Jan 13 2012 - E100.68c – John 19:38-42, Burial
When Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel – the good news – he preached to them, he emphasises not only Jesus' death and resurrection, but also his burial: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus' burial forms an important part of the gospel narrative.
Jesus' burial underlines the reality of his death. He was not taken from the cross in an unconscious state from which he later recovered. Jesus was truly dead. The Roman soldiers had made certain of that. They had broken the bones of those crucified with Jesus to hasten their deaths, but had nor needed to do so with him; he was already dead. Just to make sure, one of the soldiers had stuck a spear into his side, "bringing a sudden flow of blood and water" (John 19:34). The spear prod was intended to see whether Jesus was really dead; if the body did not jerk or respond to the spear thrust then it was lifeless. The mixture of blood and water suggest also that the blood had already begun to congeal and separate. Jesus was dead.
The three days (by Hebrew inclusive counting) in the tomb are also a vital element in Jesus identification with us. Unless Jesus returns, we will each face death. Our bodies will be laid in the grave – or be cremated. Jesus fully identified with us in our death that we might share in his resurrection life.
The burial of Jesus underlines the reality of his resurrection. Matthew tells us that he was sealed in the tomb and that guards were placed outside to ensure that the disciples did not come by night to steal his body. No human power opened the tomb and removed the body; he was raised by the power of God. No human power can recover those whom we love from the grave; no human power can restore them to life. But the day will come when the graves give up their dead, not to reveal a handful of dust and a collection of dry bones but to the glory of resurrection life.
Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21.)
Lord Jesus, thank you that you tasted death for us but are now crowned with glory and honour. Death is real and its prospect is distressing, but we thank you that it is a broken power; it does not have the last word. Thank you that death has been swallowed up by life. Thank you that we have hope beyond the grave.