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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on October 1, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, October 1, 2017 from Mark 15:40-47

Theme: The way that our Lord’s body was treated affirms that His burial was an essential part of the story of our salvation.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Lately, we have been studying from Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark; and from that portion of the Gospel that tells us about our Savior’s death on the cross for us. And now, this morning, we come a portion that is typically thought of as a part of the story His death. But actually, it needs to be considered a distinct event of the story all its own.

Because of the dramatic stories we find in the Gospels about our Savior’s crucifixion, and then of His resurrection, we often neglect to consider the event that occurs between them—that is, His burial. It is a unique event however—the likes of which there is nothing else in human history. For the span of three days, the precious body of our Lord—our Savior and Redeemer; the Son of God incarnate—lay in repose in a tomb; while His spirit was in the Father’s safe keeping until the time of His resurrection. And that is a three-day event that deserves our special attention; because it is actually a key event in what the Bible declares to be the gospel of our salvation.

Did you know that?—that the Bible treats it as a distinct element in the gospel? The apostle Paul said that this is so. In 1 Corinthians 15, he wrote to his Corinthian brothers and sisters; and declared to them the content of the gospel. He said;

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

He made it clear that the gospel he preached was not something that he created or discovered by research, but rather was revealed to him by God and given to him to declare. He went on to tell the Corinthian believers;

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures … (vv. 3-4).

And so, can you see it? The crucifixion is vital; and so is the resurrection. But if we don’t pay attention to the event in the middle—that is, our Lord’s burial—then we are leaving out an important part of the message of the gospel. The historic creeds of the Christian faith are not, of course, as authoritative as the inspired words of the apostle Paul; but even those creeds recognize this. The earliest known Christian creed—the Apostolic Creed—declares the distinction of that event; affirming that we believe Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried”.

But what is important about the distinct event of our Lord’s burial? We of course believe in it; but why is it important that we think about it? Why is it important that, in proclaiming the gospel of God’s saving grace to us, we make sure—as Paul did—to declare that our Lord was not only crucified, and also raised, but also that He was buried? Why is it important that we make sure that, as a part of our saving faith, we believe that His precious body was taken down from the cross and was buried for those three days?

All four of the Gospels make special mention of our Lord’s burial—and in remarkable detail. That, of course, includes the Gospel of Mark; which we are studying. As we come to the end of Chapter 15 of Mark’s Gospel—beginning with verse 40 and going all the way to the end—we find the story of His burial told to us. And I believe that the manner in which Mark describes the way that our Lord’s body was treated affirms to us that His burial was an essential part of the story of our salvation.

Please look at the story with me. After telling us the story of our Lord’s crucifixion—after telling us that the attending centurion watched it all, and saw how our Lord died, and then declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (v. 39)—we’re then told;

There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 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. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid (Mark 15:40-47).

These words are probably well-known to us who are familiar with the Bible. But I believe the importance of the event that they described is far too often overlooked. May the Holy Spirit—who inspired and protected these words for us—help us to grasp the significance of them; and by them, shine the spotlight on the glory of what our Savior has done for us.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; I ask you to notice first how …


The Bible doesn’t allow us to think that what happened to our Lord’s body after His crucifixion was unimportant. In fact, it ‘bookends’ this story—both at its beginning and its end—by telling us that several people, and a few important women in particular, were making careful observation of all that was happening with regard to how our Lord had died, and how He was taken down from the cross. We’re told in verse 40 that “There were also women looking on from afar …” And we’re told in verse 47 that, after Jesus’ body was prepared and placed in a tomb, these women “observed where He was laid”. And the word that the Bible uses to describe their ‘looking’ is a very specific one. In both cases, it uses a word that means ‘to gaze upon intently’ in such a way as to carefully contemplate what was being seen. This was a close, careful, thoughtful kind of ‘observation’ that they were engaging in throughout the things that were done to our Lord’s body after He had died for us.

Now; isn’t it significant that these were women? In that day, and in that culture, women were not treated with respect and esteem. And yet—even though all the others of our Lord’s followers and even the apostles had fled away from Him at His arrest—even though Peter, our Lord’s closest follower, denied that he even knew Him—these precious women remained and watched and made observation. We have an eyewitness report from the apostles of our Lord’s teaching, and—to some degree—of His crucifixion. The apostle John was nearby the cross as our Lord died. And then, we have an eyewitness report from the apostles of our Lord’s resurrection and ascension to the Father. But we don’t have an eyewitness report from them about what happened to our Lord’s body in His burial. The honor of providing that report to us comes from these women.

And I suggest that, because of who they were, their report is very reliable and trustworthy. Mark tells us in verses 40-41 that there were several women who were there—many who had followed Him and ministered to Him while He taught in the regions of Galilee. They may have been the ones that we’re told about in the Gospel of Luke “who provided for Him from their substance” (Luke 8:3) and some of whom He had delivered from evil spirits and infirmities.

And among them are three who are particularly highlighted to us. First was Mary of Magdalene. Luke tells us that she was a woman “out of whom had come seven demons” (Luke 8:2). She was one of the women who came early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb—and who ended up being the first person to meet the resurrected Lord Jesus. Also present was another Mary—the mother of two disciples named James “the less” (probably because he was of small stature) and Joses. We don’t know who they were; but apparently the readers of Mark’s Gospel would have been familiar with them. And a third woman who is mentioned is Salome. In Matthew’s Gospel, we’re told that she was the mother of the sons of Zebedee—that is, the apostles James and John. Did you know that, elsewhere in the Bible—in John 19:25—we’re told that she was the sister of our Lord’s mother? That makes her our Lord’s aunt in the flesh—and James and John His cousins.

These women not only watched the events of the crucifixion; but also the events of the treatment of our Lord’s body—all the way up to the time when His body was placed inside the tomb. There was not just one of them, but several of them. They all—every one of them—would have had a particularly deep interest in all that was happening to our Lord’s body. And as women are uniquely gifted by God to do, they would have caught and made note of every detail.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; isn’t it remarkable that the Holy Spirit saw fit to make sure we knew that the events of what happened to our Lord’s body were so carefully observed? You and I have had several times when we’ve had to deal with the death of someone we love. We have been to lots of funerals. And I mean this with no disrespect or dishonor intended; but rarely do we give very much thought at all to what happens between the time that loved one dies and the time they are placed in the ground.

But the Holy Spirit wanted to make sure that, when it came to the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins, we knew that everything that happened was carefully observed. It was the body of the Son of God, who was given by God the Father to bear our sins and pay the penalty for them on the cross; and it is vital to the Gospel that we know what happened between the time of His death and the time of His resurrection.

And as we go on in this passage …


The first thing we see is that we’re told how our Lord’s body was officially confirmed to indeed be dead. And it’s very interesting how this was confirmed to us.

We’re told about a man named Joseph. He was from a place called Arimathea. The actual location of Arimathea is no longer known to us for certain; but the important thing to notice is that he was “from” there, but was now living in Jerusalem. Mark tells us in verse 43 that he was “a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God”. That meant that he was a member of the Sanhedrin; but that he had become a disciple of Jesus and was hoping for Jesus to be the Messiah who would fulfill the promises of God. The Gospel of John tells us, however, that he was a disciple “secretly”; because he was afraid of the Jewish people.

And what’s more, Matthew’s Gospel tells us that he was a rich man. There is a place just outside the old city of Jerusalem today called ‘the Garden Tomb’. It is a place that was clearly the home of a very wealthy man; and that has the evidences of having once been the location of a thriving ‘vineyard’ business. In it is a tomb, carved out of the nearby wall of rock; and many believe it is the place in which our Lord’s body was placed. Mark tells us in verse 43 that this man Joseph, “coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus”.

Why would he have had to pluck-up courage to do this? It’s because he was requesting to be given the body of Someone that the Jewish Sanhedrin had just condemned as a blasphemer worthy of death, and that the Roman governor had just granted them permission to put to death. But he worked up courage and came to Pilate with his request because he had to act quickly. We’re told that our Lord died at around 3 pm; and Mark tells us that this was the Preparation Day—that is, the day before the Sabbath. The Sabbath day began for the Jewish people at 6 pm; and if Joseph was to place our Lord in an honorable tomb, he needed to act quickly.

Mark goes on to tell us, in verse 44, that Joseph’s request came as a surprise to Pilate. In fact, the governor ‘marveled’—not necessarily because of the request, but because Joseph’s request meant that Jesus had already died. He marveled at this, because—ordinarily—it took several days for a man to die on a cross. Pilate was so surprised by this news that we’re told that “summoning the centurion, and asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph” (vv. 44-45).

Now; why is this important? It’s because it affirms to us that our Lord Jesus had truly been officially declared dead. The situation that Jesus had presented to Pilate was of such a serious and controversial nature that he would not have permitted the body of our Lord to be turned over to Joseph unless he was absolutely certain that the execution had been completed and was successful. There have been lots of people who have tried to teach that our Lord did not really rise from the dead. They have posited the idea that He had only swooned, and was placed in the tomb while he was still alive. But this assures us—on the highest possible official, imperial authority—that our Lord was certifiably dead when He was placed in the tomb.

And by the way; do you suppose that when the centurion confirmed this to Pilate that he also reported to the governor the other things that happened when Jesus died? a—the things that made him say, “Truly this Man was the Son of God”? It’s interesting to think about!

So; Pilate turned the body of our Lord over to Joseph—who then acted quickly, because he only had a couple of hours to do what needed to be done. And that’s when were told that those who observed all these events would have also observed how our Lord’s body was carefully prepared for burial. Mark tells us, in verse 46, that Joseph “bought fine linen”—which suggests that, while he had the time that he had before the Preparation Day had ended, he sent to the market and obtained new, fine linen for that specific purpose—and “took Him down” from the cross, “and wrapped Him in the linen”. John’s Gospel tells us that Joseph had some help in this from Nicodemus—a man who was also a ruler of the Jews; and who had early on in the ministry of our Lord came to Him at night and asked Him about what it means to be ‘born again’.

Now; it was important that Joseph did this; because if he didn’t, our Lord’s body would have been treated by the Romans in the same way as the bodies of other crucified criminals would have been treated. His body would have most likely been allowed to remain on the cross for a long time to decay and be consumed by birds and animals—which would have been a great offense to the Jewish people. Or it may have been that His body would have been immediately cast into a common grave or perhaps (as some historians believe) cast contemptuously into the burning dump in the Valley of Hinnom. Instead, Joseph obtained the body of our Savior and treated it with great dignity—in a way that is in keeping with the precious body that it is. He wrapped it in linen cloths; and—as John tells us in his Gospel—bound a mixture of spices and herbs into the strips of cloth as was the custom of the Jewish people.

And this too was important for us to know. Some false religious systems throughout the centuries have taught that Jesus’ body was not ‘real’—that it only appeared to be real, but was actually only spiritual and then only appeared to be crucified and later raised from the dead. But this cannot be. What Joseph took down from the cross and wrapped in cloth was the real body of our Lord. Those who observed it all were eyewitnesses to it.

Mark goes on to tell us something else they would have observed; and that is how our Lord’s body was placed in a rich man’s tomb. Verse 46 says that after treating and preparing the precious body of our Savior, Joseph “laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock”. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that this was Joseph’s own ‘new’ tomb; and Luke tells us that it was one in which no one else had ever been placed. Perhaps it was a tomb that he had prepared for himself and his wife. But upon placing the body of our Savior in it, he gave a new and exclusive purpose to this tomb. As someone once said, He was conceived in a virgin womb and was buried in a virgin tomb.

And that is yet another significant thing for us to know. This reminds us that not only was our Lord’s crucifixion in accordance with Scripture; but also so was His burial. As it tells us in Isaiah 53:9;

And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9).

Those who observed our Lord’s burial would be able to confirm to us that the prophecies in God’s word about our Savior were fulfilled down to the most minute detail—even that He was crucified with criminals, and yet placed in a rich man’s tomb.

And Mark points out one more thing to us that they would have seen; and that is how the tomb that held His body was sealed and protected. He tells us that after Joseph placed our Lord’s body in his own unused tomb, he “rolled a stone against the door of the tomb”, which would have been to protect the body from outside exposure or damage or theft. It would have been as if Joseph—in the providence of God—placed the body of our Savior under lock and key until the day of resurrection.

It was only a few days later that those women—who we’re told saw where Joseph placed our Lord’s body—would come back with spices to anoint the Lord’s body and to complete the process of honoring Him in His burial. And this means that what some have suggested could not possibly be true—that they later announced that the tomb was empty because they had mistakenly come to the wrong tomb. It would have been very obvious which one it was. It was the one they saw, that had the large stone rolled over the entry, that shortly thereafter would have had the seal of the govern upon it and that would have had a group of soldiers guarding it. The body of the Lord Jesus that went into the tomb was the same one that had died on the cross, and that was later raised from the dead.

* * * * * * * * * *

So; God’s word goes to great length to assure us that careful observation was made of all that happened to our Lord’s body after He was crucified; and that these events were carefully reported to us. The Son of God on the cross truly and bodily died for us; and care was taken to treat that precious body in an honorable way at His burial, so that it was protected for the day of His resurrection.

And this means that …


What then does it mean for our salvation? Why is it significant to us that we believe what is told us about His burial, and that we consider it an essential part of the gospel we preach and believe?

I’d like to suggest at least three reasons why this is essential to us. First, it shows that the Son of God genuinely tasted death for all men. Our first father Adam sinned; and as a result, he brought the curse of sin upon the whole of the human family—and with that curse, he also brought death. But as it tells us in Hebrews 2:9;

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).

Jesus’ burial proclaims to us that He didn’t just sympathize with our lost condition, but that He actually stepped into it and partook of it; so that He could fully redeem us from it. As it goes on to say in Hebrews 2:14-15;

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (vv. 14-15).

What a wonderful Savior! The Son of God became fully human—all the way to the point of being able to die—so that He could partake of the curse that came upon us for our sin and free us from it!

Including the burial in our proclamation of the gospel also shows that the penalty for our sin has been fully satisfied by our Redeemer. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death; and—if I may say this without sounding irreverent—our Lord didn’t just merely suffer illness because of our sin. He paid the full price for it. Romans 4:25 speaks of Him

who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:25);

and Hebrews 10:10—speaking of God’s provision of the body of Jesus as our atoning sacrifice for sin—assures us,

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

His burial assures us that the sins of all who place their trust in Him are fully atoned for by His sacrifice on the cross. The requirement of ‘death’ for sin has been fully satisfied.

And finally, including His burial in our proclamation of the gospel shows that we have truly died to sin through our union with Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that when we place our faith in Jesus, we ourselves are—as it were—placed in Him in such a complete union that whatever happened to Him is counted to have happened to us. His burial means that we died with Him. And if we died with Him, then we have died to the power of sin over us.

In Romans 6:3-7, Paul wrote;

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:3-7).

This means that sin is no longer our master. We have died to that old master; so that we can now rise up in liberty in Christ to live a new life. In Romans 7:1-6; Paul writes;

Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:1-6).

* * * * * * * * * * *

All of this is affirmed and assured to us through the eyewitness accounts of all that happened to the precious body of our Redeemer in His burial. So; let’s never neglect to proclaim—and to fully believe—this essential part of the gospel of our salvation; that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, AND THAT HE WAS BURIED, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures!

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