Tuesday, July 18, 2017
"Buried" Sermon: John 19:38-42
July 9, 2017, Second Reformed Church
Does it matter that Jesus was buried?
We say Jesus was “crucified, dead, and buried” in The Apostle’s Creed. Do we really need to confess that Jesus was “buried”? Does it really add anything to our saying that He is dead?
Last week we saw that Jesus hangs on the cross for about three hours that first Good Friday and then He dies. Jesus dies because of the blood He has lost during His torture and crucifixion. Jesus dies because His heart ruptures and the red and the clear fluids mix – proving that Jesus is dead – that His heart muscle is destroyed – seen and sworn to by the Apostle John as the soldier pierces Jesus’ side and blood and water pours out. Jesus dies for the sake of the salvation of His people – in order to complete His work and make us right with God. Jesus lives to be able to credit our accounts with His righteous keeping of the Law, and He dies, taking on our sin, taking on the curse of the Law, which includes death for our sin, under the Wrath of God. Everyone knows He is dead.
Isn’t saying “buried” unnecessary?
As we turn to our text, we see two disciples take Jesus’ body secretly.
“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.”
One of the men is Joseph of Arimathea. Arimathea was a town about twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem. The other Gospel writers tell us a little more about him:
“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57, ESV).
“Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Luke 23:50-52, ESV).
Joseph is a rich man, who sits on the Sanhedrin – the Jewish high counsel, who votes against seeking Jesus’ death, and who believes in Jesus as the Savior. And – at this point – he is afraid to publically ask for Jesus’ body for how the others on the Sanhedrin might react.
The second man is Nicodemus, who we met in chapter three.
In his interchange with Jesus, we see that Nicodemus is also a member of the Sanhedrin. Jesus recognizes him as the teacher of Israel – he is the greatest scholar of the day in Judaism. He is also wealthy – as we can tell by the amount of embalming ingredients he brings, and he, at this point, believes in Jesus savingly, but remains afraid of how the others on the Sanhedrin will react to his belief.
Mark tells us that it takes courage for these men to ask for Jesus’ body and to bury Him (cf. Mark 15:43).
But why did they bury Him?
Out of love? Out of respect and honor? Out of fear of what people might do with or to His body?
Second, they began to embalm Jesus’ body.
“So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
We can say they began to embalm Jesus, because on Sunday – the first day of the week – we read, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16:1, ESV).
When we think of embalming, we often think of Egyptian embalming in which the organs are removed, or modern embalming, where the blood is removed. In Jewish embalming, there is no cutting of the flesh – the body is tightly wound from head to food in linen coated with myrrh and aloe – two healing spices. Myrrh was also one of the ingredients of the incense acceptable to God and one of the gifts given to the baby Jesus.
The fact that Nicodemus brings seventy-five pounds of the spice shows his wealth, his devotion, and his love of Jesus. An average person would have been embalmed with about ten percent of that – seven or eight pounds
Even though we say the women go to finish the embalming on Sunday, Joseph and Nicodemus did the lion’s share of the embalming on Friday. They couldn’t finish because sunset was coming – the Sabbath was upon them – so they had to finish what they could quickly.
Third, they bury Jesus in a garden tomb.
“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. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”
There is a tomb, very close to the place of crucifixion. It is in a garden, and it has not been used – no one else is in it. It is. in fact, the tomb that Joseph of Arimetheea had purchased for himself, as we read:
“And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb” (Matthew 27:59-61, ESV).
This was to fulfill the prophecy:
“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9, ESV).
So, Joseph and Nicodemus lay Jesus in the grave purchased for Joseph, which was near the place where Jesus was crucified, in a garden, and the women were there and witnessed this as well. Joseph and Nicodemus readied Jesus’ body as best they could before the Sabbath came, and the women planned to return on Sunday to finish anointing Jesus’ body.
Joseph rolled the rock down and across the tomb – which is cut out of the rock – so it was sealed – and very difficult to get open again.
But that’s not it, is it?
We remember what Matthew records:
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.”’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘”He has risen from the dead,”’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.’” Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” (Matthew 27:62-66, ESV).
On the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees get concerned and pestering Pilate: they remember that Jesus said He would rise from the dead on the third day, and they believe that Jesus’ disciples are going to steal His body and tell people He rose from the dead – and then the whole world will be throw into superstition and lie. So, they ask that Pilate seal and guard the tomb through Sunday.
The stone that covered the tomb, which could have weighed as much as two tons, based on the ones found in Israel, was set in place – into a gulley, making it even harder to move.
Wax was then poured over the area of the stone that met the tomb and Pilates’ signet ring was placed in the wax, making it a federal crime to break the seal and open the tomb, and a guard was set to make sure that the disciples do not steal Jesus’ body and pretend that He has risen.
How many is in a Roman guard? It varies. Certainly not less than four. More likely forty to sixty, given the number of disciples Jesus has. Perhaps, even more.
Is something clicking?
Jesus is dead. The Romans know Jesus is dead. The Jews know Jesus is dead. Jesus’ disciples know Jesus is dead.
Why should we care that He was buried?
Because there was an expectation that Jesus’ disciples would steal Jesus’ body and fake His resurrection. So the tomb was sealed with a massive stone, the governor’s seal, and guarded around the clock by Roman guards.
Jesus was buried so He would be in a guarded and watched tomb until the Resurrection, so it would be absolutely impossible for any honest person to say that Jesus did not physically rise form the dead.
Though they tried:
“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, ESV).
Jesus was buried in a tomb and it is unreasonable to believe that His body was stolen, given the way the tomb was sealed and the watch over Him. But that was all the Jews could come up with – they paid the soldiers to lie – “Well, we all fell asleep. And Jesus’ disciples came and rolled the two-ton rock up and away from the door, breaking the governor’s seal, and they were so quite that not one of us woke up. And then they stole the body, and now they are pretending that Jesus physically rose from the dead.”
Some scholars today say, “Oh, well, they were upset and they went to the wrong tomb, which is why it was empty, Jesus was in another tomb.”
Don’t you think Joseph would have said something if they didn’t go back to his high-priced garden tomb, right by where Jesus was crucified, but to some other empty tomb that had been sealed by the governor’s seal and guarded by Roman soldiers – it doesn’t make sense!
Jesus was buried, sealed in, and guarded – and we confess that, because it leaves us with no other conclusion than Jesus actually did, physically rise from the dead!
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, ESV).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we are humbled at Your Wisdom in the plan of our salvation, and we give You thanks for sending Your Son to live, to die, and to be buried, so we are assured of our salvation. And it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.