Gospel of John [19:38-42]. Christ's burial, part 2.

Class Outline:

Title: Gospel of John [19:38-42]. Christ's burial, part 2.


Announcements/opening prayer:



JOH 19:38 And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body.


Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the Sanhedrin who cautiously concealed his faith and discipleship in Christ. But after witnessing the cross he realized that he did not have to fear persecution for the sake of the Lord and openly asks for the body of Jesus and buries Him in his own tomb.


LUK 23:50

And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God;


He was likely at the crucifixion and what he saw made him realize how silly it was to hide his faith in Christ because of certain persecution.


Again we see faith before courage.


Roman law normally handed over the bodies of executed criminals to their next of kin, but not if they had been executed for sedition. Why Pilate would have given the body to Joseph can only be explained if Pilate thought Jesus to be innocent.


John is the only gospel writer to mention Nicodemus.


JOH 19:39 And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.


JOH 19:40 And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.


By touching a dead body both Joseph and Nicodemus defiled themselves and were not able to eat any of the feasts during that week, but knowing who Jesus really was they didn't care.


John mentions him three times, including here.


First we see that Nicodemus came to Jesus by stealth at night seeking to find out who He was.


JOH 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;


JOH 3:2 this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."


JOH 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 


JOH 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"


JOH 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


JOH 3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.


JOH 3:7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'


JOH 3:8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 


JOH 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"


JOH 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?


JOH 3:11 "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness.


JOH 3:12 "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?


JOH 3:13 "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.


JOH 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;


JOH 3:15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.


Then we see Nicodemus defending the right of Jesus not to be judged and arrested before being heard and proper charges made.


JOH 7:45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, "Why did you not bring Him?"


In verse 32 these officers were told to seize Him because there were many in Jerusalem who were believing in Him.


JOH 7:46 The officers answered, "Never did a man speak the way this man speaks."


JOH 7:47 The Pharisees therefore answered them, "You have not also been led astray, have you?


JOH 7:48 "No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?


JOH 7:49 "But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed."


JOH 7:50 Nicodemus said to them (he who came to Him before, being one of them),


JOH 7:51 "Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?"


JOH 7:52 They answered and said to him, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee."


And now we see Nicodemus assisting Joseph in preparing Jesus' body for burial.


They had to hurry for at sundown no work could be done since it would be the Sabbath. This explains why Joseph selected a tomb close by.


JOH 19:39 And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.


JOH 19:40 And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.


Even if his mixture of myrrh and aloes was not so costly by weight as the ointment Mary of Bethany's nard, so great a weight of it must have represented an outlay which only an exceptionally wealthy man could afford.


To bring as much ointment as he did, which is much more than is needed for the ordinary body, we can only surmise that Nicodemus considered this a royal burial.


And I would imagine that Joseph saw this burial in the same way. They were actually burying the body of the King of the Jews, the Lord of Glory, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world and he brought the amount of ointment that did homage to that.


The spices in powdered form were spread on the lengths of linen cloth which were used as winding sheets, so that the grave-clothes and the body alike were impregnated with them. This is not the Egyptian practice of embalming.


JOH 19:41 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.


JOH 19:42 Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.


Time was short, because sundown would bring on the Sabbath, when work would have to stop, so because of the proximity of the garden tomb the body was placed in it. A rock hewn tomb is to be understood.


In the second century the emperor Hadrian had a temple built to Venus in order to bury the cave in which Jesus was supposedly buried. Constantine in the fourth century ordered that the temple be replaced by a church, which is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During the construction Constantine's mother Helena is supposed to have found the original cross and a tomb. Of course the wars between Christians and Arabs did damage to the building, as did multiple earthquakes and fires, but it was repaired and rebuilt many times.


What we have not added to our narrative are the ongoing sacrifices that are being offered in the temple during the trial before Pilate. While they falsely accuse Jesus, shout for Him to be crucified, claim they have no king but Caesar they can likely see the smoke of the burnt offering and the incense rising from the sacred altars as the morning sacrifices are being offered. They would have heard the singing of the Levites and the blasts of the priest's trumpets. After the ordinary morning sacrifices there were the festive sacrifices for the holiday and finally the private burnt offerings and the Chagigah. What parts didn't go to the priests the people would enjoy that evening in celebration of the Passover and feast of unleavened bread and it was for this reason that the priests and elders would not enter the Praetorium so they wouldn't be unclean so as to be disqualified from the evening meal and party.


Christ died at the ninth hour and so just as the priest was about to offer the evening sacrifice he would have witnessed the incredible sight of the veil being rent in two.


Then as Joseph and Nicodemus and their servants were closing the tomb and the solemn women looked on, just as it was growing dark, a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrim outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a very different purpose, from the small band of mourners outside Jesus' tomb.


The procession following the delegates from the Sanhedrin were headed out to cut the sheaf, the amount of an omer, of the firstfruits that were to be waived by the priest before the Lord on the day after the Sabbath. The excited parade were going to cut the sheaf of firstfruits while the body of the true firstfruits was in a tomb being mourned by a handful of believers. As we have seen the world will look upon Him whom they have pierced and mourn, but Joseph, Nicodemus, and the two Mary's mourned Him at His grave. The other disciples are also mourning this night. Peter does so alone somewhere in the deepest grief. John is likely with the Lord's mother mourning as are all who believed in Him. It's so enticing to want to know what they are thinking. The feast that they normally celebrated with joy was now a time of great mourning. Yet the Lord is alive in spirit and soul. There is no doubt that they believed that He was in heaven with the Father and that He would return someday and this would fit with their accepted idea of the Messiah establishing the kingdom of Israel, but a bodily resurrection was foreign to their minds.


John 20:9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.


John believed at this point. We cannot tell if Peter did, but up to the point of seeing Him they did not understand the scripture concerning the resurrection of the Messiah; feast of first fruits for example.


To them the gates of Hades has closed upon Him in the shadows of death but in reality those gates have only closed upon them. Christ has in fact opened the gates of Hades and released the captives from the Paradise in the earth and to leave it vacant forever while establishing Paradise in heaven. He said it from the cross, the final utterance - "Father, into Your hands I release My spirit," but they did not comprehend. It is not as though they lost their faith in Him for the Jews embraced the continuance of the soul after death and the final resurrection of the body but not in a literal, bodily sense while being fully spiritual. Christ stated it to them but did not give detail since it was going to be shown to them by the very act and they would be eyewitnesses of a resurrected Christ in bodily form, both flesh and bone, yet fully spiritual; eating, drinking, and touchable, yet able to pass through walls and through the heavens.  


/LEV 23:10-11

"Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. 'And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.\


This Passover-sheaf, was parched on a pan perforated with holes so that the flame could touch the kernels and then it was ground into flour. Oil and frankincense was added and it was waved before the Lord. This was to be accompanied by a burnt offering of a ‘the lamb, without blemish, of the first year,’ with its appropriate meat- and drink-offering, and after it had been brought, but not till then, fresh barley might be used and sold in the land. Now, this Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony that the crowd gathered around ‘the elders,’ who took care that all was done according to traditional ordinance.


Not content with His death alone the chief priests and Pharisees had a meeting with Pilate and requested that the tomb be made secure lest the disciples steal the body and falsely claim that He had risen.


MAT 27:62 Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate,


On the Sabbath, the day of rest given to the people of Israel so that they may only dwell on the finished work of God and it also being the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, also a day of rest except for food preparation to celebrate deliverance from Egypt and the removal of sin they make plans to make sure that Jesus' body remains in that tomb until Monday. They probably didn't wait until the next morning. Their next day started at sundown, which is alien to us, but technically correct in this passage in that very evening, probably after the gathering of the wave offering to celebrate first fruits they are attempting to keep the first fruits in the tomb.


All of man's plans that attempt to stop the foreordained program of God are frustrated.


PSA 33:10-11

The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations;

He frustrates the plans of the peoples.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,

The plans of His heart from generation to generation.


PSA 76:10

For the wrath of man shall praise Thee;


PRO 16:7

The mind of man plans his way,

But the Lord directs his steps.


PRO 19:21

Many are the plans in a man's heart,

But the counsel of the Lord, it will stand.


ISA 25:1

O Lord, Thou art my God;

I will exalt Thee, I will give thanks to Thy name;

For Thou hast worked wonders,

Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.\


ISA 29:15

Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord,

And whose deeds are done in a dark place,

And they say, "Who sees us?" or "Who knows us?"\


ISA 29:16

You turn things around!

Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,

That what is made should say to its maker, "He did not make me";

Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?


JER 6:19

"Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people,

The fruit of their plans,

Because they have not listened to My words,

And as for My law, they have rejected it also.


JER 29:11

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord,' plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.