50 Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathe'a. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; 56 then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Jesus not only died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3); he also, by the grace of God, tasted death for every one (Hebrews 2:9). It was a real death that put an end to his earthly human existence. Jesus died in mid afternoon and the Sabbath began at 6:00 pm.
Since the Jewish law permitted no work on the Sabbath, the body had to be buried quickly. Someone brave enough would have to get permission from the Roman authorities to take the body and bury it. The bodies of executed criminals were usually left unburied as carion for the vultures and dogs.
Jesus was spared this indignity through the gracious intervention of Joseph of Arimethea. Who was this admirer and secret disciple of Jesus? Luke tells us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council that condemned Jesus.
We are told that he did not agree with their verdict. He was either absent from their meeting or silent when they tried Jesus. What kind of man was Joseph? Luke tells us that he was "good and righteous" and "looking for the kingdom of God".
Although he did not stand up for Jesus at his trial, he nonetheless, sought to honor him in his death by giving him a proper burial. This was to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had foretold: "He was cut off out of the land of the living ..and they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:8-9).
In the Book of Revelations, the Lord Jesus speaks: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one: I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades" (Revelations 1:17-18).
No tomb in the world could contain the Lord Jesus for long. His death on the cross purchased our redemption and his triumph over the grave on Easter morning defeated death. What preserved the Lord Jesus from corruption?
He was kept from decay and he rose from the dead by divine power. "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not let your Holy One see corruption" (Psalm 16:9-10). The mystery of Christ's lying in the tomb on the sabbath reveals the great sabbath rest of God after the fulfillment of our salvation which brings peace to the whole world (Colossians. 1:18-20).
Is your hope in this life only, or is it well founded in the resurrection of Christ and his promise that those who believe in him will live forever?