Be Inspired by the Burial of Jesus Christ
Be Inspired by the Burial of Jesus Christ
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 27:55-66; John 19:38-42
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared May 22, 2023)
*In today's Scripture God's Word tells us about the burial of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Usually when we think about Jesus, we think about the Christmas story, or the Lord's miracles, His wonderful teaching, His death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection on the first Easter Sunday.
*Think for a moment about that first Easter morning. What picture comes to mind? -- Probably the empty tomb with the stone rolled away. We almost never think about that heavy stone being rolled into place. We almost never think about the Lord's burial. But God has some inspirational lessons for us from the burial of Jesus Christ.
1. FIRST: BE INSPIRED BY THE WOMEN'S COMMITMENT TO JESUS.
*Verse 50 reports Jesus' death, and says, "Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit." And the devoted women who loved the Lord were there at the cross until the bitter end. Verses 55-56 tell us that "Many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons."
*Many women who loved the Lord were there when Jesus died on the cross. But the Holy Spirit led Matthew to name only three. The first was Mary Magdalene. In Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2 we learn that Jesus had cast seven demons out of this Mary when she first started to follow the Lord. No wonder Mary Magdalene loved Jesus!
*Next, Matthew mentioned Mary the mother of James and Joses. This Mary was the Virgin Mary's sister. But the Holy Spirit also led Matthew to mention the mother of Zebedee's sons, the Apostles James, and his brother John. Mark 15:40 tells us that their mother's name was Salome. Every Apostle but John had already run away, but these women were committed enough to stay in sight of the cross. That's how much they loved Jesus. (1)
*Then in vs. 61, at least two of those women were there at the tomb when Jesus was buried. Verse 61 says, "And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb." Luke 23:55 says, "And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid."
*Why were the women there at the tomb? It wasn't because they expected Jesus to rise again. Yes Jesus had often told them about His sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus had also told them that He would rise again from the dead. For example, in Matthew 12:40 Jesus said, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." And Matthew 16:21 says, From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
*Jesus had told them many times. But before Easter, the Lord's followers were never able to fully understand what He was telling them. That's why John 20:9 says, "For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead."
*The women were not at the cross and the grave for what Jesus was going to do. They were not there expecting Jesus to do something for them. No. They were there because of what Jesus had already done for them. And mainly those women were there, because they loved the Lord Jesus Christ.
*Too much of Christianity in America today (especially on TV), is man centered. It's centered on what the Lord can do for us. He can make us healthy, wealthy, and happy. Of course, all of those things are true. All good things are possible with God. But I'm sure you won't hear a lot of the health and wealth gospel preached today in Iran, Afghanistan, or Communist China.
*Our Christianity should not be centered on us. It should be centered on Him. It should be centered on Jesus Christ, and who He is. It should be centered on what Jesus has already done for us. Our Christianity should be centered on our love and worship for the Lord God Almighty. And it should be centered on our commitment to Him.
2. SO BE INSPIRED BY THE WOMEN'S COMMITMENT TO JESUS., AND BE INSPIRED BY THE RICH MAN'S COURAGE.
*The rich man mentioned here in Matthew 27 was Joseph of Arimathea. Verse 57 says, "Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus."
*Joseph of Arimathea was rich, and we will see why that mattered in a few minutes. But infinitely more important was the good news that he had become a disciple of Jesus. Joseph was a follower of Jesus Christ. And we see his courage in vs. 58 where ,"This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him."
*Now that may not seem like a very brave thing to do. But John 19:38 says, "After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus." And Mark 15:43 says, "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus."
*John MacArthur explained that "Up to this point Joseph had been a secretive disciple of Jesus because he was afraid of what it would cost him. He was afraid of the other Jewish leaders. If they found out he was following Jesus, it would be the end of his Sanhedrin rights. It would be the end of his wealth, because he wouldn't be able to do business with anybody. It would be the end of his social status. Joseph and his family would be alienated and ostracized."
*The price would be very, very high. And up to this point, Joseph had not been willing to boldly identify with Jesus. On top of this, Joseph had to go to the Roman Governor Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body.
*John MacArthur also gave this insight: "Joseph went to Pilate in verse 58. That was something, folks. You can't imagine the price he paid when he did that. He didn't know what Pilate would do to him. Pilate had had enough of the Sanhedrin. They had blackmailed the governor by threatening to report him to Caesar if Pilate didn't do what they wanted. The Sanhedrin had forced Pilate to kill an innocent man. The Sanhedrin had forced him to violate his conscience. This whole thing had even given nightmares to his wife. Why would Pilate be generous to another member of the Sanhedrin and give him the body?
*Besides, the only person who had the right to a body was a family member. Otherwise the criminal's body was to be publicly desecrated as a deterrent against other criminal acts." (2)
*No wonder Joseph of Arimathea was afraid. But God moved him to give his own tomb to the Lord. How did Joseph find the great courage he needed? He must have found it in the Word of God. As a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph had spent many years studying the Old Testament.
*Maybe he took courage from the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. After many years away, the Lord had told Jacob to return home. And as he got near, Genesis 32:6-7 says, "Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, 'We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.' So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him."
*Esau hated his deceiving brother, and had promised to murder Jacob years before. But in Genesis 32:9-12, Jacob prayed:
9. . . "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, "Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you':
10. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.
11. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.
12. For You said, 'I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'''
*Joseph of Arimathea could have thought, "God delivered Jacob. I can trust Him too!" Maybe Joseph also thought of the prayer in Isaiah 26:3, where the prophet told God, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." And Joseph could have declared, "God I will keep my mind on You. -- Help me to keep my mind on You!"
*Joseph might have also thought of David's prayer in Psalm 56. There in vs. 1-3, David prayed, "Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, for there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You."
*I can picture Joseph of Arimathea walking down the street to Pilate's Judgment Hall singing those words: "Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You." It probably didn't happen exactly like that, but we know that Joseph trusted in the Word of God. And we know that God gave Joseph the courage he needed.
*It always takes courage to do the right thing, because there are always people opposed to doing the right thing. We have been blessed to live in a nation where our God-given liberty was written into our founding documents.
*Our God-given liberty has also been defended by millions of our fellow citizens, and many of them paid the highest price for our freedom. Sadly, anybody paying attention knows that it is getting harder and harder to do the right thing. But God will give us the courage we need!
3. SO BE INSPIRED BY THE RICH MAN'S COURAGE, AND BE INSPIRED BY THE RICH MEN'S CONTRIBUTIONS.
*Verse 58 tells us that Pilate agreed to turn the Lord's body over to Joseph. Then we see a huge part of Joseph's contribution in vs. 59-60: "And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed."
*This never-used tomb wasn't the only thing Joseph contributed for Jesus' burial. Mark 15:46 tells us that Joseph "bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen." So the tomb wasn't Joseph's only contribution, but it was his most important contribution. That's because about 700 years before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit led Isaiah to write this prophecy about the future Messiah. Isaiah 53:9 says, "He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." The Living Bible says, "He was buried like a criminal, but in a rich man's grave."
*Joseph of Arimathea provided the rich man's tomb to fulfill that 700-year-old prophecy. And that's where the lifeless body of our Savior was buried. Of course God knew that Joseph would make this important contribution. But what if Joseph would have gotten a selfish streak, and decided to keep that new tomb for himself. I can hear a lesser man weighing it over in his mind, "You know, I've been waiting months for that new tomb to be finished. And I'm not ready to take my spot in it, but it's one of the best locations in the whole cemetery. I'll never get another spot as nice. Plus, it cost a fortune to dig that thing."
*If Joseph would have been selfish, God would have surely made another way to fulfill His prophecy. But for all eternity, Joseph will rejoice, because he provided a temporary resting place for the Lord's body. Joseph will also rejoice, because he helped to demonstrate the infallible integrity of God's Word.
*And we should be inspired by Joseph's contributions. As a Pharisee, Joseph of Arimathea was certainly a tither. Surely he had also given many other offerings for the work of the Lord. But the tomb was a special contribution for a special need, at a special time, and Joseph was willing to step up and help.
*There was also another rich man who helped with the burial of Jesus Christ. It was Nicodemus, and the Apostle John reported this rich man's help in John 19:38-42. There the Bible mentions both of these men, and says:
38. After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.
39. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
40. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
41. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
42. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
*Nicodemus also helped in a most generous way. He brought a 100-pound mixture of myrrh and aloes to prepare the Lord's body for burial. That much myrrh and aloe was exceedingly expensive. Just for a modern-day comparison: A hundred pounds of expensive perfume at the mall would cost you about $200,000! But Nicodemus was willing to go to that great expense, and in John 19:40, "They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury."
*Those rich men were most generous in their burial of Jesus. But please don't think we need to be rich in order to give generously to the Lord. God loves to do big things with little things. Max Lucado mentioned the scarlet rope Rahab used in Joshua 2 to help two Jewish spies escape from Jericho. Lucado also mentioned the sling David used to help kill the giant Goliath, and Moses' staff God used to part the Red Sea and bring forth rivers of water from a rock." (3)
*I think of the widow's tiny offering in Mark 12 and Luke 21. Jesus said she gave the greatest offering of all, because she gave her all. I also think of the little boy's lunch in Matthew 14 that Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children. God used them all. And now He wants to use us.
*Little things in God's Hand can make a big difference: An invitation to church, a heart-felt prayer for a friend in need, a word of encouragement for a wounded heart, even a small offering can make a giant difference forever. And remember what the Lord said in Matthew 10:42. "Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.'' This means that even the smallest gifts, given for the right reason, out of love for the Lord, are truly delightful to Him.
*And I don't know what all God will do with our contributions, but I believe we will be just as happy up in Heaven as Joseph and Nicodemus are right now.
4. SO BE INSPIRED BY THE RICH MEN'S CONTRIBUTIONS. AND MOST OF ALL, BE INSPIRED BY OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
*Jesus Christ was dead and buried. His battered and torn body was in that tomb for us. He chose to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus died on the cross out of His great love for our Heavenly Father, and His great love for us.
*In vs. 62-64, our Lord's enemies did everything they could to keep Him in the ground.
62. On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,
63. saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'
64. "Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first.''
*That was the last thing on the disciples' minds. They were terrified of those Jewish rulers. That's why the disciples had scattered, and that's why Peter had denied the Lord 3 times. If they could have dug a hole to hide in, they would have. Even on the first Easter night John 20:19 says, "Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'''
*The disciples never planned to start a new cult. They were just trying to stay alive! But the Jewish rulers didn't want to take any chances, so they went to Pilate. Then in vs. 65-66, "Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard."
*All of the Super Glue in the world couldn't have kept that tomb sealed! And all of the rocks of Mount Everest couldn't have kept Jesus in the ground! He is our crucified, risen, and coming again Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
*Nothing could be more inspirational than that! Christians, God Almighty, our God surely wants to inspire us to love Him more, trust Him more, follow Him more closely, serve Him more gladly, and worship Him more faithfully every day. Let's get started right now. And if you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, make today the day of your salvation. Call on Jesus to save you right now, as we go back to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from JOHN GILL'S EXPOSITION OF THE BIBLE by Dr. John Gill, D. D. - 1697-1771 - Published in 1746-1766, 1816 - Matthew 27:56 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2021
(2) "The Amazing Burial of Jesus - Part 1" by John MacArthur - Matthew 27:57-61 Source: SID sermon GC 2399
(3) Adapted from Max Lucado, AND THE ANGELS WERE SILENT - "The Guy with the Donkey," pp. 55-56 - Source: Sermons.com email 03142002