Burial of Jesus
I want to invite you to John chapter 19. We’ve been in John chapter 19, and we finished last week. To me, it was one of the greatest statements in all the Bible, “It is finished.” Right? What an incredible statement. It’s amazing to think that the work that Jesus Christ came to this earth to do is complete. It’s done. It’s finished. The payment for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of the whole world has been paid for completely. Paid in full by Jesus Christ on the cross. That’s an amazing thing. You know, and as much as he had to suffer and as much pain and shame as he had to experience, it was awful. The crucifixion is awful. We’ll talk a little bit about that in a few minutes, but it all paled in comparison to the judgment that he had to take for your sins and for mine.
For that three hours, it must have been incredible. Can’t even fathom what it was like, and yet he did it willingly. He did it purposefully for each one of us. That’s amazing. So that’s where we’re at. We’re at the end. Jesus said, “It is finished.” And we’re at the end, and now we come to chapter 19 of verse 31. And we see now we’re going to start talking about the burial of Jesus this morning. Now verse 31 says this, it says, “And the Jews because it was a day of preparation so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for that sabbath was a high day, asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.” Now, this is kind of interesting because the Jewish leaders have just broken the law several times. I mean, they conducted an illegal trial of Jesus.
They falsely accused Jesus, and then they had an innocent man, Jesus, put to death. So they’ve broken the law over and over and over again. But now suddenly they’re worried about what people have to see on the crosses. That’s what concerns them and it reminded me of Matthew your 23:24, where Matthew says that, “They strained at the gnat but swallowed the camel,” right? All of this tremendous, awful stuff that they did, and now they’re just worried about bodies being seen. So they go to Pilate and they ask Pilate that they would come and break the legs of those that were crucified and take them down, take them away. Now, pastor mentioned last week that it could take several days for someone to die of crucifixion. It’s an awful death, and sometimes it happened fast depending on what went on, but sometimes it happened really slow.
And sometimes even after somebody died, the Romans left them hanging there just as an example; just so you could see what happened if you were disobedient to the Roman government. And so it could take a while. And the Jews wanted the bodies taken down. They said because it was the day of preparation. It was the day before the sabbath. Every week, the day of preparation, Friday, was a big deal to the Jews. But they said this time it’s even a more big deal because it’s a high day. Now, I would guess that what they’re thinking is that most of the time when somebody is crucified, they’re dead within probably 24 hours. And they’re thinking, “If we don’t take them down off the cross, now they’re going to die on the sabbath and we can’t deal with it on the sabbath, because that’s working for us.” Right?
And so they said, “We got to get these down.” And they said, “Because tomorrow is the sabbath. And not only is tomorrow the sabbath, but it’s a high day.” And that high day indicates that they’re preparing for the Passover. And with the Passover preparation going on, that makes that sabbath a special sabbath to them. The Passover is one of their most holy days. And so they’re preparing for a big festival. The Passover celebration was a week long. Tens of thousands of people coming in and out of Jerusalem because they couldn’t all stay there. They would move in every day and pass all these gates and they would pass these guys hanging on those crosses. And the Jewish people said, “We don’t want everybody to have to see that. We don’t want them to have to see it all the time.” So they go to Pilate and they ask that he would come, send his guys to break their legs.
Now, this is kind of an interesting request. Normally, I doubt Pilate would’ve agreed. And as a matter of fact, it’s kind of odd to think, why would he agree this time? If you think about it, Pilate is probably really fed up with the Jews by now. It wasn’t only earlier today that they came to him and demanded that he put this guy to death and they couldn’t even give him any good reason why. And now they’re coming and saying, “Well, now, will you come and break all these guys’ legs?” Not very many hours since they had already been bothering him one other time. So he says, “Okay, I agree. I’ll do that.” And he sends a soldier to break their legs. Starting at verse 32 of chapter 19. He says, “So the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first man and the other who was crucified with him, with Jesus. And then when they came to Jesus and they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out.”
If you remember pastor’s description last week of what happens when someone’s crucified, it’s pretty awful. I mean, they’re hanging there and they got all of this pressure on their chest cavity, and on their lungs, and you eventually start to sink and you eventually get to the place where you can’t breathe. And the only way to breathe is to push up so that you can suck in a breath and then you slump back down, and probably gradually let that breath out. But the only way to suck in a breath was to push up. And now you think about in order to push up, they’ve got that spike stuck in their feet. And so they’re sitting there like that, and they’ve already got all the pain of that spike stuck in their feet, and then they need to try to push up just to take in a breath.
Now the soldiers are going to come along and break their legs. These guys haven’t been on the cross that long. Can you imagine hanging there, knowing that you’re dying and having these guys knowing that these guys are going to come along and what they’re going to do. It was a gruesome thing the way they broke the legs. Wasn’t pretty. And the pain must have been excruciating, and they would’ve felt it. They’re not so far along that they’re not going to feel exactly what these guys are doing to them. Can’t even imagine what that would be like. Maybe they were thankful. Maybe they’d think, “For a little bit of pain, we don’t have to continue to suffer all these hours.” Maybe, I don’t know. Pretty difficult situation. The soldiers come along and they break the legs of the two that were crucified on either side of Jesus. But they say, when they got to Jesus, they see that he’s already dead.
And so just to make sure the soldier pierces Jesus side and blood and water come out. The fact that blood and water come out is indicative of the fact that his heart is no longer beating. And the heart stops beating, the water starts to fill up that sac around the heart. And so the fact that water and blood came out indicates that Jesus was dead. His heart had stopped beating. Now I got to take a minute here and cover something because I know you’ve probably heard people talk about this Swoon Theory. Have you heard about that before? I mean, it’s really quite incredible that people would even talk about it, but the whole idea of that is that Jesus didn’t really die, he passed out or he was just unconscious on the cross. And eventually when they took him down from the cross and put him in the grave, then eventually he revived, he came back to… He unbound all that stuff that he’s going to be bound with eventually.
He moved a several hundred pound rock out of the way so that he could walk out of the tomb. That’s what the Swoon Theory says. And the theory has a whole bunch of holes. I’m just going to talk about a couple of things that just sort of shoot it down pretty quick. But the first thing is that these Roman soldiers, they were professional executioners. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew when someone was dead because it was their job to put them to death. They understood it. They knew it. They knew how to complete their job and they knew Jesus was dead. When the Roman soldier comes up and sees, oh, that Jesus is dead, it’s not just a guess. It’s something that he knew and understood. And secondly, you remember when pastor mentioned this earlier as well, but when somebody is scourged the way Jesus was, and battered the way Jesus was, many people die before they even get to the cross. When they’ve gone through that kind of beating.
And Jesus had already dealt with all of that as well. And let alone now go through the crucifixion and have the strength to move a rock and the strength to uncover all that stuff from yourself. It’s amazing. The strength to even get up and walk out of the tomb. As a matter of fact, the Jewish historian Josephus, he said this once. He says, “There’s no survivors of Roman crucifixion.” He says, “In all the decades of Rome crucifixion, there was one person whoever came down from the cross alive, and this person died within 24 hours.” That’s what a historian wrote about crucifixion. People just don’t survive crucifixion. Jesus was not unconscious, Jesus hadn’t just passed out after his crucifixion later to revive in the tomb, tear all that stuff off, move this several hundred pound rock and walk out of the tomb.
It couldn’t happen. Not possible for that to happen. Not to mention that if he wasn’t already dead when he gave up his spirit, and we know that he was. But if he wasn’t, when they thrust the spear into his side and into his heart, that would’ve killed him anyway. I mean, so several reasons why we know Jesus was dead. The Roman soldiers didn’t break Jesus’ legs, by the way, as they were supposed to. When a Roman soldier didn’t do what they were commanded to do, it meant death. We don’t have it recorded for us, but it’d be interesting if there was any fallout from this. Because didn’t break Jesus’ legs like we assume that Pilate had commanded him to do. But here’s the good thing about it; without knowing it, they fulfilled prophecy.
They fulfilled prophecy concerning what was going to happen to Jesus. They didn’t know they were doing that, but they did. Important prophecy. As a matter of fact, John explains that he’s a truthful witness of these events, and that it’s all happened this way so that we might believe. So that we could believe. Let’s continue on in verse 35. It says, “And he who has seen, has testified and his testimony me is true. And he knows that he is telling the truth so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the scripture, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” That’s a quote from Psalm 34:20. And again, another scripture says, “And they shall look on him with whom they have pierced,” and that’s a quote from Zechariah chapter 12:10. So John’s making it really clear that these things happened so that scripture would be fulfilled.
These things happened to fulfill prophecy that God had talked about hundreds of years ago. And while these references are to Christ, what he was experiencing on the cross, it also points to him as the true Passover lamb. You know, they’re getting ready to celebrate Passover, but we know Jesus is the true Passover lamb in Numbers 9:12. This is just some instruction talking about the Passover and the Passover lamb. And it says this, it says, “They shall leave none of it until tomorrow…” talking about the meat from the lamb that they roast. “They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break a bone of it. According to all the statues of the Passover, they shall observe it.”
And so even the Israelites, way back when God instituted the Passover back in Exodus, they were told, “Listen, don’t break the bones of that animal that you’re sacrificing as a Passover lamb.” And Paul reminds us in 1st Corinthians 5:7, it says, “For Christ, our Passover, has been sacrifice for us.” Jesus is the true Passover lamb. He’s the one that is really the Passover lamb. And these guys are going to come to understand that in a little bit here. So the Roman soldiers didn’t do what they were supposed to do by order of Pilate, but they did do what God wanted them to do to fulfill prophecy that was written hundreds of years before this time.
Now, the last section of John 19 picks up with this. Starts in verse 38. He says, “After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate granted permission. So he came and he took away the body. Nicodemus who had first come to him, talking about coming to Jesus by night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds weight.” Interestingly, their pound was only 12 ounces. So when we think about this, it’s about 75 pounds, not a hundred pounds. Just… Anyway. “So they took the body of Jesus and they bound it in linen wrappings with the spices as is the burial custom of the Jews. 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. Therefore because of the Jews day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
And so we see exactly what’s going on. The whole burial account of Jesus is covered, obviously because the crucifixion and the resurrection is covered in all four gospels. The burial account is covered in all four gospels. And we really need to go to all four gospels to get an understanding of who Joseph of Arimathea really is; a pretty incredible man. Matthew tells us that Joseph was a rich man. That’s kind of important. We’ll see how in a minute. Mark explains that Joseph was a prominent member of the council of the Sanhedrin. So Joseph was part of the Jewish leadership, part of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and that he was waiting for the kingdom of God. This is so interesting. Joseph was waiting for the kingdom of God. He was waiting for the Messiah to come. He understood from the Old Testament that the kingdom of God would be established when the Messiah come.
It’s very much like, remember, Simeon in Luke chapter two? When Jesus’ parents brought him to the temple, when he was eight years old to be circumcised, and they met Simeon there. The Holy Spirit had led Simian to come to the temple, and they met Simeon there. The Bible tells us that Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel. It’s the same thing. He waited for the Messiah. He waited for the kingdom of God to come. And were told that Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for the same thing. Not many Jewish people, really, you could say that about, that’s why it gets mentioned so many times. He was waiting for the consolation, waiting for the kingdom of God to come. And then lastly, Luke tells us that he was a good and a righteous man, and this is important too. He didn’t consent to the plans and to the actions of the religious leaders.
He was a dissenter. He hadn’t gone along with their idea of wanting to put Jesus to death. But I think the most important thing we learn about Joseph of Arimathea is what John tells us, that he was a disciple of Jesus. Says, “He was a secret disciple for fear of the Jews.” But he was a disciple of Jesus, and he proves that in what he now does. He shows us how amazing change that Jesus has made in him, by what he now does. The first thing he does is he’s willing to go directly to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. Now think about, again, about Pilate. This is getting old. These Jews were still in the same day. These Jews are making him crazy. They brought a guy that they wanted condemned to crucifixion, and then they come and said they wanted all the bones broken and the legs broken.
And now here comes another Jew saying, “I want the body.” And pilots saying, “Look, I got this whole Passover thing going on in my city. I got thousands of people in my city. I got more important things to worry about.” He’s got a lot going on, but here’s one of the things that’s kind of unique about this. I think he was okay with it because of one thing; then he didn’t have to deal with the body. He didn’t have to send his guys to try to figure out what to do with the body of Jesus. And so Pilate says, “Yeah, you can take his body, but only after this.” And John’s gospel doesn’t tell us about it, but Mark does. Mark says that Pilate was surprised that Jesus was dead already. And it would be surprising because it was only like 3:00PM in the afternoon when Jesus died after starting the crucifixion that morning.
So Pilate was surprised that Jesus was dead. So he sends for the centurion to confirm it. And the centurion comes back and says, “Yeah, Jesus is really dead.” And only then did Pilate release the body to Joseph. So there’s another kind of a hit to the old Swoon Theory, right? They confirm that Jesus was dead. So Joseph comes and takes Jesus’s body away. And now we look learned that Nicodemus is there as well. John is the only gospel that tells us anything about Nicodemus. You remember that Nicodemus is the one that come to Jesus by night. John mentioned that in the verses that we read. But he come to Jesus by night and they had that incredible conversation about, “You must be born again,” in John chapter three. What an amazing conversation. We just talked about The Chosen movie that we’re going to go see next Sunday, if you all are participating. But The Chosen series that’s on TV, the way they handled that scene of Jesus and Nicodemus is pretty incredible. Worth watching.
If you don’t watch any of the rest of it, watch that scene between Jesus and Nicodemus in The Chosen. It tells you a little bit about what’s going on there. So John talks about Nicodemus in chapter three. And then in chapter seven, John also talks about Nicodemus. And interestingly, hearing Nicodemus is standing up for Jesus in the council. The council wants to put Jesus to death, and Nicodemus reminds the council. He says, “Does the law condemn someone before they’ve had a chance to give a defense for themselves?” So in chapter seven, Nicodemus is really standing up for Jesus. And then we see Nicodemus here at the burial of Jesus, helping Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph and Nicodemus take the body and they prepare it for burial. Now, the Jewish custom was to thoroughly wash the body, anoint the body, and then start to apply all the linen strips and the spices and everything to the body. And in taking care of all of that, the body almost ends up mummified.
And there’s a couple reasons for that. I’ll mention one of them here in a little bit, but the body kind of ends up almost mummified. That’s the Jewish ritual and the plan for it. But the problem is that the sabbath is coming so quickly. Remember it starts at sundown that day. You don’t wait until the next morning for… Like we think of the next day. The sabbath is coming so quickly. They didn’t have time to do all that. And you got to figure, Jesus’ body was a mess. He had been scourged and his whole back was all tore apart. Not only that, if you’re moving up to try to take a breath, you’re rubbing that exposed skin against the wood of the cross, and he’s got holes in his hands and his feet. And now he’s got a hole in his side.
I mean, his body would’ve been a mess and they don’t have time to clean it up the way they’d like to clean it up. That’s why the ladies were going to return. The women were going to return after the sabbath; was to get his body cleaned back up and to do a proper burial. All Nicodemus and Joseph had time to do was to pack the spices and the [inaudible 00:21:22] around his body and get him into the tomb. But I think Jesus was still anointed. You remember when Mary anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume? And all of the others complained, “Well, we could have sold that and given it to the poor.” You remember what Jesus said to him in Mark chapter 14? He said this, “But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them. But you do not always have me. She has done what she could.'” Listen to this. “She has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.”
Jesus body was anointed. Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t get to do it, but Mary’s good deed was to anoint Jesus’ body for his burial. John reminds us that the place of the crucifixion was in a garden, and there was a new tomb in the garden, and no one had been laid in this tomb. And since it was a day of preparation, the tomb was closed. It just made sense. Let’s do that to him. Now, there’s a whole bunch of other things going on here. We kind of feel like we’re to the end of the story, but there’s a lot more going on, and there’s a lot more we can talk about. The fact that Joseph was a prominent and a wealthy man, it just fulfills prophecy. Isaiah 53:9, it says, “And he was with a rich man in his death.”
God’s word always prophesied that a rich man was going to be the one that took care of Jesus when he died. That’s kind of amazing, huh? God took care of it. God took care of all of that. And not only did Matthew mention that Joseph was a rich man, he also tells us that the tomb that just happens to be in this garden belonged to Joseph. Now that’s kind of amazing. Because if Joseph is a rich man, usually the rich people had tombs either in the city or at least close to the city. This garden isn’t as close to the city as someone could have been with a tomb, but Joseph just happens to have a tomb in this garden. Kind of interesting that that’s the way that God worked it out.
And here’s something else that’s a little bit interesting. The fact that Nicodemus had this 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. It’s just not something that you kept around all the time. It wasn’t something that you just stored just in case. You usually went out and you got it when you needed it. But Nicodemus had it. He had it available for them to use to take care of Jesus’ body the best way they could. Joseph and Nicodemus are kind of messing themselves up here by dealing with a dead body; by messing around with a body. The law said in Numbers 19:11, the law says, “If you touch a dead body, you’re defiled for seven days.” They’re just getting ready to go into the Passover, and Joseph and Nicodemus are not going to be able to celebrate the Passover.
They’re defiled; they’re not going to be able to participate. And you know what? They don’t care. They don’t care at all, because remember, they found the true Passover lamb. They don’t need to go celebrate the Exodus, and celebrate all that God did back then because they now knew and had a relationship with the true Passover lamb. They don’t care anymore. So a matter of fact, they don’t care about being secret anymore. They’re not worried about being secret followers of Jesus. They’ve become very publicly identified with Jesus by the things that they’re doing with his body. They’re no longer secret followers of Jesus. They’ve chosen to say, “You know what? We’re more than willing to suffer whatever the consequences are of saying that we are followers of Jesus Christ.”
Never know. We don’t know what’s going to come along. What could come along. There could be some consequences for you or some consequences for me for standing up and saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.” I hope that you feel like Joseph and Nicodemus, “I don’t care.” “I don’t care, because my relationship with Jesus and what that means is so much more important than whatever consequences could be from following him.” Right? From saying that, “I belong to Jesus Christ.” Joseph and Nicodemus no more. They’re not secret anymore. They’re very public. Here’s something that’s really important, I think. The tomb was new and no one had ever been laid in it before. That’s pretty significant. The Jews, when they buried someone, they packed all the stuff around their bodies, and then they waited for their bodies to decay.
And when the bodies would decay and they were just bones, then they would take their bones and they’d put them in smaller boxes, and they’d put the smaller boxes in different places in the tomb. Always having these shelves to lay the bodies on. Well, this was pretty important that this tomb that we can say nobody had ever been laid in this tomb, because that means nobody could point to other bones in this tomb and say that, “That’s Jesus’s remains.” When Jesus walked out of that tomb, it was empty of anything else relating to death. That’s pretty critical. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell about the women that came with Jesus from Galilee and were staying close. A couple of them mentioned; Mary Magdalene, and someone said the other Mary; one of them says, Mary, the mother Joseph, and they are specifically mentioned. But really all of these women are here, and they’re watching. They’re watching where Jesus is laid.
And we talked about why. Because they’re the ones that are going to come after the third day after the sabbath, and they’re going to come, and they’re going to finish this burial. They’re going to take care of his body. Except, praise the Lord, he wasn’t there. Huh? That’s so exciting. I wish I was doing it next week. Pastor gets to have the fun ones, you know. But anyway, he was risen. He wasn’t there, and praise the Lord for that. So the people involved, the actions that they took, the circumstances that they encountered, all of it adds up to a burial that only God could orchestrate. Right? I mean, there’s so many unique things coming into this, and coming in and out of this that only God could have worked that out. No man, no person, nobody could have tried to figure out how to make it work out just this specific way that we read.
We know it was God. We know it was God taking care of it. But it also helps us to understand the importance of the burial task. And that’s kind of what I want to end with a little bit this morning, is the burial of Christ is really important to us as well. As a matter of fact, it’s an important aspect of the gospel. 1st Corinthians chapter 15. You guys are familiar with this, but let’s start in verse one. It says, “Now I make known to you brethren the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand. By which also you are saved if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that he raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” The fact that Jesus Christ died and was buried is a very integral, pivotal part to the gospel. It’s important. It had to take place.
Secondly, we connect with Jesus in his burial when we’re baptized. Romans 6:4, it says, “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism and to death. So as Christ is raised from the death through the glory of the father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” You remember when you were baptized? “Buried in the likeness of his death, raised in the likeness of his resurrection.” We connect with Jesus through baptism, and his burial through baptism. Not to mention, obviously the death and the burial of Jesus was critical in order for him to be resurrected. I mean, if he didn’t die and he wasn’t buried, he couldn’t be resurrected. But we know that he was. 1st Corinthians 15:14 though kind of makes it real clear to us. It says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and your faith also was vain.”
Christ had to die, he had to be buried, and then he had to raise again. Or else everything we believe is in vain. Don’t mean anything. It’s useless if those things didn’t take place. The burial of Christ is that important for us as believers as well. And here’s the good news; he did die, right? I mean, that’s not great news, but yeah, it’s good news. He did die, and we know from what we’ve been talking about, he was buried and his burial proved his death as well as made the resurrection possible. That’s the things that we know. Jesus’s burial proved he was dead and it made his resurrection possible, which we know is a very key step to our lives as believers. So Jesus’s burial is critical to the gospel being incomplete to our connection with him through baptism and to allow for his resurrection.
This is what I think. I mean, I just have come away from this with a new appreciation for all that God orchestrated in order to bring about the exact burial that he had planned for Jesus through his word. I mean, it’s exact. It’s perfect. And you can look back at all of the prophecies and everything that was going to happen. God orchestrated all of that perfectly. We knew he would, but this is confirmation that he did. And that makes that exciting to me. I’ve just come away with a new appreciation of this. And I just want to end with this, because I think this is important for us to catch, but… Jesus died for your sins. He was buried and he rose again on the third day, like 1st Corinthians 15 tells us. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to place your faith and belief in that Jesus. Place your faith and belief in the Jesus whose death brings forgiveness, whose burial brings union with him, and whose resurrection brings life.
That’s what this is all about anyway. Trust Jesus, trust him. His burial was an important part of what he had to do so that we even had the ability and are able to trust him. Praise the Lord that God didn’t leave any steps out. And I appreciate so much that all of the gospel writers cover the burial in detail. I always thought, “Why is that so important? Why’d they have to go through so much effort to explain so many things in that?” Now I think I understand a little bit better. Jesus’s burial is a pivotal step for us in understanding where we are with him and how we even get to that place by faith and belief in him.
This message has been brought to you by Alpine Bible Church in Lehi, Utah. If you’d like more information, please visit us online at alpinebible.com.