THE FUNERAL OF THE MESSIAH
John 19: 38-42 says, After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews Preparation Day, for this tomb was nearby. ”This passage of scripture describes the funeral service that was given to the Messiah of Isarel, who was Jesus of Nazareth, the Divine Son of God. and the Savior of he world.
His was an unusual death. In Isaiah 53 the word of God says that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, and the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah also predicted that Israel would put Him to death, but God would accept His murder as a sin offering for the nation. Stranger still, Isaiah 53:9 predicted that Israel would make His grave with the wicked but also with the rich at His death. This was fulfilled when He was crucified between two thieves, but was buried in a rich man's tomb. In view of what God said about the death of Jesus Christ, one would think that He would have been given the largest, greatest and most unforgettable funeral ever given to a human being. But it was not to be so.
His funeral was as unusual as His death. . The religious leaders who put Him to death determined the time of His funeral. Usually, the family and loved ones make this determination, but not in the case of Jesus. .The Jewish leaders demanded that He be buried on the same day He died, and before the Sabbath Day began at 6:00 P.M. He died at 3:00 P.M. on Friday, and it was just three hours till the Sabbath Day would begin. at 6:00 P.M. The Sanhedren did not think it becoming. for people coming to Jerusalem to observe the Sabbath, to pass by and see a man hanging on a cross with this writing above His head, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Thus the funeral service of Jesus was held on the same day He died. What kind of a funeral service did the Lord have?
Friends and loved ones did not meet together around His body to weep and mourn. No one gave a life-sketch of His journey from
birth to death. . There was no “Sharing Time” as we do in our funerals today when friends may come forward and share their thoughts about the deceased. However God, in His providence, saw to it that Jesus' body would be properly prepared for burial, would have a respectable funeral service common to the times, an honorable burial place, as well as some honorable mourners who had great respect for Him. All four gospel writers give their own account of the Lord's funeral service. The providence of God was with the body of Christ from the very first, and followed from His conception, birth, life and even to His burial service.
Let us give our attention to how God took care of the firstborn among brethren when He passed away. . Jesus is dead and in the hands of cruel Roman soldiers. He was in the hands of the men who nailed His body to the cross. They had just broken the legs of the two thieves, but it was written in God's word that not a bone of Jesus' body would be broken. Whatever the reason for that prophecy, it prevented any further disrespect to His body. What is to be done with the body on the center cross? Where will the soldiers dispose of these bodies? We don't know what happened to the bodies of the thieves, but the four gospel writers tell us what happened to the body of Jesus.
To our surprise two of the most respected members of the Jewish Sanhedrin took charge of th e funeral arrangements of Jesus, and they did it up right. The first one was a man named Joseph, a very wealthy man from the town of Arimathea. He was a highly respected, member of the Sanhedrin. He was a good and just man, and an honorable and respected counselor. To our surprise we are told that He had been a secret disciple of Jesus for some time, and he was looking for the kingdom of God to begin on earth. He probably had the same erroneous view of the kingdom as did the apostles and others that the Messianic kingdom would free Israel from the Romans, and the Messiah would rule on David's throne in Jerusalem. However, He was a secret disciple for fear of the Jews. Rich people always carried a lot of weight in Jerusalem, and this man was no exception. He boldly and courageously left the scene of the Cross and went into the presence of Pilate. He begged to have the body of Jesus and to take the responsibility for disposing of His body. Pilate was shocked that he had come so soon and in effect said the man can't be dead yet. Joseph said, “Yes, he is for I saw him die.” Pilate knew this man and respected him, and after sending for the soldiers to verify His death Pilate commanded to give the Lord's body to Joseph. Pilate could not imagine
what this honorable man wanted with the bones of a dead man, but he granted His request. Joseph hurries away from Pilate's Hall to Calvary where the crosses were still standing. With an order from Pilate I am sure the soldiers helped him take the nails from his hands and feet and lay His body on the ground. Joseph then embalmed Him by wrapping His body in fine white linen, which he was well able to buy. He then placed a hundred pounds of spices between the layers of linen as was the custom of the Jews out of respect for the body. This was their method of embalming the body. Thus His body was prepared for burial.
So far so good. The body is down from the cross, and it is properly wrapped for burial. The next thing in order is the funeral procession. from Calvary to the tomb not from away. It would be difficult for one man to fittingly carry that body to the location of Joseph's new tomb in which no person had ever been buried. But there was another man who came to the aid of Joseph on that day. He too was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, a counselor, a ruler of the Jews and a Master in Israel. His name was Nicodemus, and he was the man to whom Jesus explained that in order to enter the Messiah's Kingdom it was necessary to be born again (John 3:1-8} Nicodemus didn't understand how an old man could go into the womb of his mother and be born again, but Jesus explained He was using figurative language. Jesus informed him that he must be born of the water and Holy Spirit or he would never enter into His kingdom. The birth of water refers to immersion in water, for the only use of water in the Christian religion is baptism. The birth of the Spirit is to be taught by the Holy Spirit through the word of God which brings about a great change of mind about God and a disobedient life to God. The birth of the Spirit brings one to faith in Christ and repentance and a willingness to change one's life. We are not to commend these two men for being secret disciples of Christ, but the low profile discipleship of Joseph and Nicodemus was probably justified by them on the ground that it was the only way they could represent His cause in high places, even though it was in secret. Yet after He was put to death, they abandoned their secret discipleship and boldly came forward to serve Him as best they could. Nicodemus brought a hundred pounds of spices to be used in the embalming process.
Who made up the funeral procession to the grave? The apostles? No, they were far away at a good distance. There are but two nearby mourners for the Lord's funeral, and they take the body to the tomb. There are some gracious women brave enough to stand afar off, and
I feel certain they would have been willing enough to join the procession had they been asked. There were other disciples who were mourning Jesus but they too stood at a distance afar off. But what an honor it was to Christ that the first two and chief mourners of Jesus on that sorrowful occasion should be two members of Israel's Sanhedrin, two notable individuals who were held in honor even among the Jews who crucified Christ. When these two men arranged, paid for His burial expenses, and accompanied His body to the tomb, they fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:8,9, “He was taken from prison and from judgment and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living. For the transgressions of My people He was stricken, and they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death.” They made his grave with the wicked when He was crucified with two thieves. His grave was made with the rich at His death by being buried in a rich man's tomb .
Another prophecy fulfilled on this occasion was when the soldiers decided not to break the legs of Jesus. The Jews had requested Pilate to have the legs of the three men broken to hasten their death. In that way the bodies could be removed before the Sabbath Day would begin. John said in John 19 36,37, “For these things came to pass that the scripture might be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken. And again, another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” The first prophecy was fulfilled when the soldiers refused to break the Lord's legs. The prophecy is stated in Exodus 12:46 concerning the Passover lamb, “In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.” Every Passover lamb was a symbol of Christ, and it referred to Him every time an Israelite killed and ate the Passover lamb. Thus, the command of God not to break the bones of the Passover lamb was equally applicable to Christ our Passover Lamb. The other prophecy mentioned by John that says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced,” is stated in Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of Grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one grieves for his firstborn.” After His resurrection and the first gospel sermon in Jerusalem, 3,000 Jews were cut to the heart and mourrned over their part in crucifying Christ and were brought to baptism and the new birth. By faith they looked on Him they pierced and became His followers..
These two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, are to be commended
for what they did, and have received a place of honor in the word of God, even though they were secret disciples. I wonder happened to these two men after the resurrection of Christ. I wonder what they thought of themselves for standing behind the scenes for such a long time. How much they missed and lost for not taking a more active part in following Christ. They lost two or three years of fellowship with Christ. How much instruction they missed from His lips. I only hope they became active followers of Christ after the church was established. I wonder if Nicodemus ever fully came to understand that the church was really the Davidic kingdom God promised to the nation of Israel.. We can only hope that both of them became active Christians. However, their future has been kept from us, but it was a most honorable thing they did to provide for the funeral service of Jesus, which His disciples were unable to provide.
I fear there are many secret disciples today. There are men and women who believe in Christ, admire Christ and look up to Christ, but have never come forth and made a public confession and commitment of their lives by faith, repentance and baptism. The lesson for us from the conduct of Joseph and Nicodemus is that it is time for all secret admirers and disciples to quit their hiding places and take their stand for Christ. We live in a time when it has become necessary for every true disciple to stand up and be counted, and at this hour to prove it by actions. The Christian way of life and Christ's standard of morality is about to disappear from the face of the earth. The world, in general, has fallen into a way of life and character that is unworthy of civilization, much less the religion of Christ. It is high time that timid and fearful people come out and refuse to be numbered with the unbelieving and compromising world. The true teachings of Christ have been changed and compromised. The authority and divine inspiration of the Bible is scoffed at by unbelieving and worldly- minded people. This is not a time to be a secret disciple. True disciples cannot remain quiet, for if we give the world an inch they will take a mile.