And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:42-47)
The account of Jesus’ burial has been part of the creeds and confessions of the Christian church for millennia, starting with Paul’s gospel creed in 1 Corinthians 15, wherein he includes the phrase, “that he was buried.” The gospel records, including our text in Mark, all include this fact as well. Yet, for many of us, we may be tempted to gloss over the burial so we can quickly get to the resurrection.
Taking time to pause and reflect on the burial of Jesus, however, is spiritually beneficial for us. There are good reasons why this event is included in the aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ – his death, his burial, his resurrection – in scripture and in the creeds. What are some of the things we can learn from Christ’s burial?
First, the burial event reminds us that God keeps his word. The scriptures foretold that the Messiah would make his grave with the rich in Isaiah 53:9. Mark presents to us Joseph of Arimathea as the fulfillment of that prophecy. In addition, Jesus predicted that he would remain in the “heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). When we consider Jesus’ entombment, we are reminded that God fulfills his prophecies, right down to the last detail.
Second, the burial event assures us that Jesus really died. When we read our text, we see Joseph asking for a body that the text calls a “corpse.” Pilate needs to affirm that Jesus is dead, which is confirmed when the Roman soldier pierced his side and water and blood came out. The lifeless body of Jesus is then placed in a tomb with a stone sealing the door as sorrowful onlookers gaze from afar. All this is meant to convey that Jesus really experienced death in its full sense.
Third, the burial event moves us to anticipate the resurrection. Just as his death was full and real, so was his resurrection. He came out of a tomb that was sealed. His body lay there from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. We read of the mourners, of the fleeing disciples, of the darkness of the sky, of the stone in front of the door – things seem hopeless. Mark and the other gospel writers paint a picture of gloom for us, which makes the light of the resurrection shine all the brighter!
Fourth, the burial event pictures the end of our sins. As the New Testament goes on to testify, in baptism, we are buried with Christ. Our own salvation hinges on being identified with Christ and becoming in union with him. Therefore, just as Christ was buried and then raised to life, so we who repent and believe die to self and are raised to new life. Where are our sins? Buried. Our guilt, condemnation, and shame? Buried. Remembered no more. Dead.
Finally, Jesus’ burial brings up questions, such as what was truly going on with his nature and person during the three days. Was God dead? Who was running the universe? Did Jesus’ body experience decay? What did his spirit do? Did Jesus descend to hell?
Sunday’s sermon may not address every last question in full but we will attempt to shed some clarity on them. Join us as we consider the burial of Jesus Christ, and what this important event means for the gospel message that saves our souls!