—Latin, Pub. Cologne, C. 1695
Trans. By Francis Pott