Today we come to the last part of the fourth scene of John’s passion narrative of Jesus. Just to recap what have seen so far in this passion narrative. We have seen Jesus arrested and interrogated by the Jewish leadership. We then saw Jesus tried before the Roman authorities and sentenced to death by the Roman authorities. We then see Jesus crucified, Jesus’ death and now come to Jesus’ burial.
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.—19:38-42
Joseph of Arimathea requested permission to give Jesus’ body an honorable burial. Joseph was a follower of Jesus but not openly for fear of the Jewish leadership. Surprisingly, Nicodemus joined Joseph. John reminds us that Nicodemus first approached Jesus under the cover of darkness. Now Nicodemus was associating himself with Jesus in broad daylight before Jesus’ enemies. Both men were apparently members of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus provided enormous amounts of aromatic spices for the burial. The Jews did not embalm like the Egyptians, but the aromatic spices lessened the smell of decomposition and showed honor to the deceased. The amount of spices Nicodemus brought was worthy of the burial of a king. Jesus’ body would have likely been placed in the tomb slightly before 6pm. The tomb was in a garden not far from the crucifixion site. The Gospels mention that some women attended the burial.
To finish up this section of John’s Gospel, were we have seen the passion of Jesus recounted, we are going to move into Isaiah and we are going to be focusing our attention on Isaiah 53:7-9. This passage of Scripture is in the middle of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the suffering servant, which gave the people of Israel a glimpse of what the promised Messiah was going to do for them and how the promised Messiah was going to be treated by them. The three verses that we are going to be focusing on deal specifically with the kind of death and burial the promised Messiah would endure, and here is what these verses say:
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.—Isaiah 53:7-9
The suffering servant will be oppressed, afflicted and led like a lamb to slaughter. Yet he will accept this fate. He will be silent before his oppressors, not resisting or opposing them. He will, in fact, take the cup of God’s justice in order to drink it on behalf of sinners. The Israelites did not have an exact precedent for an individual bearing the sins of others, for animals were offered through the sacrificial system that functioned at the tabernacle (built in the days of Moses) and the temple (built in the days of Solomon). In Isaiah 53, the lamb is suffering servant himself. Because of the sins of humanity, the suffering servant will be led away to death. He will commit no violence and no deceit will be in his mouth, yet he will face the kind of treatment the wicked deserve. At his death, the suffering servant will share a grave with the rich. As we have already seen Joseph of Arimathea, a man of wealth, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and buried it in an unused family tomb, thus fulfilling what Isaiah had prophesied years earlier. And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we discuss the resurrection.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Kings 13-14, Acts 18:23-19:12, Psalm 146:1-10 and Proverbs 18:2-3
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