The Burial of Christ

What is the significance of the burial of Jesus Christ according to scriptures and why was He buried the way He was? This question may not be a crucial question to us who live in the 21st century, particularly to those who live in the parts of the world where the dead are buried and not cremated. However, it is very significant that Jesus was buried because those who died by crucifixion in those days like Jesus did, were not typically given any decent form of burial rites at all. The victims of crucifixion were usually taken to what seemed to be like a dunghill that is always on fire; a setting which may have been used as a pictorial metaphor of the eternal lake of fire (Gehenna). The bodies of the crucified would be casually disposed on this foul, perpetually-burning dunghill of some sort filled with human bodies; half rotten, half burnt because it’s slowly burning.

For our sacrificed Lord, the situation was different. There was a wealthy man from Arimathea, named Joseph. He was a fellow of the Sanhedrin, and a man of reputable character. He presumably had not assented to the Sanhedrin’s counsel and the act of killing Jesus, most likely because he was a disciple. Joseph using his influence went to Pilate and pleaded for the body of Jesus. Joseph’s request was granted, and he laid Jesus’ body in his own new and unused tomb. Joseph’s tomb had been cut out of the rock, very close to the site of our Lord’s crucifixion and before Jesus was buried, His body was first wrapped in fine linen with spices, in the exact way the Jews bury their rich and great (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15: 42-46; Luke 23: 52-54).
The Bible makes a fairly big deal out of the burial of Jesus. The prophets foretold of it clearly, and a very actual notice is taken of it in the gospels and the epistles. The prophet Isaiah had prophesied about the manner in which Jesus will be buried about 700 years before He died. “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.” Isaiah 53:9. Aside from the fact that Jesus’ burial confirmed and finalizes His death, the manner of His burial signals the beginning of His exaltation from the humiliation of crucifixion.

It is important to establish here that all the circumstances surrounding the redemptive work of Jesus were undeniably humiliating. From His humble birth to Him growing up in Nazareth, to the ways He was scoff at during His public ministry, His disciples’ betrayal and denials, His crucifixion and to His burial. All were extremely humiliating to the King who had to empty Himself of Glory. However, after the humiliations of Christ, He was to be glorified and His burial signalled the imminence of this. After being brutally executed just like a criminal with two thieves, Christ was not ‘buried’ in the burning dunghill like a criminal. Part of the ignominious penalty often dealt with a lawless person is to deny him a decent burial. For this reason, it was recorded in the Holy Scriptures of Ahab, that the dogs would lick his blood (1 Kings 21:19) and of Jezebel, that the dogs would eat her (1 Kings 21:23). In fact, the bodies of those who are notoriously guilty are sometimes sawed. Their heads and different parts of the body hung on poles, or in chains left to be consumed by birds.