Summary: So hasty was the burial that the women who stood at a distant watching were not satisfied it had been done right, and so they got more spices and prepared to go back after the Sabbath to give Jesus a completely suitable burial.
Doctor Martin von Butchell was a London dentist who lost his wife in 1775, and was reluctant to
part with her. There was no law against it, so he had her embalmed, and kept her in a glass case in
his home. He introduced visitors to her as my dear departed. Word spread of this spectacle, and the
good doctor was forced to take action to stem the tide of sightseers. He had to put an add in the paper
informing people that only those he was personally introduced to could see his wife, and those only
from 9:00 to 1:00. Eventually he remarried, and the new Mrs von Butchell was not fond of the
presence of the dear departed, and so the doctor was forced to arrange for a suitable burial. It would
have been a grave mistake not to bury her, but he had plenty of time to get the job done. The burial
of Christ, however, was a rush job if there ever was one.
Since nobody expected Jesus to die, there were no arrangements for Him to have a suitable burial.
The victims of crucifixion were usually left to be eaten by birds and wild animals, or thrown, like
worthless garbage, into the dump, and burned. This was the likely fate of the two thieves who died
with Jesus. For Jesus, however, there was a swift but suitable burial. None of His family did it, nor
did any of His chosen disciples. Surprisingly, the two men who buried Jesus were the two men who,
while Jesus was alive, were afraid to make a public show of their faith in Him. Joseph of Arimathea
was a recent disciple, and Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night. Both of them were Jewish leaders
who feared the Jews, but now, when Jesus is dead, they are the only ones who go into action to see
that the body of Jesus gets a suitable burial.
In John 19 we read that Joseph went to Pilate to get permission to take the body, and Nicodemus
went to buy seventy five pounds of myrrh and aloes. Together these two men wrapped Jesus in strips
of linen with the spices. In verse 40 John is careful to tell us, "This was in accordance with Jewish
burial customs." Jesus received from these two leaders an official Jewish burial. There was no
funeral, no eulogy, no orations, for the greatest man who ever lived. There was only this quick and
quit burial, but it was a dignified burial.
There was a garden tomb near the place of the cross, and it was a tomb where no man had ever
laid. There they placed the body of Jesus on that first Good Friday, late in the afternoon. Jesus died
about three in the afternoon, and so by the time they got permission and prepared the body it would
be getting late. John implies that they had to hurry, for the Sabbath was approaching, and no work
could then be done. Chapter 19 of John ends with this verse describing the urgency, "Because it was
the Jewish Day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." There was no
time to make other arrangements, so they did what had to be done, and hurriedly got Jesus's body
prepared and into the tomb before the Sabbath.
So hasty was the burial that the women who stood at a distant watching were not satisfied it had
been done right, and so they got more spices and prepared to go back after the Sabbath to give Jesus a
completely suitable burial. It is just like women to think that the men did not do it right, and so they
would have to come behind and finish the job. It could be they were right, for Joseph and Nicodemus
were public officials and not undertakers. Maybe their hasty job was far from professional. But
God, in His providence, knew that even a poor job would last the weekend. That was all the longer
Jesus was going to be in that tomb. We can thank God that His plan does not always call for
everything being done as good as the women want it done. If Jesus was going to be buried for
centuries, that is one thing, but if only for a few days, then the way men do it will be just fine.
The interesting thing about the burial of Jesus is, that in spite of the fact that all four Gospels
record it, and in spite of the fact that Paul makes it one of the three historical facts of the Gospel, you
can hardly find an author that has written anything about the theological significance of Christ's
burial. It is, without a doubt, one of the most neglected, ignored, by-passed, and avoided subject in