Resurrection Road: Buried in Christ (John 19:31-42)

Resurrection Road

Part III: Buried in Christ

{John 19:31-42; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:9-12}


When we think of the gospel many things will come to the minds of all people. Believers and non-believers alike. For believers we correctly hone in on the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which is the true and only gospel able to save mankind from sin![1]

For two weeks I have taught on the death of Christ for sin in God’s eternal plan of redemption, with the intent of eventually proclaiming His resurrection. There is, though, another aspect of the gospel that often gets overlooked.This morning I would like us to understand the other element of the good news that is essential; the burial of Jesus’ body! I desire two things to happen as we gather today:

1.) The worth of this gospel truth be seen.

2.) The implications it has in our lives be lived.

Let us first and foremost answer a question: Is it that believers intentionally skip teaching the truth of Christ’s burial? Not at all. To us it is a given since Christ died He was buried, so we quickly move to His resurrection. Listen, however, to Paul’s letter to Corinth:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared…”[2]

This means the entire gospel is summed up and confirmed in these four fundamental truths: Christ died for sin, Christ was buried, Christ was resurrected, Christ was seen.

We see that His burial is the second pillar for which the truth of the gospel must rest upon. I must tell you that I searched all week through systematic theology books, bible doctrine literature, Christology texts and commentaries. What I discovered was not many devote time to explaining the burial of our Savior. Again, I do not believe this to be intentional. What are we so excited to proclaim? The resurrection of our Redeemer, Who died for the worlds sin at the hands of godless men, and because He lives we too shall live. We naturally reason that in between His death and resurrection a burial took place.

The burial has somewhat of a mundane stigma associated with it, seeming anything but amazing and significant. From here on out let may our zeal for His burial be as strong as it is for His resurrection.

There are also at least two prophecies that must be fulfilled in relation to Christ’s burial:

1.) Speaking of the Suffering Servant, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death…”[3]

2.) Jesus speaking with the Pharisees, “…for 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.”[4]

I want to begin with Christ’s prophecy for this sets the stage when we look at John’s gospel today, and then we will look at Isaiah. Christ declared that He would be in the grave three days and three nights. Understand this is a Jewish colloquial expression denoting a day and not necessarily a literal span of time. To further explain this let us ask ourselves: Was Jesus in the grave for three literal 24 hour periods? No, He was not. Was Jesus in the grave for three days? Yes, He was! How is that possible? When we look at Christ in the grave do not count like an American, count like a Jewish person! Where a day is considered without a lapse of 24 literal hours passing by. In fact many of you know that my wife and I recently spent three days in the hospital.We went in Monday night, stayed Tuesday, and left part way through Wednesday. Were we there for a literal 72 hours? Thankfully no! Were we there for three days? Yes we were, and no baby to show for it.

If we hold to the view that Christ was buried three literal 24 hour periods, issues will arise:

1.) This would mean the resurrection had to have happened on the fourth day. We know this is not true. The angels testify to Christ’s Words saying, “Remember how He spoke to you saying…the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”[5]

2.) Also, if we understand His death occurred on Friday this means He would have risen on Tuesday. We know this is not true. Every gospel account records that it took place in the morning on the first day of week according to the Jewish calendar, Sunday.[6]

3.) hat being said, if we understand His resurrection took place on Sunday this means His death occurred on Wednesday. We know this is not true. Every gospel account records the death of Christ taking place on the day of preparation, Friday, before the Sabbath, Saturday.[7]Christ died around 3pm Friday afternoon and arose early in the morning on Sunday. That honestly does not cover 48 hours. It does, however, cover three different days.

Understand what this means. In order for Christ to arise three days later to fulfill His prophecy He must be in the grave before Saturday. Keep in mind that for the Jews Saturday begins at 6pm on Friday. This means the Father has three hours to orchestrate the burial plan of His beloved Son, or Christ forfeits His credibility.

Remember the suffering servant prophecy, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death…”

 John 19:31-37

What amazes me in this portion is that in their haste to remove Christ from the cross, the Pharisees request further fulfilled Scripture. Indicating that Christ is the Lamb of God Who came to bear the sins of the world. Know they requested this according to their fickle obedience to their own law:

“And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day…”[8]

Do you notice they were only interested in half of the law they wanted to enforce. They wanted Christ to be removed, but it is clear they had no intentions of burying Him. Roman custom was for bodies to either rot upon the cross or be discarded some other heinous way. Pilate, however, yields to their request most likely hoping to be done with them.

« This portion of Scripture ought to silence any claims saying Christ did not die on the cross. A Roman centurion even verifies to Pilate that Christ was dead on the cross. This amazes him, because it means that Christ died in less time than the ordinary person on the cross. This should cause us to pause, because what we have here are three unbelievers’ testimonies that Christ was in fact dead:

1.) The Jewish Leaders[9]

2.) The Centurion[10]

3.) Pontius Pilate[11]

All gain nothing from validating His death!

The clock is ticking as 6pm is quickly approaching. How is God going to keep His Word?

 John 19:38

A man named Joseph comes on the scene. The burial of Christ is the only place in the gospels we will ever read of this Joseph of Arimathea. What then do we read about him? According to John:[12] He was a secret disciple of Jesus, for fear of being ostracized by the Jews. According to Luke:[13] He was a good and righteous man waiting for the kingdom of God. He was also a member of the council that killed Christ, but he did not consent to their plan or action. According to Mark:[14] He was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who truly sought God. According to Matthew:[15] He was a rich man who followed Christ.

 John 19:38-40

John records that Nicodemus assisted him as well. It is here we see God working in the hearts of these secret followers of Christ. May we take a moment to truly consider what these men did? These men did not just bury Christ; they gave up everything they had ever known to do so.

When the Jewish leaders brought Christ before Pilate, where did they refuse to go, and why? The Praetorium, because they did not want to defile themselves for the Passover. Listen to Mark’s gospel:

“Joseph of Arimathea came…and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.”[16]

What did he do? He defiled himself. Notice it says, “he gathered up courage”. Certainly going before the procurator of Rome would require that, but I believe courage was also required for other reasons.Why was he a secret disciple? Fear of the Jews.

Joseph and Nicodemus knew that what they were about to do would make them detestable. Not only would Joseph defile himself by walking into the Praetorium, but he would also do so by touching Christ’s dead body. Paul’s word to the Philippians comes to mind:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”[17]

We see this applied in the life of Joseph and Nicodemus as they care for the body of Christ. They apply spices that are used to retard the stench of decomposition. Luke records the women returning on Sunday to apply more spices.[18]I would argue this shows they did not grasp He would rise from the dead, because they are trying to soften the smell of decay. This means the disciples did not create some ridiculous plan to steal the body of Jesus in order to prove the resurrection.

John 19:41

Is it not amazing to think of the following things:

1.) Sin entered humanity within a garden.[19]

2.) The Savior was promised in a garden.[20]

3.) The Redeemer is now buried in a garden.[21]

4.) Our Savior will rise from the garden.[22]

John 19:42

If we were to find the title for the tomb we would see the name of a rich man called, Joseph.[23]It is here our Savior was buried on the day of preparation before the Sabbath.

What does His burial teach us?

1.) It fulfills Scripture meaning God is faithful.

2.) It emphasizes the death of Christ. Proving that Christ actually died and endure the curse for His people.

If there was any doubt about His death, there would be reason to doubt whether or not the Father truly meted out His wrath on the Son. Burial also puts a dead person completely out of the land of the living. This is important, because as we see in this text Christ being laid in the tomb, believers are also being placed in the grave. Metaphorically you are buried in Him!

Romans 6:1-4; Collosians 2:9-15

Thapto is the Greek word for bury.[24]Paul, however, in describing our relationship to Christ uses a word found only twice in Scripture. Sunthapto meaning to assimilate with.[25]He takes the word Sun,[26] which denotes a complete union and attaches it to Thapto. In order for us to walk in the newness of life, realize that our old self is dead and six feet under. To go back to sin once in Christ is equivalent to digging up a dead body. Consider yourself dead and buried to sin, yet alive to God in Christ.

There is one other burial prophecy waiting to be fulfilled at this point in the Scripture:

“I have set the Lord continually before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.[27]

What does this mean? It means that the Messiah, the Christ, is not going to remain rotting in the tomb. He will rise! Since we have died in Him, and are buried in Him, we will rise in Him and live in Him!

If you are here today wondering how to be right with God know that there is but One way and it is through faith in Jesus Christ. May this also be a reminder to us in Christ!

1.) Know that your sin demands death in the presence of a Holy God.[28]

2.) Understand that in love, The Father graciously gave His Son to die the death you and I deserve.[29]

3.) Trust through faith in His Word that Jesus did in fact bear your sins on the cross to satisfy the wrath of God.[30]

4.) Acknowledge that He was in fact dead and buried in the grave.[31]

5.) Believe that God physically raised Him from the dead on the third day.[32]

6.) Realize He was seen by more than 500 people at one time.[33]

7.) Worship Him Who ascended to the right hand of the Father.[34]

8.) Walk by faith in the newness of life found only in the dead and buried, yet resurrected and seen Savior, Jesus Christ.[35]


[1] Acts 4:12

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

[3] Isaiah 53:9

[4] Matthew 12:40

[5] Luke 24:6-7

[6] Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1

[7] Matthew 27:57-62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31

[8] Deuteronomy 21:22-23

[9] Matthew 27:63

[10] Mark 15:39

[11] Mark 15:44-45

[12] John 19:38

[13] Luke 24:50-51

[14] Mark 15:43

[15] Matthew 27:1

[16] Mark 15:43

[17] Philippians 3:7-8

[18] Luke 23:55-24:1

[19] Genesis 3:6

[20] Genesis 3:15

[21] Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-John 19:41-42

[22] John 19:41-20:1

[23] Matthew 27:59-60

[24] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 2290

[25] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 4916

[26] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 4862

[27] Psalm 16:8-10

[28] Genesis 2:17; Romans 3:23

[29] John 3:16; Romans 5:1-10

[30] Romans 3:21-26; 1 Peter 2:24

[31] Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42

[32] Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-13; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18

[33] 1 Corinthians 15:6

[34] Acts 1:9-11

[35] Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 4:17-25

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