I recently preached on the burial of Jesus from Matthew 27:55-66 at Cross of Christ Fellowship, our church in Naperville. Here are some of my notes.
The main melody of this passage is the burial of Jesus, but the supporting voices are the women witnesses, Joseph of Arimathea’s act, and the unbelieving religious authorities who send out a guard to the tomb.
The melody tells us that Jesus the Messiah was buried, just as he predicted. This burial paves the way for the resurrection—if he hadn’t been buried then he could not have been resurrected, and if his grave location was ambiguous then many would wonder if he really died or if he really had been found. The burial of Jesus also gives hope for believers, as we face our own death and burial and see other saints buried: Jesus also died and was buried, but then he rose again and so will we. Another important aspect of the burial of Jesus relates to the gospel message that all who trust in Christ have died to their old way of life—it has been buried with Christ—and we have been raised with Jesus (Col 2:12; Rom 6:4); this is what we see in baptism. This melody stirs our affection for Jesus: he not only died for us, but was buried for us; he speaks of a hope that goes past the burial in the ground; he gives us a hope in our everyday sanctification (when we faced with temptation, we can say, ‘I’m dead to you, I was buried with Christ and raised to new life’). The melody is important for unbelievers: you will be buried in the ground one day, but do you have hope for that which is beyond?
The supporting voices bring out and support the melody.
-The women witnesses authenticate that Jesus really did die and was really buried in a place where people knew about. Other applications could be that God uses the weak and despised of this world (1 Cor 1:27-29) to shame the proud and work His mighty purposes—this is something he did in the Bible and does today, so we should not discount how God might be working through us.
-Joseph of Arimathea authenticates that Jesus really was buried. Other applications could be that in Joseph we see a beautiful picture of a godly rich man; this has implications for us—God saves and uses the rich; Joseph’s generous act of devotion to Jesus was beautiful not wasteful and so are our acts and giving (our tendency toward pragmatism is challenged).
-The unbeliever religious authorities authenticate that Jesus was really buried because they had his tomb sealed and guarded. They meant this against Jesus, but because they did this, we have another proof that Jesus really was miraculously raised from the dead; this is because it was that much more difficult to fake it if this had not happened. One application is this: what one meant for evil, God used for good—and He still does this today.