Summary: The burial of Jesus gives us confidence in the authenticity of the resurrection


John 19:38-42

“Two Unlikely Undertakers”

It may surprise you, or it may not surprise you, to know that there are many people – including people who call themselves Christians – who do not believe that Jesus actually died.

He just passed out, and the coolness of the grave revived Him.

They say that the disciples made up the whole story – and then imagined that Jesus was with them.

They deny the authenticity of the whole event.

Now, if they are correct, then Christianity is a lie and a farce. Nothing but a made up religion which is offering false hope and no security.

But they are not correct. One event which adds to the ability of Christianity to show that Jesus died is to focus on the burial of Jesus

Before we go any further let’s read about the specific event we have in mind.

John 19:38-42

If the Romans had their way they would have left all three of the crucified bodies on the cross to rot. This served as a gruesome reminder to the whole community as to what would happen if you messed with the Roman legal system. After the body had rotted the left-overs would be thrown into a mass grave, usually out in the open.

But the Romans knew the Jews were very sensitive about dead people. In fact Jews would bury every one. Josephus, a first century historian says,

He that blasphemes God, let him ne stoned, and let him be hung upon a tree all that day, and then let him be buried in an ignominious and obscure manner (Ant 4:202).

In another place he says,

We bury all whom the law condemns to die. Let our enemies who fall in battle also be buried (Ant 4.265).

So out of respect for Jewish law and custom the Romans allowed burial.

Which is how we are introduced to a very unlikely pair of undertakers. Joseph of Arimathea, who askes Pilate for the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus.

Who is Joseph of Arimathea?

In the Bible Joseph of Arimathea appears only in connection with the burial of Jesus. However his appearance is so important all four Gospel writers tell us about him.

Matthew tells us he had become a disciple of Jesus. Matthew also tells us that Joseph owned the tomb which Jesus was buried in.

Joseph is a devout man who was a faithful servant of God.

Mark tells us that he was a prominent member of the Council. Just so you know it was “The Council” who condemned Jesus to death.

Luke tells us that did not consent to their (that is the Council) decision and action. So he tried to defend Jesus and prevent the injustice.

John tells us that Joseph had been keeping the fact that he was a disciple a secret.

It’s good to know these things but the most telling piece of information John tells us is that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.

I guess we could say that if Joseph was truly a disciple He should have stopped being such a coward and let people know.

But here is the irony. When Jesus dies the disciples go into hiding, for fear of the Jews.

But Joseph, who has been fearing the Jews, comes out of hiding.

Joseph shows his true colours after Jesus dies. Which is amazing when you think about it.

Surely the Jewish council will discover what Joseph did and be appalled. The council expect Jesus’ lifeless body to be unceremoniously thrown into the valley of death with the rest of the decaying murderers, thieves and political prisoners. They don’t want anyone to mourn Jesus death – Joseph is going against that wish.

In the not too distant future Joseph will no longer be a member of the ruling Jewish council.

He will lose his position.

He will lose his reputation as a teacher in Arimathea.

He will lose most of his income.

The old life, the old friends, the old hang-outs. They are all gone.

Joseph’s previous fears will become a reality.

So here is a fact:-

Joseph has nothing to gain by helping to bury Jesus ... in fact he has heaps to lose.

And what about Nicodemus? Who is Nicodemus?

Nicodemus appears earlier in the book of John. He was the man who went to Jesus one night to have a talk with Jesus – he went at night because he was afraid. Nicodemus was also a member of the Jewish Council.

But he is afraid no longer.

Now he is showing who he really is and who he really stands for.

He makes his devotion known through the contribution of about 35 kilograms of burial spices which would cost a small fortune. This amount of burial spice was usually used to bury kings … which is exactly what Jesus was. It is an overwhelming response of commitment to the Saviour who Nicodemus loved.

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