04 Nov The Occupied Tomb – Words of Grace – November 4, 2022
For most of my life as a Christian, I have focused on the empty tomb, meaning the resurrection of Jesus. But each Gospel writer makes sure we understand that Jesus occupied the tomb, telling us where it was, how he got there, and how long he stayed. Why might that be?
A mental journey to the “occupied tomb” is helpful to our understanding of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. By remembering that Jesus was in the tomb one full day and parts of two other days, we come to see that his burial is essential to the gospel (I Corinthians 15:3-4).
The burial of Jesus tells us that he really died. Those who came to the cross found that Jesus was dead. He was not unconscious. He did not swoon. They did not need to break his legs to expedite his death. He was dead. To make that point, each Gospel writer tells us that they prepared him for burial and placed him in a tomb. This detail is in the gospel narrative to keep the record straight… Jesus died.
The burial of Jesus tells us that he really rose from the dead. Those who came to the tomb on that Sunday morning found that Jesus who died was now alive. He was not awakened. He was not resuscitated. They did not need to give him aid to help him mend. He was resurrected. He was fully healed and fully alive in a renewed body. He appeared to several women, to his disciples, and eventually to over five hundred people who saw, touched, heard, and ate with him.
It matters that Jesus died, that he was buried, and that he rose from the dead because the reality of these gospel events must be so that the accomplishment of these events can be.
The burial of Jesus reminds us that he rested after a finished work. Jesus was in the tomb on the sabbath day after he cried from the cross, “It is finished.” The cross was his work, on it he died, and it was very good. This matters because without his death for us there is no forgiveness of sins. The man in the tomb is the one who died for our sins.
The burial of Jesus gives us hope that he arose for a new and ongoing work. Jesus came out of the tomb with the power over death and the authority to give life to all who believe. He is now working to make all things new. He will return to call the faithful dead out of their graves, to meet those who are alive and in faith at his coming, and we will always be with him.
I am glad that the Gospel of John has slowed us down this week to think about the burial of our Lord. Let the occupied tomb stir your faith in the cross, hope in the resurrection, and love for Christ.