Fragments from the Burial

You may have noticed that Sunday’s sermon had significantly less quotations than normal. That is because I ended up going in a different direction with the sermon than I typically do. Rather than focusing upon the centurion, the women, and Joseph in detail, I decided to largely focus on the three together as example of hope and courage in the face of Christ’s death. I pray that that approach was shepherded by the Spirit. It did, however, leave me with many excellent quotations that I did not have room to share. So, I will do so here!

First is an interesting insight from G. Campbell Morgan about some of the particular words that Mark uses:

Joseph asked for “the body of Jesus.” Pilate gave him “the corpse.” There is a great difference in the two words. They are entirely different. Joseph begged for the body of Jesus, the σῶμα; Pilate gave him the corpse, the πτῶμα. Joseph begged for the body of Jesus. The Greek word there referred to a body, as sound, and complete. I think when Mark wrote this Gospel, probably under the direction of Peter, he used these words carefully. This Greek word here used for a body, Homer always employed for a dead body, but from Hesiod onward in Greek writings, it was used of a living body. When Joseph asked for the body, he asked in the respectful term that referred to the body in its entirety and its beauty. It was the word that a lover would use. Pilate said He could not be dead already, and sent for the centurion; and as soon as the centurion showed that Jesus was dead, he gave to Joseph the corpse. What is the significance of that word? The ruin! That is what Pilate granted to Joseph. That is what they put in the grave.

pp. 336-337

Next, here is bit from Calvin’s sermon discussing Jesus as the first fruit of the resurrection:

We must cling to him, then, as to the one who is the first fruits. According to the law, the first fruits of the year were consecrated to God when no more than a handful of wheat and a bunch of grapes were brought to the altar (Exod. 22:29). When these were offered to God, it was considered that all the year’s produce had been dedicated to him. The firstborn were similarly consecrated to God to demonstrate that all who were of Israel’s line were holy (Exod. 13:12), and that God would accept them as his inheritance, having set them apart for himself and being content to have them as his people, just as a man might be content with his patrimony.

When we come, then, to our Lord Jesus Christ, we must acknowledge that in him we are dedicated and offered, so that death now gives us life and is no longer fatal to us. That is the significance of the ‘new tomb’: our Lord’s burial must lead us to his resurrection.

Yet look for a moment at ourselves. Although everything which should help our faith has been accomplished by God’s Son, and although we have evidence which should suffice, in our ignorance and weakness we are far from coming to Jesus Christ. Thus each of us should own up to his faults, turn to the remedy and not lose heart. We see that Nicodemus and Joseph did. They provide us with two examples we ought to ponder. The first is that they were not fully enlightened as to the fruit of our Lord’s death and passion; they were in some ways ignorant and their faith was small. The second is that, at so critical a time and fighting against every adversary, they came to seek the Lord’s body and to bury it, declaring that they hoped for the blessed resurrection which had been promised to them, and for which they longed.

pp. 138-139

Lastly, allow me to share two thoughts from Ryle. In the first, he speaks about Joseph’s secret faith being revealed at Jesus’ death and what lesson we might learn from it:

Let us take comfort in the thought that there are true Christians on earth, of whom we know nothing, and in places where we should not expect to find them. No doubt the faithful are always few. But we must not hastily conclude that there is no grace in a family or in a parish, because our eyes may not see it. We know in part and see only in part, outside the circle in which our own lot is cast. The Lord has many ‘hidden ones’ in the church, who, unless brought forward by special circumstances, will never be known till the last day. The words of God to Elijah should not be forgotten, ‘Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel’ (1 Kings 19:18).

pp. 277-278

The second is relates to Jesus’ burial and our hope beyond the grave:

It is appointed unto men once to die. The coffin and the funeral, the worm and corruption, are all painful subjects. They chill us, sadden us, and fill our minds with heaviness. It is not in flesh and blood to regard them without solemn feelings. One thing, however, ought to comfort believers, and that is the thought, that the grave is ‘the place where the Lord once lay.’ As surely as he rose again victorious from the tomb, so surely shall all who believe in him rise gloriously in the day of his appearing. Remembering this, they may look down with calmness into the ‘house appointed for all living.’ They may recollect that Jesus himself was once there on their behalf, and has robbed death of his sting. They may say to themselves, ‘the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:56,57). The great matter that concerns us all is to make sure that we are spiritually buried with Christ, while we are yet alive. We must be joined to him by faith, and conformed to his image. With him we must die to sin, and be buried by baptism into his death (Rom. 6:4). With him we must rise again, and be quickened by his Spirit. Except we know these things, Christ’s death and burial will profit us nothing at all.

p. 278

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