Focus on Jesus Series
The Burial of Jesus Christ
Notes on John 19:31-42, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, Matthew 27:57-61
by Ed Vasicek
The burial of Jesus Christ involves many details, a few of which are mentioned below. The day of Jesus' death was Friday, Passover Day, which was also the “Day of Preparation” for the High Sabbath, Saturday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (For information about reconciling the statement that Christ rose ON the third day and the phrase “after three days and three nights,” see the article "After Three Days or ON the Third Day?")
To hasten death on a cross, the Romans would break the legs of crucified victims so they could not raise themselves to breathe. They would soon suffocate. But Jesus was already dead, and to make sure, a guard pierced his side. The separation of “blood and water” meant that His heart had literally burst, his blood clotted and separated from the serum.
The secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. We read in John 19:39 that Nicodemus helped him with the burial procedure. Jesus would have been buried in a common mass grave reserved for criminals or the poor, but that was not God’s plan.
The Romans would often let family members bury their loved ones, if requested. But Joseph was not a family member. Why did Pilate grant his request? Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, and he tried to use his influence to thwart Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate would have probably recognized Joseph as a member of that Jewish ruling body, and thus may have assumed that the same people who pushed for the crucifixion now wanted Jesus’ body, perhaps to gloat or put it on display after the Sabbath. Since the Romans had to somewhat accommodate the Jewish Law’s demands that bodies be removed by nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance”), burying Jesus was one less problem for the Romans to deal with.
These events were prophesied in that wonderful chapter, Isaiah 53. A verse that seemed obscure is easier to understand in light of New Testament fulfillment. As you might recall, Isaiah 53 predicts the atoning death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah. Verse 9 is the one I have in mind: “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.”
Crucifixion victims were “assigned” to be buried with the wicked, but instead Jesus was buried in the tomb of a wealthy man. Joseph unknowingly fulfilled that prediction. All the prophecies of Isaiah 53 were fulfilled, yet those who brought them to fulfillment did so blindly. We should not be surprised if the same thing occurs regarding end-time prophecies.
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