Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you are growing in the Lord in these trying times in which we live. I know none of us likes the furnace of trials. (I Pt.4:12-14, James 1:1-4, Isa.43:2)
But let’s remember that Christ’s lambs grow more Christlike in the crucible. Storms make us forsake sin, forsake self, forsake the world, and cling to Christ. I am sure when we are in heaven, we will bless God for sending hard times – they train us to live on Christ and to live for Christ. (2 Cor.12:1-10, 2 Cor.4:6-18, Acts 14:22, Jn.16:33, Rom.8:18-23)
Now this morning we are going to worship God in His word. Our passage this morning comes from the book of Mark. Please take out your Bibles and turn to Mark chapter fifteen. We are going to read Mark 15:42-47. Hear the perfect word of our perfect God. Read.
The time of Christ’s burial. V.42. When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
The request to bury Christ. V.43. Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he 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.
The attendees at Christ’s burial. V.46. 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. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. (Mt.27:57-61, Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:31-42)
I think it will be helpful for us to read John’s account of Christ’s burial, let’s read John 19:31-42.
Christ says that He has sent the Holy Spirit to us, from Himself and from our heavenly Father. (Jn.14:16-19) As Believers we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor.6:19-20) He is our indwelling Counselor. (I Jn.2:20-27) He helps us understand the Scriptures He inspired.
Think of this. The Spirit graces us with faith to believe in the Son. And the Son then reveals the Father to us. Creation is an act of the Triune God. And Redemption is a gift of the Triune God. Let’s pray to Him to help us understand, believe, love, and be radically transformed by this holy word. Pray.
The cause of Christ’s burial.
Now let’s consider some of the particulars that the Lord has recorded in His word about Christ’s burial. And remember God put this here for our instruction and edification.
Obviously, the cause of Christ burial was His death. And the cause of Christ’s death was our sins. Christ upon the Cross was atoning for the sins of His people. The love of God satisfying the justice and wrath of God. (Acts 2:23) The Bible say this about Christ being crucified.
2 Corinthians 5:21. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Galatians 3:13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE “– 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Isa.53:1-12)
The death of Christ brings us near to God. (I Pt.3:18, Eph.2:11-21)
The time of Christ’s burial.
Jesus is crucified on the Friday during the Passover Week on the day of Preparation for the Sabbath, Sabbath beginning on Friday evening to Saturday evening. (Mt.26:62, Mk.15:42, Lk.23:54, Jn.19:31, 42) This is why The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us Christ Jesus is our Passover (Lamb). (I Cor.5:7)
Christ is crucified at the third hour (9am). He hangs upon the cross for six hours. And then at the ninth hour (3pm) Jesus Christ breathed His last. He gave up His spirit. He died upon the cross. (Ps.22:1-2, Mk.15:34) Christ was dead by the time the soldier speared Him in His side. The spear thrust was just to confirm that Christ was dead. He was. (Jn.19:32-36)
The Bible says that Christ is fully God. (Jn.1:1) And as such, His Deity cannot die. To say that it can is blasphemy and contrary to the perfections of God as revealed in Scripture. Christ’s Deity is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Christ is the great I AM. (Exod.3:14, Jn.6:35, Jn.8:48-59, Mal.3:6, Heb.13:8)
Is this a mystery? Is this beyond our full understanding? Of course. (Ps.139:6) But this is what the word of God says, the Eternal Word was God, and is God. We submit our reasoning to God’s word. We trust and obey our God like little children. And only those who come to God as little children will go to God on the day they lay their body down in the grave. (Mt.18:1-5, Mk.10:14-15,I Pt.2:2)
Woe to the worldly wiseman that thinks he is wiser than God. Christ is eternal God. (I Cor.1:17-25, I Cor.2:12-16, 2 Cor.2:14-16, Rom.8:7)
And Christ was able to die and thus to be buried because He took to Himself at His incarnation a second nature, a human nature. The death and burial of Christ testifies that Christ was also and is also even now a True Man. (Jn.1:1-18, I Jn.1:1-3) It was for this very reason that Christ became a real man. To be able to die, a real Man dying to ransom real men and women. (Heb.10:1-14, Gal.4:4)
Then there is some unspecified period of time, we are told evening had fallen, before Christ’s body was taken down. It was against the ceremonial or the judicial law of God to leave a body hanging on a tree overnight. (Dt.21:23) Plus all work had to be completed before the Sabbath. (Jn.19:31)
There was no more that Man or Satan could do to the human body of Jesus Christ. The burial of Jesus testifies to us that His pains were over. His work is done. (Jn.17:4, 19:30)
Beloved at our death as Believers our suffering and fighting are over, over eternally. There is no more that man, sin, and Satan can do to us. We are gone forever out of the realm of suffering, into a realm of holy bliss. To be where Christ is now. (Jn.14:1-12, 2 Cor.5:6-8, Phil.1:23, WCF 32.1)
Christ suffered in the flesh for thirty-two years. And then no more. Ever. It would help us to think of this in our own hard times. Suffering for a few days, months, or years. Then an eternity of holiness, happiness, and health. The grave is an end to suffering. The grave is the door to bliss with Christ. Oh, may the word of God change our thoughts and our feelings.
When you think about your death, your burial – try to think of it as a door to heaven. Death. Burial. Paradise.
Listen to these quotes by two of our English Puritan grandfathers in the faith. One lesser known. The other more familiar.
William Gurnall (1617-1679) Let your hope of heaven master your fear of death.
Matthew Henry. (1662-1714) He whose Head (Christ) is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.
The necessity of Christ’s burial.
Let’s consider why it was necessary that Christ be buried. After Christ died there remained just one more aspect of Christ’s humiliation as our Mediator, Jesus had to be buried. This is to fulfill Scriptures. (WLC 46, 50, WSC 27, Jn.10:15-17)
Psalm 16:10. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (the grave); Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Isaiah 53:9. His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Matthew 12:39. But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 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. (I Cor.15:1-6)
And Christ was also buried out of solidarity with His people. We die and are buried. Our sympathetic High Priest likewise dies and is buried. (Heb.2:9-18, Heb.4:14-16, I Cor.15:20)
Christ’s burial teaches us that His body rested in the grave, like resting in a bed. While at the very moment He breathed His last His human soul was in the immediate presence of His heavenly Father. You remember, Jesus said to the thief who was converted to Christ on the cross, today you will be with Me in Paradise. (Lk.23:43, Lk.16:19-31, Lk.12:13-21)
As Believers, when we die our body rests in the grave until the resurrection, but our souls go immediately to God. (WSC 32, 36-38)
The (direct) agent of Christ’s burial.
Now the Holy Spirit introduces us to the person directly responsible for burying the deceased body of Jesus Christ, Joseph of Arimathea. (Jn.19:38-42, Lk.23:50-53, Mt.27:57-60)
Before we look at Joseph of Arimathea, let’s look who is not here seeking to bury the Lord Jesus Christ. None of His apostles. (Mt.26:56) None of His other disciples. None of His family. None of his brothers. Many people that boast of abiding love live long enough to see our own weaknesses. (Acts 8:2)
But I do not want to condemn them too severely for their lack of love in seeking this service. The fear of man is a terrible thing. The fear of death is a powerful thing. Fear and anxiety are horrible things. What an awful burden it is. (Jn.14:1-6, Heb.2:14-15, Rom.8:14-23, 2 Tim.1:10, I Cor.15:54-55, Rom.6:5, I Thess.4:13-14)
Fear can make us forsake even the people we love most dearly. We can forsake Christ (temporarily) out of fear. All the apostles did. Christ has come to take away our fear.
There is some debate where Arimathea is. Some say it is a derivative of Ramah. (I Sam.1:1)
But the Holy Spirit clearly wants us to see a few things about this near-unknown disciple of Jesus.
His (relative) anonymity.
One, he is near unknown. What an amazing service for Christ this almost-unknown disciple performs for the body of Christ.
I have no doubt, but that God raised up this man, this believer for this very act. You see beloved, we ought not be discouraged that we are little and unknown and therefore reason that we cannot do any good for Christ. That is not right. We can. And we do. God has given each of us our own special service for the kingdom of Christ. It ought not matter who knows. God knows. And we do it for Him. Because we love Him. Because He first loved us. (I Cor.15:58, Mt.25:14-46)
Next, we are told that he is rich.
Christ has previously said it was harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. With man salvation is impossible. But with God all things are possible. God did what man could not do; He gave Joseph of Arimathea a new heart to believe in Christ. God made Joseph born again. (Mt.19:24, Jn.3:1-9, Ezek.36:26, Jer.31:33)
But we ought not to miss this, a rich man that truly believes in Jesus Christ is very rare. Most often God chooses the weak and the poor to be rich in faith. (Lk.6:20, I Cor.1:19-31, James 2:5) But we do learn that a rich true Believer can use his or her wealth and position to greatly benefit the cause of Christ.
If I may be permitted a personal example. When I was a carpet cleaner making eight dollars an hour, I found out many years later that a wealthy Christian man paid most of my seminary bills.
May we Believers who are rich in the world’s goods be rich in good deeds for Christ’s sake. (I Tim.6:18-19) You see, true Believers do not love money. We love Christ. And we love people for Christ’s sake. And if Christ has given us money, in part, He gives it to us so we can use it for His cause. (Phil.4:11-13, I Tim.6:6-19, Mt.6:19-33, I Jn.3:17, Lk.3:10-11)
Let’s beware of the love of money and the deceitfulness of wealth. (Heb.13:5, Lk.12:15) Let’s use it for Christ’s kingdom. (Lk.6:38)
And Joseph is powerful. He sits on the Sanhedrin, and a prominent member on the Sanhedrin. He is a leader of the Jews. (Mk.15:43)
Not all Jews “did not receive Him” when Christ came. (Jn.1:11) He is a believing remnant among the large mass of unbelieving Jews. But then again, it has always been a remnant that will be saved. (Rom.9:27, Isa.6:13) God always has a people that do not bow the knee to Baal. (I Kg.19:18, Rom.11:4) Even though for the most part, we remain obscure and unnoticed.
John’s gospel tells us that he is a secret believer in Christ Jesus out of fear of the Jews. (Jn.19:38, 9:22, 12:42, 7:13, 20:19)
He believes Jesus is the Christ, but he is afraid of his fellow Jewish counsel members. They will excommunicate him. Or worse. Saul-Paul will later round up and imprison and kill Christians.
But now the time has come for Joseph this secret Believer in Jesus as the Christ to come out of the shadows and stand up in public and declare, I am this Man’s disciple, I am a believer in this Jesus! Amazing. Fearful Joseph did what bold Peter could not do. (Mt.10:16-42)
We may be trembling one day, but if God has some work for us to do, He will give us the courage. And make no mistake about it. This took courage. This man Pilate prompted by the blood thirsty Jewish people just tortured and murdered your Christ. And now in front of everyone you ask for His body! Our faith overcomes our fears.
Oh beloved, it was the providence of God that kept this Believer from joining His Christ on the cross. Many believers have been slaughtered for their testimony of Christ. But as George Whitefield says, we are immortal until our work on earth is done. God gave Joseph work – bury My Son, bury your Savior. And no man and no demon can stop what God has purposed.
This weak believer was strengthened by our mighty God to do this mighty work!
You see Beloved, we really do not know the strength of our faith in Jesus until the time comes that we need it. Do you have faith to face death right now? No. Will you have faith to face death when God sends it? Yes.
God’s providence is sovereign. God determined that His Son Christ was going to die beside wicked men. And He determined His Son, our Jesus would be buried in rich man’s grave. God has said it. It must come to pass. And it did.
Isaiah 53:9. His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
The (indirect) agent of Christ’s burial.
Now we look at the governor. Pilate is surprised that Christ is dead at this time. Evidently men could linger in this horrific torture for long periods of time before they expired. Isn’t it interesting? Unbelieving men can be skilled in so many things. In this case, how to kill, and how long it will take to kill.
These worldly wisemen are so utterly ignorant of God, of their own hearts, of Christ, of their need of Christ. Pilate sends his soldiers to make sure Christ is dead. The soldiers break the legs of the other men. This was to kill them quicker. This is for the Jews, so they would not ‘defile’ the Passover or the Sabbath by breaking the Bible by having a man hang on a tree overnight. (Dt.21:23) Stunning ignorance. Stunning hypocrisy.
These men are also utterly ignorant of God, of their own hearts, of Christ, of their need of Christ.
But God’s word said God’s Passover Lamb would not have one broken bone. And it was so. (Exod.12:43-46, Ps.34:20, Jn.19:31-36, Jn.1:29, Num.9:12)
The (assisting) agent of Christ’s burial.
Then we are told in the gospel of John that another secret disciple of Jesus, Nicodemus, comes out of the shadows to help Joseph bury Jesus.
Actually he did not consent to the death of Christ at His trial. But he did not come out publicly and seek to save Christ. But he showed a little faith. (Lk.23:50-56, Jn.7:50) And little faith grows. As we see in our passage.
John 19:39. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 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.
Beloved, when we are bold to show our faith in Jesus, who is to say if we will help another fearful Believer also take a stand for Christ. And so too another disciple can show his love for Christ in this tangible way. Our faith strengthens the faith of our fellow Believers. This is one reason why we need church.
May I say this as well, and this concerns Nicodemus. He came to Jesus Christ one night and ask him about entering the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was ‘the’ teacher in Israel. He was not born again. He was an unbeliever. He did not know God. He did not know Christ. He was unsaved.
Christ told him that he must be born again. And from that time to this time, he was born again!
Oh beloved, may we never despair for anyone. May we never doubt the power of the gospel.
The witnesses of Christ’s burial.
And now we see the witnesses.
V.46. 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. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. (Mt.27:57-61, Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:31-42)
God has provided the necessary witnesses to attest that Christ has died and Christ has been buried – according to the Scriptures. You see again and again, on every aspect of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection – all of it was promised in the OT. And all of it comes to pass in the NT. The great clouds of witnesses, the burial of Christ says Believe in Christ! (Jn.3:17, Acts 4:12, Heb.12:1-3)
The lessons of Christ’s burial.
Let’s conclude with a few lessons we learn by Christ’s burial.
To bury our dead.
See what care was given to the deceased body of Jesus, the wrappings, the incense. Christ deceased body was buried and not burned. I am aware the modern Christians now burn the bodies of our dead. I do not want to overburden those of us here that have done this. Certainly, God is able to refashion glorified bodies from the ashes even from the atoms of those in Christ. And He will.
And we do remember that some of our Protestant forefathers were burned at the stake by Rome for the sake of the gospel. This of course was not a willing burning. This was meant to degrade and condemn them.
But from the beginning of holy Scripture to the end of Scripture, God’s people bury our dead in obedience to the precepts of the Bible and to the practices of God’s people. The OT saints, the NT saints, our Christ – all were buried. I think Saul and his three sons and Achan were the only ones burned (I Sam.31:8-13, 2 Sam.2:4-6, Josh.7:25) But even with Saul and his three sons after they burned the bodies they did bury the bones. And David commended the burial.
Christ has purchased us body and soul. Even the deceased bodies of believers we treat with respect. All with an eye to the Resurrection. Sola Scriptura beloved. Let’s move on.
To be busy in service.
Jesus was buried. We will soon be buried. The time to serve Christ is very short. So, we are spurred on to action for Christ. I only have a few more days to work for my Lord before I must be buried like my Lord. He has not told me the day or the way in which He will call Me home to be with Him. I will live for Him today as He might call for me today.
To love God more. To love Christ more. To love people more. To hate sin more. To read the Bible, to pray, to serve more. Oh the time is short. Let’s work on.
To be serious in life.
The burial of Christ is also here to teach us to be serious in our life. Christ was buried. We will be buried. All our loved ones will be buried. That’s serious. But by serious I do not mean sad or morose. Being serious about our life does not nullify the joy and the contentment we have in Christ, as some might say. I would argue just the opposite. Our age is a light and frivolous age. We are an age of recreation and entertainment. We are like the Romans in Christ’s day, amusing ourselves with the antics of the coliseums. The certainty of the grave ought to make us live soberly and seriously and holily – like Christ.
Let me conclude with some comforting thoughts.
I Corinthians 15:42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
2 Corinthians 5:4. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (Rom.8:23)
Revelation 7:17. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Isa.25:8)
- Why are trials necessary for us? What good things are produced being in the furnace of a trial? (I Pt.4:12-14, James 1:1-4, Isa.43:2, 2 Cor.12:1-10, 2 Cor.4:6-18, Acts 14:22, Jn.16:33, Rom.8:18-23, Heb.12:1-10)
- What are some of the similarities and the differences in the account of Christ’s burial found in the four gospel records? (Mt.27:57-61, Mk.15:42-47, Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:31-42)
- What makes the burial of Christ necessary? And what is the importance of this efficient cause of Christ’s burial? (Acts 2:23-24, 2 Cor.5:21, Gal.3:13-14, Isa.53:1-12, I Pt.3:18, Eph.2:13)
- What day was Christ buried? At what time was He buried? What is the significance of the Passover as regards to the death and burial of Jesus? (Mt.26:62, Mk.15:42, Lk.23:54, Jn.19:31, 42, I Cor.5:7, Ps.22:1-2, Mk.15:34, Jn.19:32-36)
- Did Christ’s divine nature die and then receive burial? Why? Why not? (Jn.1:1-18, Exod.3:14, Jn.6:35, Jn.8:48-59, Mal.3:6, Heb.13:8)
- Did Christ’s human nature die and receive burial? Why? What do we learn by this? (Jn.1:1-18, I Jn.1:1-3, Heb.10:1-14, Gal.4:4, Jn.17:4, 19:30, Jn.14:1-12, 2 Cor.5:6-8, Phil.1:23, WCF 32.1)
- Where did Christ’s soul or spirit go when He died? Was it buried in the grave? What lesson do we learn by this? (Lk.23:43, Lk.16:19-31, Lk.12:13-21, WSC 32, 36-38)
- How does the burial of Christ fulfill prophecy? What do we learn by this? How should Christ’s burial encourage us? (Ps.16:10, Isa.53:9, Mt.12:39-40, I Cor.15:1-6, Jn.10:15-17, WLC 46, 50, WSC 27, Heb.2:9-18, Heb.4:14-16, I Cor.15:20, WSC 32, 36-38)
- Joseph of Arimathea was a rich believer. He buried Christ. What lessons do we learn by this? How can rich believers use their resources for Christ’s kingdom? (Jn.3:1-10, Rom.9:13-16, Acts 13:48, Mt.19:24, Lk.6:20, I Cor.1:19-31, James 2:5, I Tim.6:18-19, Phil.4:11-13, I Tim.6:6-19, Mt.6:19-33, I Jn.3:17, Lk.3:10-11)
- How did Joseph of Arimathea show a little faith at Christ’s trial? Why was he a ‘secret’ disciple of Jesus? What was he afraid of? Is it good to be a secret disciple of Jesus? Are you ever a secret disciple of Jesus? Why? (Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:38, Prov.29:25, Mt.10:26-42, Jn.3:1-9, Jn.7:4-53)
- Who is Nicodemus? What is his occupation? What lessons do we learn by his assisting Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus? (Jn.3:1-9, Jn.7:40-53, 19:38-42, Mt.10:16-37, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.3:16, James 1:18, I Pt.1:19-25, Acts 13:48, Phil.1:29, I Cor.3:6-7, Isa.55:11, Jn.1:10-13)
- What lessons do we learn by the women witnesses of Christ’s burial? (Mt.27:57-61, Mk.15:46-47, Lk.23:50-56, Jn.19:31-42, Gal.3:22-29, Lk.7:47, Dt.19:15, Mt.18:16, 2 Cor.13:1, I Cor.15:1-6)
- Should Christians bury their dead? Or is it Biblical to burn our dead. Defend your answer with Scripture precepts (statements) and Biblical practices (examples). (2 Tim.3:14-17, Isa.8:20, Acts 17:11)
- Why should the death and burial of Christ make us Believers love God and people more and be busier about Christ’s business? Why should the burial of Christ make us quit loving the world and playing with sin and serving self?
- In what ways are modern Christians not serious with their Christian life? How does the modern church package Christianity with entertainment and recreation and fun? How should the death and burial of Christ make us serious with our lives and faith?
- Interact with these two quotes. William Gurnall (1617-1679) Let your hope of heaven master your fear of death. Matthew Henry. (1662-1714) He whose Head (Christ) is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.