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The Burial of Jesus

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 26, 2021 4:00 am

The Burial of Jesus

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 26, 2021 4:00 am

Some of us find it difficult to declare that we follow Jesus. So what does Scripture have to say about it? On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg teaches us about Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished man who made the difficult choice to reveal his faith in Christ.


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Sometimes new believers will speak boldly about Jesus right after their conversion and there are others who may remain quiet. Well today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg teaches us about a prominent man named Joseph who had to decide whether or not to speak up about his faith prior to the burial of Jesus. Our lesson today begins in Luke chapter 23 at verse 50. First of all, we should notice that the burial of Jesus, the actual burial of the body of Jesus, was by no means a foregone conclusion.

And this for two main reasons. First of all—and I alluded to this this morning—because in Roman law, crucifixion of a criminal was not the end of the humiliation, because burial was not the right of the condemned. Secondly, it wasn't a foregone conclusion, because if you look at the passage properly, you realize that nobody was around to make this request on Jesus' behalf.

Who was going to actually ask for the body of Jesus? His friends were gone, and then suddenly and silently out of the shadows emerges one like Esther, whom you will remember came to the kingdom for just this moment in time. And so it is that here arrives on the stage of history this individual whose secrecy had up to this point been destroying his discipleship, but now he has determined that he's going to step forward generously and boldly, and here we find him. Now, there was a man named Joseph, a member of the council, a good and upright man—a man from the Judean town of Arimathea.

What do we know? We know that he is from Arimathea, this Judean town. We know from Matthew's record that he is rich. Matthew actually says in 2757 that he was a rich man. We know here that he was a member of the council—that is, the Sanhedrin, the people who had been responsible for going to Pilate and pressing for the death of Jesus. Actually, Mark tells us in Mark 15 that he was not simply a member of the council, but he was a prominent member of the council.

We also know that he was good and that he was upright. That's what verse 50 says. We know that he was a secret disciple. John tells us that.

His record, incidentally… I should pause. You can find the story in Matthew 27, Mark 15, John 19, as well as in Luke 23. And John tells us that he was a secret disciple, that he had become a disciple of Jesus, but that he was afraid of the Jews.

We also know that he was waiting here, verse 51, he was waiting for the kingdom of God. And we also know from verse 51 that although he was a member of this council, he had not consented to their decision nor their action. The fact of the matter is that he was probably missing from the strategic meeting, because we read elsewhere that he acted in unanimity. So if he acted in unanimity and he wasn't consenting to their action, then presumably he wasn't present for the final vote.

All of that falls under the category of a biographical sketch. The second heading I wrote down was simply a bold move, because that's what we have in verse 52. A bold move. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body.

Mark actually uses the word bold. He said that he went boldly to Pilate. And of course he did, because fear had previously silenced him, fear had previously controlled him. And now he casts fear to the wind, and he steps up. Somehow or another, the cross had brought him out in the open. You may find a point of identification with that tonight, some.

That may actually describe you. To this point in your life a secret disciple. Believing, but afraid, really, to let anyone know.

Sometimes those, closest to you. But something had happened. Jesus had said, If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me. And we already saw this morning that the centurion found that something distinctive had happened at the cross, and now here the same is happening to this individual. And so he makes a daring request, asking for the body. Why are you asking for the body would have been the obvious question, and the obvious answer was, Because I am committed to this condemned and crucified man.

I have failed to stand up with him when he was alive, and I'm not going to miss the chance now that he has died. And Mark alone tells us that Pilate was surprised. You can read this in Mark 15, 44, and 45. Joseph goes and says, Can I have the body? And Pilate says, What, the body?

You mean to tell me he's already dead? Oh yes, says Joseph. Then says Pilate, I need to verify this.

Sends for our friend the centurion. The centurion comes in and verifies the information. Remember, we said this morning that crucifixion often lasted sometimes up to three days. And so it was a remarkable way in which Jesus' life had come to an end.

So the body's released. And that gives way to urgent activity. Urgent activity.

The pace of this is quite remarkable. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and then he took it down. We need to remember that it is by now the middle of the afternoon, on the Friday of Passover week. The middle of the afternoon. If Jesus died around three o'clock—remember, the darkness came at noonday and lasted for three hours—at the end of the darkness, Jesus said, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, and he breathed his last. So that's three o'clock.

If we allow a little time, it's moved on from there. The commencement of the Jewish Sabbath was six p.m. Therefore, this individual, if he's going to abide by the Jewish law, now has a window of opportunity that is less than three hours. So he has less than three hours to accomplish everything that needs to be done. If the burial is going to take place, it's going to have to take place swiftly.

Now, this chap moves into action. He took the body down. Luke tells us that he wrapped it in linen cloth. Mark tells us that he went and bought the linen cloth.

Okay? So he took the body down, he bought the linen cloth. Actually, Mark says he bought the linen cloth, and he took the body down.

You understand how reporters work, don't you? You say, well, did he this or did he that? It doesn't really matter which he did first.

It's not the main things and the plain things. And the body would have to be washed. None of them mention that. They perhaps all take it for granted, because Jewish law demanded that a body would be washed before it was embalmed.

And then we're told in John that it was wrapped, the linen cloths were wrapped together with some seventy-five pounds of spices, and then the body was placed in a newly cut tomb, and then a big storm was rolled in front of the entrance, and then Joseph went home for his tea. You say, well, it doesn't say that. No, I just made that part up. But what I'm trying to get across is, this was like all in an afternoon's work.

Well, I wrote another phrase down in my notes. I wrote down, he didn't act alone. Clearly, he didn't act alone. We know there was at least one person with him, and we'll come to him in just a moment, but presumably there were others. He was a rich man. He was a prominent member of the council.

He was the kind of chap that would have had influence. And you can imagine him getting his servants together and saying, Now let's just divvy up these various bits and pieces. But the one helper we know of for sure is our friend Nicodemus.

And this is just so lovely. I love this in John chapter 19 and verse 39, the way it just creeps into the text. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away, and then he was accompanied by Nicodemus. Oh, says the reader, Nicodemus! Haven't heard of Nicodemus for seventeen chapters! And John says he was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night, just in case anyone has forgotten or gets him mixed up with any other Nicodemus.

Well, you know, birds of a feather flock together, don't they? And there was a man called Nicodemus who went to Jesus by night, under the cover of darkness, secretly, quietly, asking his questions. Discovering this glorious answer, the wind blows, and he can't tell about it. And the work of God is the work of the Spirit.

It is unique and wonderful, Nicodemus. And he walks out of the text in John 3, and we wonder to where. And here, in John 19, he steps back. You can understand why the two of these chaps would hang out together, wouldn't you? Both of them scaredy-cats, both of them influential in their own way, both of them believing in Jesus, both of them somehow or another just not managing to pluck up the courage to let everybody know. And I imagine them getting together and saying, Well, we can definitely honor him in his death, can't we, Nicodemus?

Nicodemus says yes. And so, Luke, along with Matthew and with Mark, mentions also the presence of the women. In fact, he's very careful to make sure that we know that these ladies were present. In Mark's Gospel, it's very brief. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, saw where they had put him. Well, John's Gospel says that they took approximately seventy-five pounds of spices and mixed them with the linen cloths, embalming the body. And then Luke tells us that they saw the tomb, they saw how the body was placed in it, then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. So the commentator, trying to resolve this potential difficulty, says to me as I read him, clearly, they didn't see everything that took place in the tomb. I mean, they saw that the body went into the tomb, they saw that Nicodemus and Joseph were taking care of that, but they obviously couldn't have seen all the business with the spices, otherwise they wouldn't have gone immediately to prepare the spices and the perfumes.

I thought about that for a minute, and then I said, No, I reject that idea completely. I think it is more probable that they saw exactly what took place in the tomb. And they saw Joseph of Arimathea, prominent member of the council, and Nicodemus, a high flier too, fiddling around with this embalming process. And they nudged one another, and they said, Men can't do this. They're making a complete mess of the thing. Don't let's say anything. Don't say anything to them.

They just get annoyed. But why don't we just slip off, and we'll come back immediately after the Sabbath, and we'll do this properly. Now, wouldn't that just be like ladies?

And wouldn't it just be like two men to make a royal hash of the process? Of course, we'll have to wait for a while to figure whether that's fact or fiction. Well, that's all of the material, really, there.

That's all that's there. So what do we learn from this? Let me tell you what I've been trying to learn or hope to learn. I'm reminded that the good news touches both the rich and the poor. Certainly the emphasis in the Gospel of Luke has been that Jesus comes for the least and the last and the left out, that he has a unique concern for the poor, and that that would be a mark of those who bear the good news.

But sometimes people get hung out on that notion, and it becomes almost a crusade which leaves behind anybody who doesn't fit the category of focus. And the Scriptures are wonderful in reminding us at just the right time that the good news is no respecter of persons, and that it is as needful for a rich man called Joseph, to find Christ as his Savior, as it is for the woman at the well whose life has been devastated by multiple relationships, to find love in the one right place. It teaches me, too, that God's providence is at work all the time and everywhere. He was preparing Joseph for this very moment. In fact, Joseph's secrecy—which was all his own secrecy, it wasn't that God made Joseph secretive. It wasn't that God made Joseph fearful. Joseph was fearful. Joseph was secretive—by personality, by dint of his fledgling faith. That's how he was.

And if he had been other than that, then he would already have been in full-flown usefulness and involvement long before this. It was the very fact that he was the way he was, that his steps had been ordered, because even our foolishness and even our ineptitude and even our secrecy and even our fearfulness—God, in the mystery of his providence, is working all these things together for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose. And it was God's express purpose that his special servant Joseph, having missed so many opportunities, would be present on this day for this opportunity. God is wonderful in the way he works. I've learned here also that these proceedings continue to fulfill the words of prophecy of Isaiah 53.

53, 9. And there he was, it says, of the suffering servant, with the rich in his death. These tombs, these carved-out areas—some of you have been in Jerusalem—they were often reused once the body had decomposed. They would then take it away. After about a year, they would gather it up, and they would put it, essentially, in a burning zone, and a form of cremation would take place. And so the tomb could be reused, and it may be reused on multiple occasions.

But the rich wouldn't reuse the tombs. And Christ, who had nothing and nobody, didn't have much of a chance of any kind of decent burial, but his Father saw that he was put in this lovely place—albeit briefly, but nevertheless, properly. Two final things by way of observation. I tried to learn from this passage that not everyone arrives as quickly as others do at the place of bold discipleship. And the gestation period, as it were, between coming to a convinced belief in the saviorship of Jesus and the preparedness to nail his colors to the mast, in nautical terms, was longer than we may be prepared to suggest as being plausible. But then, finally, surely the passage is a reminder to us that no one can remain a secret disciple indefinitely. Nobody can remain a secret disciple indefinitely.

Eventually, circumstances will conspire to demand that we stand up for what we believe, and we take our stand with whom we've determined to follow. And Joseph is in the company of one other individual on the pages of Human History in respect to this, isn't he? There are two people here who, within a twenty-four-hour period, essentially are immortalized in human history. One is Joseph, and the other is Pilate. And the reason that they are both known in the pages of History, and certainly in the biblical record, is simply because of their reaction to Jesus. Both of them apparently thought that they could delay their response to Jesus. Pilate was a pontificator. Pilate was a procrastinator.

Pilate was trying to put it off, trying to send the decision away to someone else. Go to Herod, come back later. I don't know about this. I don't know about that.

I can wash my hands of this. And Joseph, from another perspective, operated in much the same way. There will be a time when I get to it. I'll get to it later.

I'll let somebody know someday. And they apparently thought they could delay their response indefinitely, but the events of life overtook them. And the question which was uppermost on Pilate's mind and on his lips in Mark 15—"What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ? "—that was the question they both had to face. That was the question they both faced.

They both made their choice. And eternity will reveal the choice they made. So there is no other place to finish except to say, perhaps tonight, young man, young girl, perhaps tonight is the night when the secrets of your heart will be revealed. Way back in Luke chapter 2, when Zechariah takes the baby in his arms, and he speaks over him, and he says, you know, Love your servant, depart in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation. And he says, This child will be for the rising and falling of many.

In Israel he will cause the division between people. And then he essentially says, And by means of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And that's exactly what happened here for Joseph of Arimathea.

Suddenly, when he saw the cross, he said, That's it. I can't be in secret any longer. I will go to Pilate. I will ask for the body. I'll do whatever it takes. I have failed to honor him in his life, but I will not fail to honor him in his death.

Is there somebody here tonight? And you believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead. And in saying that, you believe that the reason that God raised Jesus from the dead was because God was accepting the sacrifice for sin that Jesus had offered. And furthermore, you believe that that was a necessary sacrifice, not just for the sins of men and women but for your sins, and that you have come to Christ in the silence of your heart and mind, perhaps on a journey that you took on your own, perhaps in your bedroom, perhaps somewhere just out walking. And you said, Lord Jesus, I believe in you. I trust in you. But only you and Jesus know.

Because somehow or another, you just can't get it out. Well, I want to give you the opportunity tonight to take what you believe in your heart and make it really yours by saying, With my mouth Jesus is my Lord. Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

And you need to be. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. To openly declare that Jesus is Lord is a defining moment in the life of every believer. That's from today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.

If you are ready to openly declare Jesus as Lord in your life now and you're a little uncertain how to go about that, we have a video that is online that we think will help you. You can go to slash the story. You'll find a video that explains God's plan of salvation and clarifies for you what it means to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. God's saving grace is nothing we can earn on our own. It's a free gift given to those who believe.

Again, visit slash the story. Now as a reminder, Easter is just a little more than a week away. If you have not yet ordered our recommended book, The Cross in Four Words, you'll want to do that today. This is an ideal book to read during the Easter season, particularly as you reflect on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Let me mention, if you struggle having to answer questions from friends who ask, why did Jesus have to die?

This is a great book that will help you clearly answer that question. Request your copy today when you donate to support the Bible teaching you here on this program. You can give through our mobile app or at slash donate or call 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapeen. We hope you will have the opportunity to worship at your local church this weekend and then join us again Monday as we learn about some of the common objections to the historical resurrection of Christ. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-11 01:21:06 / 2023-12-11 01:29:31 / 8

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