Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | May 9, 2006

He was Buried

During the first century the anticipation of the Messiah among the Jewish nation was one of a liberator (Messiah and Christ are synonymous terms).  They expected that the Messiah would remove the yoke of Roman oppression and restore the great Davidic Dynasty that they had enjoyed almost 1000 years prior.  Even Jesus’ closest disciples subscribed to this common expectation that the Messiah would be a triumphant conqueror.  We see this in the encounters of James and John who request the position of being seated on the right and left hand of Jesus’ throne.  We also see this when Peter rebukes our Lord at Caesarea Phillipi when he is told of His forthcoming death.  It suffices to say that the death of Jesus was a devastating blow to the hopes and faith of the disciples.  We see this devastation in the disciples recorded in Scripture, which describes them as being afraid after Christ is put to death.

The disciples had invested their entire lives in the Messianic potentials of Jesus Christ.  They witnessed signs and wonders, which authenticated His authority and His claim.  They had left their vocations and homes to follow Jesus for over three years.  Then one day their hopes were destroyed by what they thought was an ultimate defeat.  Understanding the magnitude of the disciples despair in this event provides a compelling case for the authenticity of the resurrection, which could have been the only reasonable cause for the enthusiasm and fervor that the disciples later demonstrated in spreading the Christian faith.  However, things were not as they appeared to be and were only a part of the plan of redemption all along.  Today we examine Question 41 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which covers the portion of the Apostles Creed that tells us that He was buried:   

Q  Why was he “buried”?

A.  His burial testifies that he really died. 1.

1.  Isaiah 53:9:  His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  John 19:39-42:  Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.  So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.  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.  Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.  Acts 13:29:  When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.  1 Corinthians 15:3-4:  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…

For Christ to die substantiates that He was truly human possessing physical flesh and blood.  This refutes any form of Gnosticism or another heresy known as Docetism, which promotes the idea that Christ was a spiritual being who adopted or possessed a human body to carry out His earthly ministry.  However, when the earthly body was put to death the spiritual Christ was not really present and did not suffer death.  As we’ve covered in previous entries if Christ did not die than we are still in our sins, which would then still require God’s justice.  He was buried though and laid in the tomb, which testifies to the fact that He really died upon the cross.

What do we say about the common expectation of the Jewish nation about the Messiah?  Well, they weren’t entirely wrong about the fact that he was a triumphant hero.  He did come to liberate except He conquered foes that were much more terrible and powerful than the Roman Empire.  First, His death on the cross was a victory of the devil who is defeated and his days are now numbered.  As we read in Colossian 2:14-15:  “…having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over the, through Him.”  About this verse John Calvin provides the following comment: 

“For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.”  II.16

As noted by Calvin the second foe, Death, received what was the first step in his defeat with Christ's death and burial.  The victory would be completed in the resurrection, which we will cover in a few posts from now.  The victory over these foes was much more impressive and necessary to attain for the people of God.  Unfortunately, many of God's people were not aware of or not impressed with the significant victory that Christ accomplished.

The death of Christ is also essential to the ratification of the New Covenant promise.  Throughout the Scriptures covenants are ratified or inaugurated by a cutting ceremony (for example Genesis 15) or some other type of sacrifice.  The indispensable aspect of the covenant, however is the shedding of blood.  O. Palmer Robertson describes this relationship as follows:

“A covenant is a bond-in-blood.  It involves commitments with life-and-death consequences. At the point of covenantal inauguration, the parties of the covenant are committed to one another by a formalizing process of blood-shedding.  This blood-shedding represents the intensity of the commitment of the covenant.  By the covenant they are bound for life and death.”  The Christ of the Covenants, p 14-15. 

As we can see the death and burial of our Lord are fundamental articles of the faith, which provide us with great benefits and comfort.  This is especially evident when we participate in Church services on Good Friday.  Praise Christ our Lord who was slain for He is worth of blessing, glory and honor forever and ever.

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