THE BURIAL OF JESUS–A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN

Billy Graham was given a beautiful funeral. No one attended the funeral of the Son of God. He didn’t have one. He almost didn’t have a burial, an important matter for Jews. A burial normally happened within twenty-four hours of a death. They were usually laid to rest, not buried underground as is done today.

 

In the case of a crucifixion, family members would request the body. Those without families were left for the birds, then thrown in the Valley of Gehenna, the smoldering garbage dump outside the city. Joseph spared the body of Jesus from such humiliation. Imagine the work of taking his body down, carrying it to the tomb, and cleaning the battered and bloodied body, then anointing it. Who did it?  Not the family, nor any of the Twelve. They were hiding. They were not thinking death, so neither did they think burial.

 

The man who buried Jesus. First, his name is Joseph, mentioned in all Gospels.  Second, he was rich, fulfilling scripture that “he was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (Isaiah 53:9). Third, he was “a prominent member of the Council” (Mk.15:43).  Everyone knew him, which makes his action all the more courageous. Jesus died on a public thoroughfare. Fourth, he “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” (v.43). John says that “Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (Jn.19:38).  Perhaps the death of Jesus upgraded his commitment.

 

The word would certainly get out that he had buried Jesus, ostracizing him from fellow-leaders, who may have killed him for it.  Mark and Luke say that (fifth) he was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” Just as there are a group of saints who surround the Christmas story who believed in God’s coming reign, we can put Joseph in the same group.

 

Luke describes him as “a good and upright man” (23:50).  This would not characterize most Council members. Jesus called them hypocrites, snakes, and whitewashed tombs who appeared righteous to people but were  “full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:28). The rich man from Arimathea was an exception.

 

Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation, the day before one of the most important Sabbaths of the Jewish year, the Passover Sabbath. Jesus was never more helpless than on the cross and after his death, and Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward to carry out the task. Some say Nicodemus was cowardly because he came to Jesus at night, but he chose to come out of hiding and show his love for Jesus, which certainly meant he was no longer “the teacher of Israel,” one of the most prominent positions in Israel.

 

Joseph and Nicodemus were operating under two pressures, time (they had slightly more than two hours before sundown to bury the body without breaking the law for working on the Sabbath), and the pressure of their true motives being identified.

 

Joseph secured permission from Pilate, purchased a linen cloth, while Nicodemus purchased about seventy-five pounds of spices, enough for the burial of a king. They met back at the crucifixion site, laid the cross down, extracted the body from the nails, and carried it on a public thoroughfare during the busiest time of the year to Joseph’s personal tomb. They did a quick work of anointing and wrapping the body, then placing it inside the tomb.

 

The significance of Christ’s burial. The burial is recorded in all four gospels.  Why? First, it confirms the truth that Jesus really died.  A common myth to discredit the resurrection is that Jesus did not die but was only unconscious and resuscitated.  Unconscious people are not buried. Second, Paul says that the burial of Christ is like our baptism. We are identified with him both in his death and in his burial.  Just as Jesus was dead dead, so we die with him, and are in fact “buried with him through baptism into death” (Ro.6:4).

 

What joy Joseph must have experienced when Jesus rose from the dead. Imagine him returning to his tomb (if still alive) and thinking, “Jesus stayed here.” But not anymore.

 

I am moved by God’s sovereign action in the midst of people doing what they are going to do. Soldiers carry out their responsibility—and two prophecies are fulfilled. A kind man provides a tomb—and another prophecy comes to pass. Do you have something that Jesus can use? Unnamed friends offered him a donkey. A boy said, “He can have my lunch,” and thousands ate. A religious leader said, “He can use my tomb.” We will meet him in heaven for his kindness and courage–and Nic!

HOLY WEEK QUIZ

I did a family quiz for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Great discussion times. Here goes: (pa@harvestcommunities.org for answers)

  1.  Name two prophecies that were fulfilled during Holy Week.
  2.  Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  3.  What does “Hosanna” mean?
  4.  What did Jesus do during Holy Week?
  5.  What day did Jesus have a healing service?
  6. Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?
  7. How did Jesus baffle the religious leaders in the questions they asked him?
  8. What different groups of religious leaders were arguing with Jesus during Holy Week?
  9. Why did the answer of Jesus regarding taxes stop the religious leaders: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:15-22).
  10. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?
  11. How did Jesus describe the end times?
  12. How does Daniel, the letters of Paul, and Revelation support Christ’s end-time picture?
  13. Why did the leaders not want to arrest Jesus during the feast? Why then did it happen?
  14. Why was Jesus anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the leper?
  15. Why did Judas agree to betray Jesus?
  16. Why did Jesus “set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
  17. What did Jesus know about Jerusalem?
  18. What was the Passover meal? How did Jesus fulfill the Passover?
  19. Why did Caiaphas tear his robes when Jesus spoke about his return? What is the significance of that?
  20. When did it turn dark on the cross? How long was Jesus on the cross? From when to when?
  21. Name the seven words from the cross in order.
  22. Why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, your mother?”
  23. What was more difficult for Jesus on the cross–the physical or emotional suffering?
  24. Why did Jesus say, “I thirst,” when the battle was over?
  25. What was the significance of the hyssop branch used to give Jesus a drink?
  26. What was going on at the same time that Jesus was being crucified?
  27. What is the significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom when Jesus died?
  28. What women were at the cross?
  29. Who buried Jesus? What is the significance of that? What time was Jesus buried?
  30. What is the significance of the guard placed at the tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate?
  31. How many earthquakes took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection and why is that significant?
  32. How many appearances did Jesus make after his resurrection and to whom? What did the resurrected Christ speak about? 

                         

4 LESSONS FROM “I THIRST”

 

JESUS LOOKED TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS

He first said, “Father, forgive them.” Then he said to the criminal next to Him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Then he made provision for his mother, turning her over to the care of John.  “After this,” he spoke words of personal need. Jesus modeled perfect love from the cross by looking to his own bodily needs last.

 

HE ASKED FOR A DRINK AFTER THE BATTLE WAS OVER.

John writes, “After this Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished…” (19:28). In the heat of battle, one cannot yell, “Time out,” and grab a drink. That Jesus now confesses thirst is an indication that the fight is done. He has stepped on the head of the serpent and crushed him: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them” (Col. 2:14).

 

HE SAID IT IN FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE.

According to John, Jesus spoke the words as a link with what had been prophesied about him. At no point did Jesus ever lose control. Caiaphas did, and tore his robes in anger. Pilate did, and tried to wash a guilty conscience with water. The crowd did, and shouted, “Crucify him,” like bloodthirsty dogs tearing at their victim. But the Victim never lost it. He knew what time it was (John 13:1) and what he needed to do. History was on schedule. The King was about to be crowned.

 

JESUS SAID, “I THIRST.”

The One who created Niagara Falls, who made the lakes in the Rockies, is now dehydrated. Humanity sinned and a human had to die. Jesus was a man, a thirsty man. He had poured out his soul to death, and He deserved to be thirsty. He had just cried, “My God, my God, why…?” That was the worst kind of dehydration, the most awful exposure, the most painful and gut-wrenching separation.

 

He was fulfilling the Scripture, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar” (Psalm 69:21). The soldier understood him to be asking for a drink of liquid. He gave Him some of the sour wine, the cheap stuff given to soldiers as part of their rations. Earlier it had been offered to Jesus and He had refused it. Why now? Because his work was over. He did not want to be drugged earlier, because he chose to be in full awareness of what he was doing, even in the severest pain. He needed to “taste death for everyone.”  He had his taste, and now he asked for a final drink before the end. When he received it, he gained sufficient strength to cry out, “It is finished.”  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did what he had come to do–and he was done.