40.As the custom of the Jews is to bury. When Christ had endured extreme ignominy on the cross, God determined that his burial should be honourable, that it might serve as a preparation for the glory of his resurrection. The money expended on it by Nicodemus and Joseph is very great, and may be thought by some to be superfluous; but we ought to consider the design of God, who even led them, by his Spirit, to render this honor to his own Son, that, by the sweet savor of his grave he might take away our dread of the cross. But those things which are cut of the ordinary course ought not to be regarded as an example.
Besides, the Evangelist expressly states that he was buried according to the custom of the Jews. By these words he informs us that this was one of the ceremonies of the Law; for the ancient people, who did not receive so clear a statement of the resurrection, and who had not such a demonstration and pledge of it as we have in Christ, needed such aids to support them, that they might firmly believe and expect the coming of the Mediator (190) We ought, therefore, to attend to the distinction between us, who have been enlightened by the brightness of the Gospel, and the rather, to whom the figures supplied the absence of Christ. This is the reason why allowance could then be made for a greater pomp of ceremonies, which, at the present day, would not be free from blame; for those who now bury the dead at so great an expense do not, strictly speaking, bury dead men, but rather, as far as lies in their power, draw down from heaven Christ himself, the King of life, and lay him in the tomb, for his glorious resurrection (191) abolished those ancient ceremonies.
Among the heathen, too, there was great anxiety and ceremony in burying the dead, which unquestionably derived its origin from the ancient Fathers of the Jews, (192) in the same manner as sacrifices; but, as no hope of the resurrection existed along them, they were not imitators of the Fathers, but apes of them; for the promise and word of God is, as it were, the soul, which gives life to ceremonies. Take away the word, and all the ceremonies which men observe, though outwardly they may resemble the worship of godly persons, is nothing else than foolish or mad superstition. For our part, as we have said, we ought now to maintain sobriety and moderation in this matter, for immoderate expense quenches the sweet savour of Christ’ resurrection.
(190) “Lt, venue du Messias;” — “ coming of the Messiah.”