Consider the Components of the Gospel
Today, we come to a text recording the burial of Jesus Christ. This event is not a miraculous event in and of itself, but it is a matter of supreme importance. It is an essential component of the gospel message which we are to boldly proclaim:
“That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried.”
Jesus’ burial serves several purposes. First, it fulfills the Old Testament Scripture. Rightly do we turn to Isaiah 53 to see the agony of the suffering Servant of God having taken our sinful account upon Himself so that He might be pierced, and crushed, and cut off from the life of the living for those whom the stroke is due; however, we also see in Isaiah’s prophecy that the One who rendered Himself as a guilt offering; the One who bore the sin of many and poured out Himself to death, is the One whose “grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.” Meaning that He would die the death of a common criminal while being among common criminals, but He would be buried as an honorable Man.
In Psalm 16:10, the Holy Spirit speaks through David saying:
“For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”
What this prophecy means is that there will be a point when the Christ will be in the grave, but God will not permit His body to decompose with in it. He will not abandon Him to the tomb, He will not allow His body to decay. The implication of David’s words are significant. The Holy One of God will die, be buried, but arise back to life. Jesus’ burial fulfilled the Old Testament Scripture.
Second, it fulfills Jesus’ words of Himself in the New Testament. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus used a Hebraism, a Jewish expression or idiom, to convey to the Scribes and the Pharisees that He would be in the heart of the earth for three separate days. He said:
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
He said to His disciples in Matthew 16:21, that He would be killed, but He would also “be raised up on the third day.” His burial was implied every time He spoke of His death and resurrection. Matthew 17:22-23 says:
“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.”
Matthew 20:18-19 says:
“18 Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
It is only logical to conclude that for Him to be raised up on the third day after His death, means that He would be buried for a period of time. He spoke of His burial when Lazarus’ sister, Mary, anointed Him with a year’s wage worth of perfume. He said in Mark 14:8:
“She has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.”
The implication is that He would die just as He said He would, and consequently He would be buried. Christ’s burial fulfills what He said of Himself.
The third and most basic purpose of Jesus’ burial, is that it validates His death. The simple fact that Jesus was placed in a tomb proves without a shadow of a doubt that the sinless Son of God actually died. It refutes the ridiculous theory known as the Swoon Hypothesis, which suggests that Jesus did not die on the cross, but became unconscious and later revived while in the tomb. They buried Jesus because He was dead, and He died after making a complete atonement for sin for all who believe. As we will see today, it is not merely the disciples of Christ that acknowledge Him as being dead and buried, but His very enemies as well. In fact, it could be argued that Jesus’ enemies and executioners provide the greatest attestation to His death and burial. Again, the burial of Jesus proves He truly died, which is good news, because if He had not died we would still be dead in our sins, cut off from the life of God, and without any hope in the world. Through the death of Christ, all who believe are made alive, they are brought near to God by the blood of Christ, and they are given the hope that because He lives, they too shall live forever at peace with God, and eternally loved by Him with the very love He has for His Son. As one person puts it, Christ’s death “was not the death of a victim, but of a victor.”
The fourth and greatest purpose of the burial of Jesus, is that it establishes the foundation through which Jesus vindicates Himself as the Christ, as the King, as the Eternal Son of the Living God. The One that was cut off from the life of the living for whom the stroke was due. The One whose grave was assigned with wicked men as He took on their sin and poured out Himself to death on the cross. The One who was with a rich man in His death. God says of this One through the profit Isaiah:
“If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
In other words, though He died and was buried, He will live! The burial of Christ is what makes the resurrection of Christ so astounding. Christ, of His own authority laying His life down, and then of His own authority taking it back up again on the third day just as He said in John 10:17-18:
“17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Yes, the burial of Christ is a matter of supreme importance. It is a crucial component to the gospel. Just listen to Peter proclaim the gospel on Pentecost. Acts 2:22-32 says:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 For David says of Him:
‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.
26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;
Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
27 Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
28 ‘You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’
29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.”
The widely understood burial of Jesus magnifies the magnificence of His resurrection, and demonstrates we serve a Living Savior.
Listen to Paul proclaim the gospel at Pisidian Antioch. Acts 13:26-41 says:
“Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. 28 And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead; 31 and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. 40 Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:
41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish;
For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’”
We see the burial of Jesus serves as the event which gives both grandeur to Him conquering death, and consequently life and forgiveness to all who forsake themselves and put their confidence in His person and work.
Again, the burial of Christ is a matter of supreme importance. Every gospel account takes the time to articulate what occurred that Friday afternoon 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ breathed His last after putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Today, we will attempt to peace together these narratives to get a grasp of what occurred. We will see those who love Him wanting to honor Him in His death. We will see those indifferent to Him, want to be done with Him. We will see those who hate Him wanting to take measures to ensure that He is never heard of again. The irony is that such measures, will actually make certain that the message of Christ crucified and risen again is heard throughout the world and through out all time, because they will serve to validate His resurrection. When we stop and consider the account of the burial of Jesus, we will see that the very thread that holds it all together is the providence of God.
The providence of God has been defined by some as “God’s preserving His creation, operating in every event in the world, and directing the things in the universe to His appointed end.” God works all things after the council of His own will. Yes, we will see mankind acting of their own volition, but we will see God sovereignly working through them all to achieve His purpose without distorting their wills. God’s primary mode of operation is not the momentary suspension of the natural to perform the supernatural. It is not the miraculous. His primary mode of operation is providentially orchestrating His purpose through the ordinary actions of man. Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Charles Spurgeon said:
“Depend upon it, however, let men rebel against this truth as they will, that God has determined the end from the beginning. He has left no screw loose in the machine, He has left nothing to chance or accident.”
The text before us is a beautiful demonstration of the providence of God. It displays the truth that God is not distant from His creation and unconcerned with the affairs of His people, but He is acutely aware and intimately involved in every aspect. This should produce in us a great joy. Spurgeon said elsewhere:
“Upon some points a believer is absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world’s tiller, and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything.”
The Hypocrisy of the Sanhedrin
We do not see it here in Mark, but Jesus’ burial all begins with the hypocrites who broke the Law to kill Christ. After Jesus is hung upon the cross, they then appeal to the Law they previously ignored to remove the One they unjustly crucified while ignoring the Law. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says:
“22 If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.”
The Law says that if some is put to death and they hang from a tree, their body must be brought down and buried on the same day. John 19:31-37 records Christ’s enemies wanting uphold this Law by expediting His death so they may honor the Sabbath Day:
“31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
Since the chief means of the death by crucifixion was suffocation, prisoners legs would be broken to prevent them from supporting themselves in a position by which they were able to breathe. As John goes on to say:
“32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”
Based on their initial examination, Christ was already dead. His death was further confirmed by the Romans when:
“34 One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”
John witnessed this and confirmed that not a bone of Christ was broken. This is significant for a couple of reasons. One it fulfills Psalm 34:20, which says, “He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.” Two, it demonstrates that Jesus truly was our Passover Lamb. The Israelites where commanded by God to take a lamb for Passover and eat it within a single house. They were not allowed to bring any of its meat outside, and God said in Exodus 12:46, “nor are you to break any bone of it.” John wants us to understand that Jesus truly was our Passover Lamb. He says in John 19:35-37:
“35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
The Love of Joseph of Arimathea
If we turn our attention back to Mark 15:42-43, we see that after these things:
“42 When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God…”
After evening time had come, which means it would have been between 3:00-6:00 PM, an unlikely figure appears. A man from Arimathea, which is a certain city of the Jews that not much is known about. The same can be said for this man that came from it.
Joseph of Arimathea is found in every gospel account, but only in relation to the burial of Jesus. The gospels reveal that he was a prominent member of the Council. That is the Sanhedrin, which is the very body of men that just condemned Jesus to death earlier that morning. Luke, however, tells us that he was a good and righteous man, and “He had not consented to their plan and action.” He was against them plotting to kill Christ and eventually carrying out such a plan. Most likely they held their illegal trial without him there. The reason he was against them doing such a thing is because he had also become a disciple of Jesus, “but a secret one for fear of the Jews.” He had come to the conviction that Jesus was in fact who He declared and demonstrated Himself to be, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but he would not make it known because He was afraid of what the Jews would do with him.
Early in Jesus’ ministry the Jews had already determined that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ should be put out of the synagogue. Undoubtedly in a desire to maintain his status and not suffer the consequences Joseph kept silent about his belief in Christ. We are reminded how easily Christ’s followers are susceptible to a fear of man, which like Peter, draws them to outwardly disassociate with Jesus for a season. We should remember, however, that such willful dissociation eventually brings bitter weeping to those who truly love Christ. What is meant by this is that though Joseph’s refusal to outwardly associate with Christ is a struggle we are all susceptible to, we should not use him as a crutch for our own personal cowardice. Yes, Joseph was a secret disciple for a time, but we are reading the account where that time ends, and when he completely loses sight of Himself, takes a complete survey of the suffering associated with identifying with Christ, and pursues Him with every fiber of his being. He denies Himself, picks up His cross, and follows Christ.
He wants to honor Him by burying Him. Matthew’s account should be of particular interest to us, because Matthew describes him as “a rich man from Arimathea.” Through Joseph, God will fulfill His purpose. Christ was with transgressors on the cross, and He will be with a rich man in His death.
Mark 15:43-46 says that Joseph:
“Gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. “46 And Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
There are a couple important things that occur here that demonstrate Joseph truly did deny himself. He truly did forget himself and turn aside from his own interests. When we consider what he does, one cannot help but think of the words of one who many believe was at one point himself a member of the Sanhedrin:
“7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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 so that I may gain Christ.”
The Pharisees hypocritically refused to go into the Praetorium to talk with Pilate so that they would not defile themselves. Joseph, however, gathered up the courage and selflessly went in before him, thus defiling himself.
We see that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had already died; however, after it was confirmed by the centurion, Pilate ordered Jesus’ body to be given to him, and he came and took away His body. So not only does Joseph defile himself by going into the residency of a gentile, but he does so by touching the dead body of Jesus. Joseph has counted all things as loss for the sake of Christ. He has counted all gain as rubbish, as dung, so that he may gain Christ, and he is not alone in doing this. John 19:39 says:
“39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.”
What we see is another secret disciple of Christ, who was also a member of the Sanhedrin, coming out to honor Christ at personal cost. Not just with a significant amount of burial spices, but a societal cost for associating with Him. This association will cost them everything.
John goes on to say:
“40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
The tomb they laid Him in was Joseph’s own new tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the rock. After they rolled a large stone against the entrance they went away leaving Christ’s buried body.
Mark 15:47 reveals that Jesus’ burial was not a secret to just these two men:
“47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.”
These women followed Him all through out His ministry. From Galilee, to His death at Golgotha, and now to His burial in the garden. There is a theory that attempts to disprove the resurrection which says that the women went to the wrong tomb, which did not contain a body in it. These women knew exactly where their Lord lay. They did not go to the wrong tomb. Matthew 27:61 says:
“61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.”
Luke 23:55-56 says:
“55 Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
Again, these women knew precisely where Jesus’ dead body was placed, and they were going to come back on the first day of the week to apply spices which were used to lessen the stench of decay, because they understood without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was indeed dead and buried.
Christ’s enemies knew that He was in fact dead. They also knew the exact location of the grave, and the fact that Jesus said He would arise from it. They, therefore, took steps to ensure that the disciples could not tamper with Jesus’ body to fake His resurrection. Matthew 27:62-66
“62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”
As was said in the begging, the irony in this is that the measures they took to ensure that Christ was never heard of again actually made it so His name will forever be heard. Such measures made it impossible for the disciples to steal His body from the grave, which left only one possible reason for the empty tomb, after putting away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Christ arose from the dead never to die again.
Buried With Christ
Jesus Christ did indeed die, and He was indeed buried. The Old Testament Scripture was fulfilled, Christ was vindicated, His atoning death was confirmed, and the grave established the grandeur of His resurrection.
Let us who are trusting in Christ for salvation remember, that just as Christ had been buried, we too have been positionally buried with Him. Paul says in Romans 6:1-4:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
We who are in Christ through faith are united to Him. Our old selves are dead and buried six feet under. To live as the old person we once were is equivalent to digging up a rotting corpse and pretending it has beauty and life. We who have been raised up with Christ have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and when Christ, who is our life, is revealed, we too will be revealed with Him in glory. We are to, therefore, consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ. Leave your old self buried, and “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” Walk in the newness of life as a new creature in Christ.
J.C. Ryle said this:
“The great matter that concerns us all is to make sure that we are spiritually buried with Christ, while we are yet alive. We must be joined to Him by faith, and conformed to His image. With Him we must die to sin, and be buried in baptism into His death. With Him we must rise again, and be quickened by His spirit. Except we know these things, Christ’s death and burial will profit us nothing at all.”
 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
 Isaiah 53:4-8
 Isaiah 53:10a
 Isaiah 53:12
 Isaiah 53:8
 Ephesians 2:1-3,11-12
 John 17:23; Ephesians 2:4-10,13
 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 12-21, John MacArthur; Page 363
 Philippians 2:6-8
 Isaiah 53:10b
 Ephesians 1:11
 Luke 23:50-51
 Matthew 27:57b
 John 19:38
 John 9:22
 Matthew 27:57b
 Philippians 3:7-8
 John 18:28
 Matthew 27:58; John 19:38
 Matthew 27:60
 Colossians 3:1-5
 Romans 6:11
 Colossians 3:10
 Mark: Expository Thoughts on The Gospels, J.C. Ryle; Page 278