Mark 15:38-47; Matthew
27:51-66; Luke 23:45-56; John 19:31-42
Death and Burial of Jesus
Nothing can be clearer in
human history than the fact that Jesus Christ died
on the cross at Calvary in Jerusalem. There were
many eye witnesses to His death by crucifixion.
Jesus Christ was
sovereign over His life, His death, and His
resurrection. Augustine spoke of Jesus Christ
saying, "He gave up His life because He willed it,
when He willed it, and as He willed it."
"For this reason the
Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that
I may take it again. N o one has taken it away from
Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have
authority to lay it down, and I have authority to
take it up again. This commandment I received from
My Father" (John 10:17-18).
Where is the evidence for
the death of Jesus Christ?
The Proof that
Jesus was dead
Jesus uttered a loud cry
just before His death (Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37). The
apostle John testifies to the death of Jesus.
"Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He
said, 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head and
gave up His spirit" (John 19:30). The work of our
redemption by the Lamb of God was completed and
remains finished. There is nothing to add to His
completed work. Luke adds, "And Jesus, crying out
with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into Your hands I
commit My spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His
last" (Luke 23:46). It reminds us of the words of
Jesus when He said, "No one takes it from Me, but I
lay it down of Myself." Jesus was dead.
The crowd of
witnesses at the crucifixion (Luke 23:48)
"And all the crowds who
came together for this spectacle, when they observed
what had happened, began to return, beating their
breasts" (Luke 23:48). Those who had been crying,
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" are now overcome with
the proofs of the super-human exaltation of Jesus.
They heard Him cry out, "It is finished!" They saw
Him give up His spirit saying with a loud voice,
"Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit" (Luke
23:46). They saw Him die. The tense of the verb
"beating their breasts" is "they continued to beat
their breasts." They lament over the crucified One
after they have permitted Him to be crucified. They
were eyewitnesses of His death. What would you have
done that day if you had been present?
There were women
witnessing these things (Mark 15:40-41; Matt.
27:55-56; Luke 23:49)
There were many people
who were witnesses to the events at Calvary. Mark
tells us in addition to his Mother, Mary Magdalene,
Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and
Salome, there were "many other women who came up
with Him to Jerusalem" (Mark 15:40-41). The mother
of James and John were there (Matt. 27:56). These
were the last ones to leave that afternoon. They
would each give testimony that Jesus was dead.
testified to the death of Jesus (John 19:31-37)
John tells us I saw what
happened. Here is my eyewitness account. "Then the
Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that
the bodies would not remain on the cross on the
Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked
Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that
they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and
broke the legs of the first man and of the other who
was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when
they saw that He was already dead, they did not
break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His
side with a spear, and immediately blood and water
came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his
testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling
the truth, so that you also may believe. For these
things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, 'Not a
bone of Him shall be broken.' And again another
Scripture says, 'They shall look on Him whom they
pierced'" (John 19:31-37).
Pilate asked that the
legs of the crucified be broken to hasten and insure
death of the victims. Breaking of the legs was known
as crurifragum in Latin and accompanied
crucifixion in order to hasten death. This was
accomplished by means of heavy blows of a heavy iron
hammer or mallet. Such a blow caused death. The only
way a crucified man could obtain a full breath of
air was to raise himself by means of his legs to
ease the tension on his arms and chest muscles. When
the legs were broken, he could not possibly lift
himself and death would come because of lack of
oxygen. The Romans left the bodies of crucified
criminals on their crosses as a warning if you break
our laws this will happen to you, too. The Jewish
religious leaders wanted to hasten death so they
could get the victims down from the cross before
It is amazing how pagan
Roman soldiers fulfilled prophecies of the
Scriptures to the letter (cf. Exo. 12:46; Num. 9:12;
Psa. 34:20). Jesus is the true Passover Lamb slain
(1 Cor. 5:7). The fact that Jesus was spared the
crurifragium was necessary for the fulfillment of
the Old Testament Scriptures. "For these things came
to pass to fulfill the Scripture, 'Not a bone of Him
shall be broken'" (John 19:36).
Pilate was surprised to
hear that Jesus had died so quickly. Death by
execution by crucifixion, though exceedingly painful
was also an unusually slow death that lasted two or
three days. No vital organ was affected and the
person died when he was finally overcome with
exhaustion and could inhale but could no longer
exhale. He would finally suffocate. It would not be
natural that Christ would be dead after six hours of
suffering on the cross. Therefore, we are told
"Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and
summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to
whether He was already dead" (Mark 15:44). Pilate
"wondered" (thaumazo) was "astonished" at the
quick death of Christ because it was something
extraordinary about how quickly He died. The
verb thaumazō here does not mean to wonder if
in the sense of to conjecture, to be undecided
about, but to wonder at, to marvel. Therefore, he
investigated by questioning the Roman centurion who
was in charge of the execution. Edmond Hiebert says,
"In Pilate's question to the centurion, the aorist
tensed was used, asking if death as an observable
event had occurred sometime previously." Lenski
says, "The centurion probably accompanied Joseph,
waited outside, and was called by Pilate." Pilate
was satisfied that Jesus was indeed dead before he
released the body to Joseph of Arimatea. "And
ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the
body to Joseph" (Mark 15:45).
When the Roman soldiers
came to Jesus "they saw that He was already dead,
and they did not break His legs" (John 19:33).
There was no point in breaking His legs. Instead
"one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear"
(John 19:34). The soldier thrust his spear into the
side of Jesus. It was a penetrating deep would that
was intended to kill someone. He was going to make
doubly sure this one did not survive. He certified
Jesus was dead. As Godet suggests, "If you are not
dead already, here is what will finish you." The
language of the text suggests that the soldier was
determined to make sure that Jesus was dead. The
head of the spear was large, the size of a man's
hand, and would make a large wound. It penetrated
deep into the body of Jesus and "there came out
blood and water." Jesus was a real man with a real
body and He was certifiably dead.
R. V. G. Tasker quotes
Dr. John Lyle Cameron, M.D., "The broad, clean
cutting, two-edged spearhead would enter the left
side of the upper abdomen, would open the greatly
distended stomach, would pierce the diaphragm, would
cut, wide open, the heart and great blood vessels,
arteries and vein now fully distended with blood, a
considerable proportion of all the blood in the
body, would lacerate the lung. The wound would be
large enough to permit the open hand to be thrust
into it. Blood from the greatly engorged veins,
pulmonary vessel and dilated right side of the
heart, together with water from the acutely dilated
stomach, would flow forth in abundance" (Tyndale
N.T. Commentaries, John, p.212-13).
The Roman centurion who
was in charge of the execution of Jesus was watching
Jesus die, and all the things that were happening
was feared exceedingly and declared "Truly this was
the Son of God" (Mark 15:39; Matt. 27:54). Luke
says, "Now when the centurion saw what had happened,
he began praising God, saying, 'Certainly this man
was innocent'" (Luke 23:47).
executioners declared Jesus dead.
Roman Governor Pilate
demanded proof of Jesus' death (Mark 15:44-45)
After all that the Jewish
leaders had done to Pilate that day he was not about
to release the body without absolute proof that
Jesus was dead. He demanded proof from the Roman
centurion. Pilate marveled if Jesus were already
dead. "Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member
of the Council, who himself was waiting for the
kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went
in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and
summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to
whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this
from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph"
The Burial of the
Body of Jesus
The burial of Jesus did
not take place in secret (Mark 15:45-46; Matt.
27:59-60; Luke 23:53-54; John 19:38-42).
Jesus was crucified on
Friday, the Jewish day of preparation when the
Sabbath would begin, but this was also the
preparation for the Passover meal that night.
Sabbath would begin at 6 p.m. that evening.
Therefore, there was need for haste in the burial of
Jesus before sundown. The process begun by Joseph
and Nicodemus was the preparation for instant burial
rather than the final interment because women were
preparing to return on Sunday to complete the
process (Mark 15:47-16:3; Luke 23:53-24:3; John
Joseph of Arimathea and
Nicodemus handled the dead body of Jesus (Mark
15:42-46; Matt. 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-54; John
Joseph of the city of
Arimathea and Nicodemus were responsible rich men
who were members of the Sanhedrin. Joseph was a good
and righteous man who had not consented to the death
of Jesus. He was looking forward to the coming of
the Kingdom of God (Luke 23:50). He was the person
responsible for the burial of Jesus.
Nicodemus were responsible for the burial of Jesus
Joseph and Nicodemus
handled the lifeless dead body of Jesus. There was
no question in their minds that Jesus was dead. They
took the body down from the cross and wound Him in
the linen cloth and took Him and laid Him in new
expensive tomb which had been carved out of solid
rock. The tomb was closed with a heavy stone at the
mouth which ran in a groove and finished right over
the opening (Matt. 27:60). Alfred Plummer says,
"Thus Jesus by being lifted up is already drawing
men unto Him. These Jewish aristocrats first confess
Him in the hour of His deepest degradation" (John
12:32-33). Godet said, "No doubt, on seeing the Lord
suspended on the cross, Nicodemus recalls to mind
the type of the brazen serpent which Jesus had set
before him at first (John 3:14-15; 19:39).
These two secret disciples come boldly out of
seclusion and assert their faith in Christ. "Joseph
of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the
Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of
God; and he gathered up courage and went in before
Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus" (Mark
The disciple John gives
us the details. "After these things Joseph of
Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret
one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might
take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted
permission. So he came and took away His body.
Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also
came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a
hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of
Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the
spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in
the place where He was crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet
been laid. Therefore because of the Jewish day of
preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid
Jesus there" (John 19:38-42).
customs in Jesus' day
Joseph and Nicodemus
followed the Jewish custom of burying their dead.
Hendriksen suggests that Joseph and Nicodemus must
have agreed together beforehand and met for the
burial of Jesus being thoroughly prepared with the
quantity of spices for burial. John emphasizes that
no one had ever yet been laid in this new tomb.
While Joseph requested the body from Pilate,
Nicodemus "came bringing a mixture of myrrh and
aloes, about a hundred pounds weight" (John 19:39).
The "hundred pounds" referred to here is the Roman
pound, equal to about eleven and a half ounces o
seventy pounds in our measurement. They took the
body of Jesus down from the cross and brought it to
the new tomb. They probably carried the body of
Jesus on a stretcher or brier which was common to
transport a body to a tomb.
The "myrrh" was a
fragrant resin exuded by a tree that grows in Arabia
and is prized for its perfume. The "aloes" are a
strongly aromatic, quick-drying sap derived from the
sap of a tree. The "spices" here are substances used
for embalming, and are fragrant and bitter, and when
used with myrrh it acts as a drying agent. The
fragrance of these spices would counteract the
unpleasant odor and slow down the decaying flesh.
The lavish amount of spices shows that Nicodemus
must have been a man of some wealth since the spices
were generally imported and were very expensive.
With such an amount Nicodemus wished to cover the
body completely with e fragrance. There is evidence
that such large quantities were used in royal
At the tomb Joseph and
Nicodemus laid the body of Jesus on a slab and
"bound it in linen cloths with the spices" in the
manner of the Jews of Jesus' day (John 19:40). They
probably tore the large linen sheet they had wrapped
the body in at the cross into strips or "bandages."
As they wound the linen "bandages" round His body,
they sprinkled the powdered spices into the folds. A
separate cloth was used to wrap around His head as
was done in the case of Lazarus (John 11:44). The
"linen cloths" (othonion) is variously
translated "linen bandages," "linen wrappings,"
"strips of linen cloths." These were long
bandage-like strips rather than a shroud. It is
generally agreed that the term denotes thin strips
or bandages. The "spices" probably means aromatic
oils or salves and was a mixture made by blending
the myrrh and aloes into a vegetable oil base, and
so creating fragrant oil. This mixture of spices was
sprinkled between the wrappings of linen cloth
folds. "As the bands of linen were passed around the
limbs and around the body again and again, the
powdered mixture of myrrh and aloes was strewn in
with generous hand," writes Lenski. Nicodemus and
Joseph bandaged the body in linen cloths, and
covered it with the mixture. Merrill Tenney says,
"The spices, being of somewhat gummy character, may
have been laid in the folds of the cloth to provide
a rigid casing for the body, or they may have been
ground and mixed with oils to form an ointment to
rub on the body." Raymond Brown suggests "it was
customary for the Jews to use oil, so that a third
element in burial preparation may be being
This how the Jewish
people habitually prepared a body in order to put in
a tomb during the days of Jesus. They did not embalm
like the Egyptians. The Jews simply washed the body,
anointed it with oil, and wrapped it with the linen
strips filled with spices. Only the head was left
free in order to be covered with a special cloth
after the body was in the tomb. The face was wrapped
in separate cloths.
Jesus' burial in the rich
man's tomb was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. "His
grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with
a rich man in His death, Because He had done no
violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth"
The Women Watching
by the Tomb of Jesus
Mary Magdalene and Mary
the mother of Joses saw where Jesus was buried. They
were sitting over against the sepulcher (Mark 15:47;
Matt. 27:61-66). These women maintained their watch
that afternoon, and then went home to rest on the
Sabbath which began around 6 pm. Since the tomb of
Josephus was a rich man's tomb it had an elaborate
circular disc-shaped flat stone door, about a yard
in diameter, like a millstone, which was fitted in a
wide slot cut into the rock. The stone was rolled
over the rectangular entrance to keen out intruders.
Since the stone sloped toward the doorway, it could
be easily rolled into place. However to open the
tomb by sliding the stone aside would require the
strength of several men.
"Now the women who had
come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the
tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned
and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath
they rested according to the commandment" (Luke
23:55-56). While it was still dark some women
leave where they were staying in Jerusalem "bringing
the spices they had prepared" (Luke 24:1). They came
so that they might anoint the corpse (Mark 16:1).
The body of Jesus lay in the stillness of the tomb
on Sabbath. The apostle John tells us Mary Magdalene
arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning and found
the tomb already opened.
Roman soldiers with the Roman seal on the tomb of
It is interesting that on
the Sabbath the Pharisees and chief priests became
preoccupied about what they had done. No doubt they
had seen and listened to the events about the cross
and how Jesus died.
"Now on the next day, the
day after the preparation, the chief priests and the
Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said,
'Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that
deceiver said, "After three days I am to rise
again." Therefore, give orders for the grave to be
made secure until the third day, otherwise His
disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the
people, "He has risen from the dead," and the last
deception will be worse than the first.' Pilate said
to them, 'You have a guard; go, make it as secure as
you know how.' And they went and made the grave
secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on
the stone" (Matthew 27:62-66).
The Pharisees evidently
took the Roman soldiers, sealed the sepulcher and
left the soldiers to guard it. A cord with it sends
fastened by clay or wax seals to the stone and the
rock, served as the "seal." It would be detected if
it were tampered with. The unbroken seal would
testify to the guards stationed there that no one
had entered it.
Alfred Plummer observes
that the Pharisees "increased the number of those
who could bear witness to the Resurrection." When
the bribery of the soldiers became known, "it is
more probable that it became known through some of
the soldiers than through any of the Sanhedrin. A
soldier who would confess that he had been bribed
would probably tell what he knew respecting the
circumstances of the Resurrection. But some of the
priests who were converted after Pentecost (Acts
6:7) may have known and disclosed the truth about
this transaction" (Matthew, p. 411).
The Jewish leaders were
not content for a Temple guard of the high priest.
They wanted Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. "You
have a guard" implies Pilate provided the guards
fulfilling their request.
Abiding Principles and
1. The evidence is clear;
Jesus Christ died.
There were many
eyewitnesses to His death including Roman
professional executioners, the crowd of Jewish
people from Jerusalem, the Roman governor Pilate,
men who buried Jesus, women at the cross and the
tomb, the eyewitness and historian John, etc. .
2. God so loved the world
that He sent His own Son to die for our sins.
"For while we were still
helpless, at the right time Christ died for the
ungodly. . . But God demonstrates His own love
toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ
died for us" (Romans 5:8). Everything that God
requires for a sinner to have a right relationship
with Him has been accomplished in the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. Believe on Jesus
Christ and you shall be saved today.
"If you confess with your
mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for
with the heart a person believes, resulting in
righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses,
resulting in salvation. . . . for 'Whoever will call
on the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Romans
10:9- 10, 13).