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God’s Word for You

Luke 23:50-53 He took the body down

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Jesus’ Burial

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a good and righteous man from the town of Arimathea in Judea. He was a member of the Council 51 but he had not consented with their decision or their actions. He was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 He took the body down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut from rock, a tomb in which no one had yet been buried.

When Jesus entered our world in birth (although he had already entered our world when he entered the womb of his mother at conception), there was a man named Joseph there to take charge of his physical body. He was there to help wrap the baby Jesus’ body in strips of cloth and lay him down to rest in the manger. That Joseph was “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). He took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to fulfill the purification law of Moses (Luke 2:22; Leviticus 12:1-8).

When Jesus departed from our world in death (although he would not truly depart until his ascension, forty days later, and he has promised to be with us always to the very end of the age), there was a man named Joseph there to take charge of his physical body. He was there to help wrap the Lord Jesus’ body in linen cloth and lay it down to rest in his own tomb. That Joseph was “a good and righteous man (Luke 23:50). He took Jesus down from the cross just outside Jerusalem in order to obey the law of Moses that no one should be left hanging on a tree overnight (Deuteronomy 21:22).

When Israel died (Genesis 49:33-50:1), there was a man named Joseph there to take charge of his physical body. He ordered that Israel’s body be embalmed and wrapped according to local (Egyptian) tradition, but without using the Egyptian priests or mythology—he used his own servants and physicians instead to separate himself from their pagan beliefs (Genesis 50:2-3). He took Israel’s body back to Canaan to bury him in the cave which Abraham had purchased from the Hittites according to the oath he took at the command of his father (Genesis 50:5,13).

We see in these passages that Jesus’ burial was prefigured by his own birth and by the burial of the father of the Children of Israel. The Joseph who buried Jesus was from Arimathea, a village a few miles north of Jerusalem, which had also been the birthplace of the prophet Samuel. The place was called Ramathaim in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 1:1). Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. Luke tells us that he had not “consented” in the vote (συγκατατεθειμένος) about Jesus’ condemnation.

The other Gospels tell us more about the burial. Luke’s information is about Joseph’s righteousness, that the burial was with Pilate’s permission (somewhat reflecting the permission Joseph son of Israel got from Pharaoh to bury his father, Genesis 50:5-6), the wrapping of the body, and that the burial was in a new tomb.

The last detail is one we don’t want to overlook. Perhaps we could say that Jesus was laid in an unused tomb just as his mother’s womb had been that of a virgin. But I think it’s more important that the tomb was a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Since there was no other body in the tomb (which was otherwise the custom among the Jews, to be “gathered to one’s fathers,” 1 Kings 1:21, 11:21, 11:42, etc.), there can be no question as to whose body was raised from the dead. Only Jesus’ body was buried there; only Jesus could be the one who rose. Gerhard makes the same point: “so that one might never think that someone else arose instead of Christ” (Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 1663, p. 311).

Where is the good news of the gospel here in this sad scene?

1, It is in the fact of Jesus’ death. He died to atone for our sins; the value of this payment is infinite; far greater than the debt owed by all mankind for all sins over all of time. “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

2, It is in the sanctified action of Joseph on Jesus’ behalf. It was only out of faith that he undertook Jesus’ burial. Joseph was perhaps the first example of all those who fixed “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

3, It is in the promise of what lay ahead. Jesus was going to rise from this death, just as we will rise from death on account of his death and resurrection. “The Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).

4, Jesus, in his death, also revealed the otherwise hidden promise of his death in the creation account. Just as God stopped his work on the seventh day, the Sabbath day, and rested from his work, so also Jesus ended the labor of this holy week and set aside the seventh day, the Sabbath day, for his rest in the tomb. Like the gospel promise to Adam and Eve, so also the Sabbath day pointed ahead to the completion of the Lord’s work (Genesis 2:2-3). Today our celebration of the Sabbath day is completely overshadowed by our preference for worship on Sunday because it is the day of the resurrection. But we can also remember that on the Sabbath day of holy week, “God rested from all his work,” (Genesis 2:2). And in the same way, when we enter the final rest in eternity, it will be the true Sabbath-rest, not because of God’s creating work at the beginning of time, or of God’s judgment work at the end of time, but because of Christ’s work in the middle of history, suffering and laying down his life for men. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

Jesus came to be with us (Isaiah 7:4; Matthew 1:23). He came to rescue us from death and sin and their power, and from the cuts and jabs and accusations of the devil. He died and entered the tomb ahead of us, so that when we enter our graves, we can remember that Jesus went ahead to prepare the way out, and to prepare our mansions in heaven (John 14:2). He will bring us out of our tombs on the Last Day, to be with him forever in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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