1 Corinthians 15:4a
Psalm 22:1-24; Isaiah 53:10-12; Matthew 27:57-66
Commonly think of what occurred nearly 2000 years ago in this way: Jesus came to live exemplary life, bear punishment for sin, conquer death, return to heaven and wait until time to come get us out of here. All that certainly true, but is not all that is true. Some key points that lack emphasis in that sort of minimalistic summary of Jesus’ last Passover week. As surrounding culture continues downward slide, those key points are ones becoming increasingly distasteful.
People have always been allergic to personal responsibility. Started with Adam and Eve: the womanyou gave me…; the serpent tricked me. Put another way – it’s not my fault but someone else’s. And if it’s not my fault, it’s not my responsibility. Let’s go one more step: if it’s not my responsibility, I shouldn’t have to endure consequences for poor choices or wrong actions. Now, in current culture, even that has been turned on its head. Mindset of many has become: I should be able to do what I want, have what I want, because I deserve it.
Sin is only something vague that old people used to talk about. Even if real, definitely not a big deal. Certainly not something beyond my ability to deal with. And that only if I can’t avoid consequences. If in this life death is ultimate consequence, let’s change that. Can do some genetic tinkering, some stem cells here or there, find equivalent of “fountain of youth” and beat death. Meanwhile, for those unfortunates caught in cross-fire, let’s make it more palatable, less real and final. We can call it a “Celebration of Life”. Let’s bring truckloads of stuff, make it look like loved one just out for a break. I know, can get funeral director to put body in favorite pose so they can party on. Growing fascination with zombies. For some, cremation rather than burial of a body – dear Aunt Agony really hasn’t left us, she is right over there in the urn, or here in crystal on my necklace.
See what has happened – have so minimized sin and its consequences the cross is emptied of all significance. When we do that, Cross becomes the story of unfortunate victim of a political plot gone wrong or small-minded religious zealots. If the Cross is stripped of its meaning, how much significance can there possibly be in v.4 of our text?
Is only when we understand the hideousness of sin as an offense against a holy God that we grasp significance of the Cross. Is only when we understand how loving God sent his well-beloved Son into sin-cursed world, ordained he would be crucified by sinful men, then poured out his just wrath against sin of the people he loved, that we begin to grasp awfulness of sin. We need both: what Bible teaches about God and sin, what it communicates about the Cross. Sin is so terrible that the God who is love punished the Son of his love in the place of the people he loves that they might experience his love and be granted life.
Now, what was extent of that punishment? The flogging? Crown of thorns? Carrying his cross? Nails in hands and feet? Injustice and ridicule? Awful as all that was, did not contribute to payment for sin. Listen again to Isaiah text:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Was all that Jesus experienced, not at hands of men but at the hand of God that paid the ransom for our souls. Read last night from Isaiah chapter 52: “he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man”… by punishment for our sin. Punishment did not end with his cry “It is finished” – still one more requirement: “wages of sin is death”. Not “near death experience”, not momentary death, but real verifiable death beyond ability of mere man to overcome. Burial is essential element in our full redemption – both for its symbolic value (die to sin, rise to new life) and practical use (grave for Christian need not be feared or avoided).
A. to show reality of his death
declared dead by attending soldiers (John 19:33)
started with the others, broke legs to hasten death; believed Jesus to be already dead, did not break his legs… pierced his side instead, ensuring truly was dead not just fainted
centurion summoned to convince Pilate that Jesus was really dead and body could be safely released to Joseph
treated as dead by Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:59-60) and Nicodemus (John 19:39)
to ask for body when Jesus not truly dead would put Joseph at risk of obstructing justice; was convinced enough Joseph still took risk of guilt by association
Joseph bought linen cloth to wrap the body, Nicodemus brought 75 pounds or more of myrrh and aloes – best they could do given time of day… approaching Sabbath
followers convinced enough to bring more spices (Luke 24:1ff)
ladies, after sunset on Saturday purchased more spices; at daybreak, made their way to garden tomb intending to take time and care to prepare body for long-term burial
soldiers sealed occupied tomb (Matt. 27:65-66)
religious leaders convinced dead body in tomb, wanted to make sure it stayed that way – persuaded Pilate to let them seal it – unlikely that they sealed an already empty tomb
could been, even likely that was late in evening on Friday (Jewish day starts 6pm) they got seal on tomb, guard outside
soldiers convinced enough Jesus was really there they were willing to lie about circumstances, risking life and professional career
Matt. 28:13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’
B. to confirm veracity of his claims (would he decay?)
remember Lazarus: “he stinketh”, dead four days, didn’t even want to open up his tomb – if same of Jesus, only a man; if not, something else must be true – see Acts 13:35
“Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’
knew couldn’t apply to David, must be someone else… the Messiah; if Jesus truly was Messiah, this must apply to him
claimed to be one with Father
understood by his contemporaries as claim to be God (they tried to stone him) – somehow this one we know as Jesus, if his claims were true, had to be more than just a man
if Jesus the God-Man, could not experience death the same as ordinary man – God is eternal, unchangeable, must have some kind of effect on that body in the tomb
claimed he would raise it up – John 2:19
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” – have John’s commentary “He was speaking of the temple of His body.”
his temple would be destroyed, he would lay down his life… die, and on third day something would happen – custom and good sense meant he could not stay on the cross all that time if truly dead… must be buried
claimed full authority over his own life – John 10:18
“No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
to demonstrate that authority, must be some intervening period between “laying it down” and “taking it again” so observers can be reasonably convinced not some kind of magic trick
C. to emphasize helplessness of man
no man could endure penalty for sin and survive
weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth barely begins to describe its horror – lake of fire not overkill, is perfect justice for sin
how do we know no one can endure and survive? if possible, could go through that then die and escape hell although not gaining heaven – no such third option given in Bible
no man can experience real death and have ability to survive
if death is separation of soul and body, no human can hold soul in one hand, body in the other, then put back together
only Author of life himself has ability, say nothing of authority, to perform such a feat – true regardless of NDE’s and OOBE’s
no man on his own could escape the tomb
would require superhuman strength to move rock from inside; then it was “sealed” somehow to prevent opening, with Roman guard stationed
all of that is necessary to procure eternal life, none of it achievable by one who is only human
for our redemption to be complete, full penalty for sin must be paid – sin must be conquered so it no longer has mastery over us
for redeemed sinner to have hope, power of death must be overcome – the grave on both Friday and Sunday is essential
D. how is this good news?
three texts are significant
Gen. 2:17“of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Rom. 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;”
Rom. 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
burial = finality = we don’t like it, don’t consider burial good news; desperately want to get to what comes next
try to get through the death and burial part, focusing on where dearly departed is now, where we will be someday
less than full satisfaction less than good news – 1 John 4:9 death confirmed by burial necessary for our life
since “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” – possible only because full satisfaction made
if anything were lacking in what Jesus accomplished by suffering and death, we must make it up = still hopelessly lost
also sends powerful message to present culture: the Gospel is not a message of instant gratification
want whatever problem we have fixed now, don’t want to wait; not how God works in lives of his people
just like Jesus followers had to experience sorrow, loss, discouragement… until third day, we must experience challenges of this life up to and perhaps including physical death
even grave itself has been sanctified by presence of Christ – need not fear dying, death, or beyond: the Forerunner has already been there, done that, will walk with us through it
at no point will true child of God ever have opportunity to cry out as Jesus did: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
because Lord Jesus was forsaken in our place, we will never even in darkest moments be forsaken by God
Good news is that because Jesus died and was buried, is nothing left for us to add to work of our salvation. Through faith in his finished work, we can have hope of eternal life.