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What the Bible says about Jesus Christ's Burial
(From Forerunner Commentary)

All four gospel writers mention that Jesus was tried, convicted, crucified, and buried on a preparation day. Without any further clarification, one would assume that they meant a Friday, the weekly preparation day before the Sabbath. But can other days be considered preparation days as well?

Yes, indeed! God Himself gave the instructions about the use of the preparation day to the Israelites before they reached Mount Sinai (Exodus 16:23). The Jews later considered this to be so important that they made sure each of the holy days, which are also Sabbaths, was preceded by a preparation day. Since the holy days can fall on any day of the week, the preparation day can fall on any day of the week as well.

This is very relevant to the Passover. Not only is the Passover a festival in its own right, it also functions as the preparation day for a holy day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to the calculated Hebrew Calendar, Passover can fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sabbath.

Clearly, our Savior was crucified on a Passover day (Matthew 26:2). Thus, it was on one of these days of the week that Jesus was killed and buried.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'

Isaiah 7:14

The prophecy of Jesus' birth much of the world recognizes is that of Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." This, of course, came to pass precisely: "After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). Mary herself confirms she was a virgin: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34).

His "immaculate conception" (not in the Roman Catholic sense) decreed His worthiness to be our High Priest and Mediator before the Father. Though not of Levi, Jesus qualifies as a priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:14-15):

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens. (verses 25-26)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman

Isaiah 53:9

The word "they" refers to those who condemned Christ to death. In his commentary on the Bible, Albert Barnes says the phrase "My people" should be used here. Without specifically designating who has decreed that Christ would be buried with the wicked, we get the sense that Jesus was not only to die a terrible death but also to suffer the indignity of being buried in a common grave with common criminals. He would be denied even an honorable burial.

Mike Ford
Joseph of Arimathea

Matthew 27:57-60

This fulfils Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 53:9). Joseph, a rich man and a disciple of Christ, took the body of Jesus, hastily prepared it for burial, and laid it in his own tomb. Matthew mentions that Joseph was from Arimathea, a town whose location is a matter of some dispute. Some scholars believe that it is the town of Ramah, Samuel's birthplace, lying about six miles north of Jerusalem in the land of Benjamin. Another candidate is a town called Aramathea about 16 miles east of Joppa.

Mike Ford
Joseph of Arimathea

Matthew 27:64

Commentators say this proves that Jesus did not have to be in the tomb a full three days, but only parts of three days. However, they fail to recognize that the priests spoke this on Thursday, not Wednesday. They were asking Pilate to seal and guard the tomb at least through the Sabbath, when three days and three nights would have fully elapsed since Christ's death and burial!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'

Mark 15:42-46

Several points stand out in this passage:

» Evening was beginning—at best Joseph had only about three hours before sunset, when the Sabbath would begin. The task of preparing and applying the spices for burial required work, which is expressly forbidden on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-10). Additionally, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 demands that an executed criminal be buried before nightfall, and the Jewish law of the time required all dead bodies to be buried before a Sabbath or a feast day (John 19:31).

» Before he could take the body down, Joseph had to go before Pilate and receive permission. At first Pilate did not believe Jesus had died so quickly, so he called the centurion of the crucifixion detail to verify it (Mark 15:44-45). This delay must have taken at least a half hour.

» After being granted the body, Joseph went to a local shop and bought several yards of fine linen in which to wrap Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, he then took the body down, wrapped it in the linen—along with about a hundred pounds of spices—and placed it in the tomb (John 19:39-41).

With all this activity and work between the various locations, Joseph and Nicodemus must have had very little daylight left when they finally rolled the stone over the entrance to the tomb. On this point all the accounts again concur; sunset was very near (Matthew 27:57; Luke 23:54; John 19:31).

No one disputes that Jesus was laid "in the heart of the earth" at sunset. If, as we have shown, He was buried for exactly 72 hours, He was also resurrected at sunset—not at dawn!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'

Mark 15:43-46

Joseph was "waiting for the kingdom of God." Well versed in the Old Testament, he anticipated the reign of the promised Messiah. Barnes writes:

But this expression means more than an 'indefinite' expectation that the Messiah 'would' come, for all the Jews expected that. It implies that he believed 'Jesus' to be the Messiah, and had 'waited' for HIM to build up the kingdom of God. . . .

Mark emphasizes that Joseph exhibited "great courage" in going before Pilate to request Jesus' body. Of the four accounts, only Mark adds that he went "boldly" in to Pilate. Much is left unsaid here, such as how did Joseph get in to see Pilate? The procurator was not a man that would receive just anyone, especially without a prior appointment. Joseph, however, "went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." Before deciding, Pilate sought more information. Summoning the centurion in charge of the crucifixion would take time. In all likelihood, Joseph remained and talked with Pilate while awaiting the centurion's arrival. Upon learning that Jesus "had been dead for some time," Pilate seems not to have hesitated to release His body to Joseph. Did they perhaps know each other?

Mike Ford
Joseph of Arimathea

Luke 23:55-56

If we continue in Luke's account, we get the impression that the women hurried to a spice shop, bought the spices and oils, prepared them, and then rested on the Sabbath (verse 56). But we would be wrong!

We have to go to Mark 16:1 for some vital information: "Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him." Logistically, the sequence of events cannot be otherwise. If Joseph barely had time to bury Jesus' body before sundown, how much less time would the women have had to do all that they needed to do!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'

Luke 24:21

This verse is commonly misunderstood in relation to the timing of Christ's death and resurrection. Two of the disciples, traveling to Emmaus, were conversing with the resurrected Christ, though they did not know it was He (verses 13-16). They were rehearsing what had happened in Jerusalem to Jesus by the chief priests and rulers of Judea (verses 18-20).

This conversation occurred on Sunday, the same day that the women, Peter, and John had gone to the tomb only to find it empty. Yet these disciples heading to Emmaus say that it had only been three days, not four. How do we reconcile this to the overwhelming body of evidence that Christ was buried on a Wednesday afternoon and raised again on a Saturday afternoon?

The key is in the repetition of the words "all these things," "these things," and "the things" of verses 14, 18-19 and 21. "Things" is modified by the disciples' specifying in verse 20 that they were speaking of the actions that "the chief priests and our rulers" had done to Christ. The fact that is often forgotten is that their ignominious actions against Him did not end with delivering Him to Pilate for crucifixion! (See Matthew 27:62-66.)

The day after "the Day of Preparation" was Thursday, the first day of Unleavened Bread. These Jewish leaders went to Pilate on the holy day to "guarantee" that their Messiah would not rise from the dead. And with the guard in place and the tomb sealed, they felt certain nothing more would happen.

Thus, when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus say that Sunday "is the third day since these things happened," they are counting from the last despicable actions of the chief priests and Pharisees on Thursday, not Wednesday. Note that their words preclude a Friday crucifixion as well, since Sunday is only the second day from Friday.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 




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