I have probably referred to this scripture a thousand times in the last 25 years. I have used it, among other ways, as a definition of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. But even after a thousand visits there is always something new to consider. This is not the cold, dead word of man, but the living Word of God. It is not that God makes new revelation. It is just that He sometimes shines a light down on a scripture from a different angle, and the light versus shadow reveals something which had always been there.
One of the best messages at last years’ Bible conference in Kentucky was a sermon by Brother Jeff Short from this text, and I’d like to share with you my interpretation of his thoughts.
Paul tells us that Christ died for our sins according to the scripture, then He was buried, and three days later He rose again to be seen by more than 500 people. There are two obvious highlights – Christ died as the sinner’s sacrifice – His blood was presented as the atonement for many. And then He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. Between those two mountain peaks there is – “and He was buried” – how important is that intermediate statement? Could not Christ have been resurrected if He had not been buried? What if the body had been left on the cross for three days, despite the Jew’s wishes to take it down? Or what if His body had been cast into Gehenna – the dump at the south-western end of the city, to be eaten by rats and crows? I have no doubt that God the Father could have and would have raised His Son to life and permitted those same 500 witnesses would have still seen Him. Isn’t Jesus’ burial just an incidental, unimportant step from His sacrifice to His resurrection? What Pastor Short did for me back in November was bring to my attention that the burial was AS important as everything else about the crucifixion.
Christ’s burial was a problem for the Jews.
Please return to Isaiah’s prophecy about the crucifixion – chapter 53:6. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” About 700 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Isaiah knew many of the facts about His death. And one of his points was that Christ Jesus was denied justice in His trial, condemnation and death.
“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation?” Was Christ ever in prison? No He was not; He was denied prison and sent straight to execution. “He was taken from prison and from judgment.” The meaning of these words is that he was robbed of due process – from honest judgment. Remember that the so-called “trial” took place in the middle of the night. It didn’t appear that all of the Sanhedrin were present – only some of the judges were there. The Chief Justice, the High Priest was not permitted to officiate because his father-in-law u surped his office just to make sure that things were done his way. “And who shall declare his generation?” There was no one present to defend the accuse; to explain His ministry. There was no attorney available to remind those false judges that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God. And there were no gospel preachers to speak of the prophecies of the Messiah. The trial of the Son of God was a sham.
“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” When the Jews went to Pilate demanding a quick death for the three men at Calvary, what did they intend to do with those bodies? I can assure you that they wouldn’t be taken to the morgue to be picked up by family members. The Romans would have either taken the remains to Gehenna to be tossed into the fires that constantly consumed the offal of the city. Or the Jews might have prepared a common grave in which to dump the city’s criminals. As far as the Romans and the Jews were concerned the body of Christ was intended for a “grave” with the wicked.
But He ended up “with the rich in his death.” Almost miraculously, Joseph of Aramathea was able to obtain permission to take Jesus’ body. Matthew 27:57 – “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”
If the body of our Saviour had not been taken by Joseph, but had been left to the Romans or the Jews, then Isaiah’s words would have been meaningless or false. Just as the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ fulfilled prophecies, so did Jesus’ burial. Joseph’s tomb was not an incidental part in the program of God; it was an essential. If anyone was paying attention, this one fact alone should have convinced people that Jesus is the Christ – the anointed of God.
Christ’s burial may have been a problem for the Jews, but it was blessing as far as Paul was concerned.
When Paul was in Antioch in Pisidia he stood before a crowd in the Jewish synagogue. In Acts 13:26 he said, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead. And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.” To this point Paul just makes reference to the recent historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth.
But then he went on in verse 32 – “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.”
Paul reached back into the Old Testament, making reference to David and the corruption which his body experienced in the grave. His body rotted away, eventually into some of the basic elements of creation. CHRIST was also buried, but His body did not see corruption, because He was raised from the grave. And then Paul made application toward salvation, which was the point of the death, burial and resurrection. “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
Paul was not the first Apostle to pick up on David and HIS grave versus Christ and JOSEPH’S grave. Turn to Acts 2:22 – “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. The word “hell” is “hades (haw-dace) and it sometimes means “the grave.” That is how Paul used the word in I Corinthians 15:55 – “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Peter went on – “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The whole point about the corruption of David’s body is linked to his burial. But Christ, too, was buried, yet without corruption, because He was raised from the grave.
In II Samuel 7 the Lord sent His prophet Nathan to David, giving to him what we call the Davidic covenant. Let’s pick up the conclusion in verse 12 – “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.” The Davidic Covenant deals MORE with the children of David than David himself. “David you are going to die – to sleep with your fathers, but I will establish thy seed after thee. He will build a house for my name, and I will give to him an eternal kingdom.”
David was probably hoping that this eternal kingdom would begin with his chosen son. But it was not to be. Solomon was as much a failure and sinner as David had been. God said, “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men.” And God did chasten Solomon and Rehoboam after him, and then the next generation and the next, because they were all sinful sons of David. Solomon died and was buried, and his body saw corruption, and then so did Rehoboam and all the rest. But none of those sinners and none of their rotting bodies nullified the covenant promise of God. Peter said that God had sworn with an oath that the covenant would be kept.
You could say that David’s generation had David, and then Solomon’s generation had a David – whose name was “Solomon.” Rehoboam’s generation had a David as well, the grandson of the first David. Every generation from 1000 BC to the year 1 or so, had a David – a sinful grandson of David the First. And every one of those Davids died and were buried, because “it is appoint unto men once to die.” But every one of those graves, those tombs, those sepulchres pointed a finger forward towards the One who would be buried but NOT see corruption.
Jeremiah 33:19-26 provides a glowing highlight over the Lord’s covenant with David. “And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.” Only if someone can pull the sun down out of the sky, will God’s promise to David be broken. All those burials – followed eventually by the burial of Christ – authenticated and continued God’s unbreakable promise to David. Jeremiah 23:5 – “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.”
Eventually, in the little city of Nazareth the angel Gabriel came to a young Jewish girl. Luke 1:30 – “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Jesus Christ is the David who was promised to come. He was of the seed of David legally and actually, through both Mary and Joseph. If both David and Jesus were here today, we could compare DNA and find that Jesus is the promised son. All the others beginning with David the first, David the son of Jesse, failed, died, were buried and their bodies saw corruption. But in the fulness of time, God fulfilled His promise to David, when one of His sons came, perfectly satisfying the will of the Father. Then He too died, but that was in the fulfilment of another covenant – one within the God-head. Christ, like all the other David’s, was buried, but according to the promise arose victorious over the grave. If there had been no grave and no burial, part of the promise would have been missing.
Now consider the fact that just as David died, Solomon died, and Rehoboam died, so will you. You are very likely going to be put in a grave like Jesus – or at least something equivalent. The question is, how will you come out? For all those whom Christ has saved, His resurrection means their resurrection. All those who Jesus has redeemed will you be raised to glory. Does that include you? Or will you be raised only to be cast into the lake of fire for eternity?
The burial and resurrection of Christ prove Him to be the Messiah, the Son of David. His death is the means by which sinners like us can be delivered from our sin. Is Christ Jesus your Redeemer? Is your humble trust in Him and Him alone?