And Was Buried
Tomorrow we will note that the resurrection is probably not given the prominence it deserves in gospel preaching. Today we turn to the second pillar of Paul’s gospel which most will agree is rarely, if ever mentioned: He ‘was buried.’ It might be because we find it difficult to attach obvious theological significance to the burial, but regardless, the scripture tells us that He ‘was buried’ and so on this ‘Easter Saturday’ I want to consider the importance of this phrase.
First, although not explicitly stated, the burial was as much ‘according to the scriptures’ as the crucifixion. Isaiah states: ‘And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth’ (53:9). In this verse, we are brought face to face with a prophecy that explicitly states that the fact of his burial, and also the features of His burial were ‘according to the scriptures.’ Whereas the KJV obscures something of note, the NET version lays it bare; ‘They intended to bury Him with criminals, but He ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because He committed no violent deeds, nor had He spoken deceitfully.’ Here we learn that wicked men intended to bury Him alongside sinners, but as it transpired, He was buried in the tomb of a rich man. But this was not mere happenstance, rather the overruling of God ‘because He did not deserve to buried with sinners having committed no wrong deeds or spoken any wrong words' (my paraphrase). The contrast is evident; they intended to bury Him with sinners (plural), but He was with the rich (singular) in His death, which as we know meant that He was alone.
Next, we note that because it was ‘according to the Scriptures,’ His burial is not without theological significance after all. Isaiah is telling us that it was not only in keeping with His moral impeccability that He be granted a tomb that had not been used by sinners, but that it demanded it. David tells us in Psalm 16: ‘Neither will Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.’ This must be telling us more than the fact that His body would not be left in a tomb (which is true), but also that it wouldn’t be placed in a tomb along with sinners, or that had been defiled by sinners. His was a literal death, but it was not a natural death. The death of a sinner is natural, because ‘in Adam all die’ (15:22): it is on account of our sinful nature. But Christ has no such nature, and so His death was voluntary–He dismissed His own spirit. Thus it is befitting that He should be laid by a rich man in his undefiled tomb. In this statement, we are learning that our Saviour was of unparalleled, untainted, impeccable manhood. This is most definitely theologically significant.
Finally, it is important because it links together the two key pillars of the gospel, the cross and the empty tomb. His death demanded His burial as evidence that is was a real death and not a mere spiritual phenomenon. Likewise, His bodily resurrection required a burial to occur, and so we find this most essential but straightforward of phrases, ‘and was buried.’ Jack Hunter comments;
"He was buried" emphasises the finality of death. It was also necessary for resurrection. Isa 53:9 prophesied it, and the Gospels all record it.
What Paul summarises in these three English words, the gospel writer John tells us in more detail of the devotion and determination of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They took Him down from the cross and prepared His body with ‘a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight’ (Jn. 19:39). Having anointed Him they then carefully wound Him in linen clothes with spices and laid Him in a new tomb, ‘wherein was never man yet laid’ (19:41). The burial had immense significance to Joseph and Nicodemus.
Far from being just an inconsequential phrase included for completeness, the burial of Christ is governed by scripture, defends His spotless humanity, and links together His death and resurrection by providing the evidence that protects their veracity. On this ‘Easter Saturday’ thank God that He ‘was buried.’