Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 25. Chapter 25: Christ Buried

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 25. Chapter 25: Christ Buried

TOPIC: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25. Chapter 25: Christ Buried

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C H A P T E R T W E N T Y - F I V E

Christ Buried

The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day), be- sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and the record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.


NOW we come to the last stage in the state of Christ’ humiliation. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.

Now the episode which is related in Joh_19:31-37, first of all, belongs to the introduction of this burial.

We are told that the Jews, that is, the leaders of the Jews, had asked Pilate to take account of the fact that according to the Jewish law it was not legitimate to leave the body of a crucified person hanging upon the cross and exposed naked on the sabbath day. We cannot ascertain definitely from the Greek text whether the Jews had asked Pilate about this beforehand, or whether they by means of a deputation had presented this request to Pilate at the last moment. In any case their meaning is plain. The law included this prescription: “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord Thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” Now this restriction served more or less to put the Jewish authorities in conflict with Roman custom. Among the Romans it was the custom to let the body hang on the cross until it underwent disintegration of its own accord. To this, however, the Jews were opposed. To them a person hanged on the tree was an “abomination,” to them a corpse was a piece of filth, a repulsive thing. A corpse might not even be allowed to hang on the tree overnight, to say nothing of a Sabbath — a whole day, a feast day. For this reason they expressly asked Pilate to make a stipulation which will permit them to circumvent this difficulty. Especially so, inasmuch as the Sabbath to follow was a feast day, was to be a Passover-Sabbath.

The Jews feel free to present their request. They ask Pilate to apply the so-called crurifragium. This in a few exceptional cases was the method applied in order to put someone to death quickly or in order to punish him very brutally. By means of heavy instruments the bones of the victims were then broken, probably by means of heavy hammers. Sometimes this crurifragium was applied after a crucifixion in order to put a sudden end to the suffering. At other times it served as the sole and direct means of punishment itself. The crurifragium did not always follow the crucifixion. In connection with this some suppose that the Jews by asking that this particular action be applied to the Saviour were intentionally asking the government to inflict every imaginable form of penalty upon the Nazarene. But we may not infer more than is warranted. Even though an evil passion was at work here, we know that it really was of importance to them that the crucified person should be buried before sunset even though this desire was prompted by nothing more than the outer forms of religion and the fear of a people whose temper could never be accurately guessed. The quicker everything was done the better. Now if it were historically accurate that in those days two official methods were employed for the purpose they have in mind, namely, the crurifragium, or the thrust of a lance or spear, we should indeed in brutality. But that historical accuracy is not ours in this respect, have to interpret their request for the former as a special delight Pilate is willing to grant the request. The servants who are to carry out the brutality are quickly named. The two murderers still manifest some signs of life, and it does not take long before these are put to death by means of the brutality inflicted upon them. But when they approach Jesus, they immediately see that He has already died. In His case the brutal instrument was no longer necessary. However, they had to have official evidence to show that He actually was dead; after all, it was just possible that a breath of life still stirred in Him. Hence, in order to put an end to all uncertainty, one of the soldiers takes a spear, and thrusts it into Jesus’ side.

John tells us that immediately blood and water flowed out of the wound.

A great deal has been written about this particular. Without being prompted to it by any exegetical necessity men have deduced from the text that the blood and water flowed from the wound successively, not simultaneously. And having established that, men spun out their favorite allegories and analogies. In any case they wanted to see the incident recognized as a miracle; it certainly would not do to explain the flowing of the blood and water in an “ordinary way.” Why not, you wonder? Well, then the allegory would be impossible — the allegory, you understand that old game of masquerading in which an essential ignorance of the ideas of God contained in the redemptive events might camouflage itself. According to this allegorical interpretation the water designated baptism (water purifies), and the blood designated The Lord’s Supper (blood atones); and, going on in this way, men concluded that “just as Eve had been formed from the side of the sleeping Adam, so from the side of Christ in His sleep of death the bride of the church was formed, that bride whose existence, strength, and significance is derived from the grace earned by the suffering of Christ on the cross, and from the ministration of the sacraments.”[1] To this exegetical misunderstanding[2] we must add another according to which the coming of Christ “by blood and water” is taken to be a reference to the effects of this lance-thrust.

[1] P. G. Groenen, op. cit., p. 545; Zahn, Komm. op Joh., 1912, p. 663.

[2] A misunderstanding, for the coming “by water” represents baptism, and the coming “by blood” represents the suffering on the cross. “The article” (in what follows of the text) “is a reference to the water of the Jordan, in which the Lord was baptized, and to the blood which He shed. It is possible that in this connection we should also refer to Joh_19:34, but in general the Lord’s baptism and His suffering on the cross and His death are indicated by these passages.” Dr. S. Greijdanus De Brieven Van de Apostelen Petrus en Johannes en de Brief Van Judas, Amsterdam, 1929, p. 515 f.

As we see it, however, this is not the direction we ought to take. True it is, of course, that John puts a special emphasis upon the flowing of the blood and water. He tells us that he himself saw it[3] and that his testimony is true, and that he is emphatically stating this in order that his readers might believe. However we can ascribe the intentional emphasis[4] on the truth of the report to the fact that John, to the greatest possible extent that he can, wants to assure his readers, overagainst the heresies arising in his day, that Jesus Christ really died, that His death was not an apparent death.

[3] This is the interpretation of most of the commentators. According to this, John remained with Mary until the end, or if the “from that hour” (Joh_19:27). must be taken to mean that he left Golgotha immediately after the third utterance from the cross—by no means a necessary interpretation—he could have returned.

[4] According to Th. Zahn, Inleiding tot het N.T. tr. by Hugenholz, Utrecht, volume 2, p. 550, the flowing out of the water and blood is a by product.

Precisely for this reason the flowing of the blood and water cannot be called a miracle. If it had been something unusual, it could not have served as proof of the genuineness of Jesus’ death. We know that the word “water,” means a watery substance,[5] and medical men tell us that the flowing out of a fluid which is at once bloody and watery is not at all unusual if the spleen has been lacerated, and the body has not been violently shaken. The first of these conditions is likely in this case, the last one certain. For the rest then, the question how to explain the issue of blood and water is a purely medical and scientific question, with which we need not be concerned.[6] John wants to point out the fact that because ofthe thrust of the lance we can be sure that life has completely ebbed from the body.

[5] Zahn, Komm. Evangelie Johannes, 1912, p. 664.

[6] Various attitudes towards the possibilities which may be considered here can be observed in Groenen, op. cit., p. 542.

This was to serve the world and the church as legitimate proof of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth had really died. Moses had been vindicated because everything had been done before the Sabbath, and Caesar had also been vindicated because the actual death could be recorded in the registers. Now every heart could be at rest.

But God supervised the course of prophecy. He kept the highways open for the prophetic spirit. An old prophecy was being fulfilled; and a literal fulfillment of another was being made possible.

John tells us that an old prophecy is being fulfilled; namely, that of the Old Testament according to which not a bone of . . . yes, of whom? . . . should be broken. There are two possibilities. According to Exo_12:46 the lamb of the Passover had to be whole and unblemished, and not a bone of it should be broken. Integrity was a condition of the sacrifice (see Num_9:12). Now some think that John saw in the fact that Christ was spared the crurifragium the evidence to prove that God wants to point Him out as the true lamb of the Passover. Personally, we believe that the reference is not to this text, but to Psalms 34. In Psalms 34 we read:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous:

But the Lord delivered him out of them all.

He keepeth all his bones:

Not one of them is broken.[1]

[1] We choose this interpretation for various reasons. The words of John correspond more exactly to the text of Psalms 34 in the Septuagint than with those of Exodus 12, or of Numbers 9. Besides, Exodus 16 treats of what the people must do by way of preparing the lamb of the Passover. But John is here talking about that which accrues to Jesus by means of the providence of God; there is no reference to the act of the people; in fact, the passage is emphatically in conflict with the intention and the expectation of the people. Moreover, the refusal to break the bones of the lamb of the Passover had to render it appropriate for the sacrifice; was a condition of its acceptability as an offering; but this is fully informed by the thought that Christ has already been sacrificed, that the worth of the sacrifice inheres in himself, in His wholeness and sinlessness. Now some take it as an objection to our interpretation that Psalms 34 speaks of the living favorites of God, those for whom God’s providence is ever alert, so that without His will not one of their bones shall be broken, nor a single hair disturbed. But this condition supports our view of the matter. God’s providence (the one element) demands our attention here (the result is different from the one we should fear) and the fact that Christ had died does not prevent Providence from giving the same anxious care to Him that it gives to God’s living servants. We have observed already, for instance, that the seventh utterance from the cross was a statement of life. The whole stress of John’s text points in our direction (the contrast, the conflict between the righteous and the unrighteous and God’s decision in the matter) rather than in the direction of symbolism or allegory. The offer had been finished. And the fact that the bones were not broken, although it does document the reality of death, does not prove the genuineness of the sacrifice. The integrity of the lamb in the final analysis corresponds to Christ’s sinlessness.

In this psalm, in other words, the contrast is ushered in between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous shares in God’s special favor. He enjoys the providentia specialissima, and therefore he is spared such brutality as would make him the puppet of an insane violence which could not possibly make sense. Not a bone of him shall be broken; accident, arbitrary brutality, is not to make a puppet of him.

In this sense the psalm was fulfilled by the Saviour. In the first place, He is the great Righteous One. “The righteous,” that favorite type of the psalms, has its realest essence, its antitype, its reality, its justification in God’s one great Righteous Man, Jesus Christ. Fulfillment! — and to go on: for Christ is no longer an exlex. He is in the justification (“the Righteous One”). God has again accepted the exlex (see page 431, 460). And hence nothing more may accrue to Him now than is strictly necessary. In this the logic of Psalms 34 finds its unsought acknowledgment. Just as Christ in His burial is spared every manifestation of shame which would have no significance for the Suretyship, and just as He, therefore, is not cast among the bandits in a general grave, but in “a grave” as the Son of man (see page 559), so no other form of affliction is placed upon Him here save that which God regards as absolutely necessary for Him. The dying has been enough. According to His body, also, Jesus walked under the protection of special providence. After His resurrection, too, that body — and in this we already touch upon the quotation from the Old Testament — should by a special act of God’s power have to retain the stigmata of His wounds. And if our theme now were the event of the Passover, we should have to say much about that. Now, however, we let the matter rest. It suffices us to notice that a special providence of God is anxiously watchful of the body of Christ. And hence God also prevented the bones of His Righteous One from being broken. His body had a future; it had a purpose, even in its wounds, in its stigmata,

for the church of the Passover. God spared the holy lamb of the sacrifice arbitrariness and accident, all meaningless suffering, all alogical humiliation.

In this way a new prophetic fulfillment in a literal sense was made possible. The text tells us that the thrust of the lance by the soldier was also an act of the special providence of God. It made possible a literal fulfillment of the prophecy of Zec_12:10. In this prophecy God presents Himself[1] as the gentle King of Israel, who has however been pierced in the heart as the Good Shepherd, who has been put to death and denied by His own sheep. They took the life of the servant of God, and impaled His messenger. The shepherd-king, who was pierced by the sword of Israel represents of course an anthropomorphic picture, but it was given the possibility of literal fulfillment in the incarnation of the Word, that most perfect of anthropomorphic expressions of God. Now the hatred of those in Israel who rejected God and the Good Shepherd — who was so humanly depicted in Zechariah — is given its bitterest expression in the lance thrust of the soldiers. This thrust of the lance is the last act of the murder of Christ, the last profanation of God’s Good Shepherd. There was not a person who saw that this was the relationship of things, but John tells us that sometime men will understand them. The Lord announces even by means of Zechariah that men shall see Him whom they have pierced. The world shall see that, but especially the Church, after it by means of the Spirit has learned to bewail its sins. For a “remnant” who lament their evil works will arise out of the unfaithful covenant relationship (it is that which has really wounded the Shepherd). Thus prophecy becomes literally fulfilled in Christ. In Pentecost first, for there Israel’s “remnant” will be gathered, then on the last day, counter-day to Pentecost.

[1] The text revision of Zec_12:10 need not be discussed here; it makes no difference to the discussion.

Thus we can say that the evangelical comfort merged with a sinister threat. Not a bone will be broken . . . that is the comfort. Golgotha is surcharged with God’s redeeming providence. But they shall see what was done here — that is the threat. There is no escape from this place save by lamenting their own sin. In the fact that Christ after His resurrection still bears the tokens of the wounds in His body (think of Thomas) we cannot see the natural result of Jesus’ being wounded (for the body of the resurrection has its own law of existence), but an effect of Jesus’ will. God wanted this preservation of the stigmata — of the wounds — in Christ’s body. They represented an intentional prolongation of the signs of the hatred of sin against God and against His Anointed. They were a confirmation of the terrible occurrence which took place at noon of the Day of the Lord, preserved in order that everyone might see the sin, that unbelief had thus pierced His heart. In my hour of the “jom Jahwe” I pierced the heart of God. Thus both enemy and friend must presently acknowledge Christ as the Good Shepherd who was put to death, yes, and sold for thirty pieces of silver, but who nevertheless is the Priest-King of Prophecy, and the perfectly Righteous One. He it is who in all His afflictions was spared the brutality which is accidental and arbitrary. History is being made here. The last act of the murderers of Christ is accentuated by the Spirit which prompts John to write, and is beset on every side with prophecies. To what end? In order that the last act by means of which the confusion of Golgotha is concluded might indeed be the culmination of the eschatological events of this day. The spikes and the hammers and the lance are all instruments of judgment, and all these instruments are driven by an electric current which is generated by the activity of all worlds and all times.

Yes, this is a world-disturbing hour. Prophecy is being fulfilled. The prophetic Spirit filled nails and hammers and lances with the energy of the day of days. And with their eyes fixed on that, a small group of dazed, orphaned, and blinded children crept towards Him whom they had loved, “to pay Him their last respects.” That is the way it is often put, and that is exactly the way it was meant here. To pay respect — the last respect. The friends came together in God’s name for the burial.

The scene was opened by a certain Joseph of Arimathea. It was a certain Joseph, for the Gospel is not a novel. The story of Christ is not a family tale. Hence there are no such things as fictive characters here. It is a part of the Gospel that figures held in reserve all of a sudden make their appearance. When this happens, people say: Well, a certain Joseph, a new actor in the drama. God says: I reserved him a long time for this hour; and the subordinate actors must remain in the dark a long time, for Christ alone is the dramatis persona. This burial is not a family matter, but a church matter. A certain Joseph, but be careful; this is not the last chapter of a novel. Hence the character of this certain Joseph does not affect the issue. Christ is at the center of the stage. He is buried in the cemetery of the church, and hence the family does not take the leading part in it. Woman, see thy Son.

A certain Joseph, then. This unknown friend went to Pilate before the sun’s setting in order to get permission to bury Jesus. Very likely he applied to Pilate immediately, or at least very soon, after the Saviour had died. For we read that Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus had died already. Hence the official request of the Jews to the effect that the victims be hurried to death by means of the crurifragium had not yet been entered, or had been so recently granted that Pilate could not yet expect that it had been carried out. Or, if the request for the crurifragium had already been entered, we can be sure that the report had not yet come in.

A certain Joseph of Arimathea. He was eminent; accordingly, a member of the Sanhedrin. He had had a grave hollowed out for himself in the vicinity of the city; this grave he is willing to give for the accursed Nazarene. And Pilate, glad, very likely, that he can help choose a grave for the man for whom he does not wish every last evil thing, and glad that he can annoy the Jews by means of one of them, grants the request Moreover, it was often the custom to allow the family or acquaintances of a condemned person to have the body for burial.

Thereupon the small group, the remnant of Abraham, performed their sad duty. It did not take long, for everything had to be done before the Sabbath. Moses had to be satisfied, everything was done in a preliminary fashion. After the Sabbath day they could finish the work which was now done in haste. Thus the body of the second Adam was laid in a human grave on Friday night.

Undoubtedly this burial represented humiliation, and as such was a part of the work of the Messianic Suretyship.[1] Christ also assumed the humiliation of the grave. By this, we do not mean to say that the grave is an essential part of the penalty for sin.[2] But in that day the humiliation of the grave was a part of the shame of death, and of the preaching of death. The withdrawal of the body from this world, a withdrawal which because of sin has assumed the form of devastation,[3] has its confirmation in the grave. The grave is an amen which the human being knows he must utter when death comes. The grave is a concealment; it takes away the unclean, the filthy; it is a public confession of the repulsiveness of what once in the creation of God was an adornment to us. And since the Mediator had been appointed to suffer humiliation publicly, the grave must necessarily be a part of this complex of shame and disgrace. We pointed out at several times that the crucifixion is called an exaltation, inasmuch as it indicates the public character of Christ’s death.[4] In a similar sense, the burial may be regarded as an exaltation of the Christ. It is a public demonstration[5] of the fact that the Son of man is dead, is really dead. That which the thrust of the lance ascertained as a fact, the burial colored and characterized, and thus made public.

[1] The reader will have noticed that chapters 22-25 dealing with matters which happened after the death of Christ have been treated much more briefly than those which went before. This is in harmony with the purpose of the book which wishes to put the emphasis upon the suffering and must therefore regard everything which comes after the death as a kind of appendix. Partly for this reason we are touching on the significance of the burial but briefly. Questions related to it, which dogmatics must necessarily consider, are not even touched upon. We are saying nothing about the connection between the burial and “the descent into hell.” That which was said about “the descent into hell” in the foregoing chapters, or really throughout this volume, was in accordance with the familiar interpretation of the Heidelberg catechism, willingly took over the phrase which had gained a tradition, in order to qualify the content of the Christian confession as given above by means of it, inasmuch as the term lent itself appropriately to that. But this view as outlined in the book, as well as this point, is not one subject to a strictly historical inquiry. We did not, for instance, touch upon what was originally meant by the designation “descent into hell.”

[2] We refer to chapter 21.

[3] Christ on Trial, chapter 17, pp. 297-300, this volume, chapter 4: p. 81, chapter 21: 498.

[4] More, therefore, than a notarized evidence of death.

[5] We must distinguish this, both in the case of Christ and in our own case, from the grave, from the disruption; and that, in turn, is to be distinguished from the “departure” of 2Ti_4:6.

Not that the burial is completely exhausted in meaning when we say that it proves the death of Christ. This new shame, this burial of what the earth can no longer bear, of what makes life harmful, joy impossible, and taste disgusting is a separate disgrace and it was that for Christ. It was a penalty which came to Him because of our sin; because of sin the transfiguration of man from glory to glory which had once been promised had been denied Him. Devastation took the place of transfiguration. And the grave punctuated the destruction. Yes, the grave was a penalty for Christ. It is a part of His humiliation. What holds true of Jesus’ departure from the world holds true also of His grave; it must not be taken as carrying a penalty in itself, it must be placed in the entire context, and then it immediately takes on a significance and content of its own. Out of that context it may never be lifted.

We know that it is not only the being buried which constituted Christ’s humiliation at this time. He is also being humiliated as effective Mediator. His own funeral-guests did not understand Him. There was none there to give a funeral oration. Every funeral is a beginning of that process by which our glamour fades, the impression which we have made upon others wanes, and our personality loses its power of self-explanation and self-revelation. We become a name, we are given the exegesis of others. We become a figure, a symbol. The burial begins with this inevitable relinquishment; it is a stripping of our power overagainst the world, a confirmation of our having departed out of time, or having lost our hold on time. Now this is more grievous in the case of Christ’s burial so long at least as we look upon that burial from the outside, as indeed we should. For that is the way God is manifesting Him. Yes, they loved Him. Those who bury Jesus, the man who reached the age of thirty-three, love Him very much. But do they know Him? Do they know Jesus Christ the King-Priest of all ages? Have they the right exposition? Ah no, they do not understand Him as He wants to be understood. Their unbelief, their “little faith,” their ignorance cannot grieve Him any more, but it can humiliate Him. And it did humiliate Him greatly. They buried Him not in the last analysis as the Son of man, but as a noble son of man. He was a man among men. His burial was an acknowledgment of His death, a confirmation of His death after the usual manner of the day. Their burying Him was not a linking of His death with the whole history of the Messianic redemption. By burying Him they simply linked His dying with the concatenation of everyday events. Never had Christ been so concealed as now, never had divinity receded so far as now, never had He become so completely unknown to the sons of His mother as now. The discrepancy between the majesty of God and the body of the man Jesus was never as great as now. This was all a part of His humiliation, but those who buried Him did not understand that. His paean of praise about the stone which should be made the “head of the corner” was a song they could not understand. Had they understood it, they either would not have buried Him, or they would have buried Him differently. This is a pathetic spectacle. The Jews, the enemies, are much perturbed about a possible resurrection. They even raise the subject to Pilate, and reckon in terms of it when they ask Pilate to appoint a guard. But Jesus’ own disciples did not think about that. There is room here for a chapter on “Christ’s burial and His forgotten chapter.” That forgotten chapter is the priesthood.[1] And those who are forgetting it at the moment are His own. Those who are busy here are the remnant of Israel, the temple of the living God, and all the prophets have said beautiful things about it. This remnant was the great comfort of the prophets. But . . . what is this remnant worth without Him? Is that all He left behind in the world? Is this the whole of the seed of the woman? Terrible, is it not. And humiliation? Name one spiritual leader or one spiritual rebel, who was so poor as this in terms of people, of disciples, who understood. You cannot name one.

[1] Christ on Trial, chapter 23, p. 428 f.

Still, the fault lay not in the instruction they had received, but in the mutual fellowship they had with each other. Think of the fact that Nicodemus suddenly puts in his appearance, and fetches his expensive accessories for the burial when Joseph summons the faithful ones to perform the last act. Obviously they must have deliberated on the matter beforehand. They knew what was going to happen. Now they are here, the two Scribes, two friends of the Nazarene, two honest lovers. And with them the small congregation. But the burial is such as can be arranged for anyone on any day. A pitiable spectacle, yes. We read of Joseph that he looked for the coming of the kingdom of God, but that, in the final analysis, means no more than that he belonged to those who looked forward to the messianic redemption. The Baptist was the greatest among them, but in spite of it all he once anxiously asked himself whether this historical Jesus was the true Messiah or probably a forerunner. Perhaps the same question has troubled all those who are today busy placing the Saviour in the grave. Remember,

for instance, the confession of the two men on the way to Emmaus. And in the case of Joseph we have even more reason to suppose that this is true, inasmuch as he had not been instructed by Jesus Himself, but by one of the disciples. He had caught a faint glimpse of something and this was true of the whole group.

Indeed the burial of Christ, the embalming of His dead body, the arrangement for Sunday morning, all represented a total denial of the coming resurrection. Spiritually they have all forsaken Him. It may be that Nicodemus has heard weighty words in his nocturnal conversation with Jesus, weighty words coming from Jesus’ own mouth about the kingdom of heaven, and about the power of regeneration operative in it, but the great legal question as to the basis of the coming of that kingdom, and the grounds upon which the Spirit can bear fruits in it, remains an open question to him. That the death of Christ is of central significance for the “regeneration” of all things in the great legal program of God is a truth which is not clear to him.

But, someone may care to ask at this point, surely, the burial was an act of confession. Yes, it was that. But it was a confession of love rather than of faith. And it happens to be true of Christ that we cannot really love Him without a true faith, that “love” for “Jesus” without faith in “Jesus Christ” is not accepted as a good work by God. We do not deny that the seeds of regeneration have been sown here, but the fruits are still being kept from fruition because the “eyes of understanding” have not yet been “opened.” This, too, represents a humiliation for Christ. From a human point of view He has not yet achieved much. We must not exaggerate the confession of these friends. It was not such an extraordinary thing, this request which Joseph presented to Pilate for the body of Jesus. In making this request, he was not becoming a martyr. After all, Pilate himself has some “sympathy” for Jesus. This act on his part did not necessarily spell an open breach with the Sanhedrin. Sympathy for Jesus as a “philanthropist” was not yet a public protest against the counsel of the Jews. It may be that any number of members of the Sanhedrin this same evening exhausted themselves in giving expression to similar manifestations of sympathy. Besides, this Joseph doubtless has a great deal for which he must make amends. In the matter of the condemnation of Christ he did not agree with the Sanhedrin.

Nevertheless all the members of the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus. We must not forget that. We must conclude, therefore, that he was absent at the conclusive session. Surely, this was a kind of denial of Christ. Joseph is another Simon Peter. Can it be, then, that the zeal of this certain Joseph manifested here at the burial was a kind of compensatory reaction? Be that as it may, Joseph must make amends to the little congregation. He does his best. He even takes charge of the preparations. But people who first spoiled matters have been known to do that before. Not that we want to degrade Joseph: by no means. Our only purpose is to indicate how greatly the Saviour was humiliated. Humiliated also as a worker in the kingdom of the Spirit. Humiliation in spite of, no, because of, this expensive “distinctive” burial.

On the other hand, however, the burial of Christ represents the beginning of His glorification. Just as in the term “being lifted up on the cross” God Himself is “playing with words” and just as He by that one phrase expresses both the shame of Jesus Christ as well as His honor,[1] so a whole host of angels is here playing with Jesus’ crepe of mourning, even though that heavenly host remains hidden from the sight of men. The death shroud is humiliating, but the wind which blows it up descends from the heights of God.

[1] See Christ on Trial, chapter 15, p. 299 f.

The burial was “expensive,” was it not? Joseph was an eminent man; the grave had not yet been used; it was a grave designed for himself; the grave had been made according to prescription, and had not simply been appointed as a natural spot for burial. The grave had been prepared by means of intentional and well paid labor (it had been hewed out). It had cost a great deal of money. God did not care about that money, for it was God Himself who buried Jesus, assisted by the angels. God wanted to insist upon His rights to gold and wealth. Christ’s right to requisition had been denied; it had been basically taken away from Him. But hardly has He suffered what He had to suffer according to justice, before God again lays claim to the very best that can be obtained for the Son of man. Say nothing bad about these funeral-guests; they have done a good work, we can always bury the poor, but Him we can bury but once.

God makes His claims. No, he does not care for the luxurious linen which they are cutting to strips and wrapping around the limbs which they have first bathed. No, He does not care for the myrrh and aloes of Nicodemus, for these luxurious perfumes, imported from abroad, even though “appropriate” psalms can be sung about them. God wants justice done. God insists upon the justice which compels the Surety to endure no more than is necessary for the Great Payment.

That is why Christ was among the bandits, and why His lifeless physical remains were not among those of the bandits. He does not need to undergo the disgrace of a general grave into which the “class” of condemned is carelessly thrown. He does not belong to a “class.” He is the Son of man, the one, the general. God does let the general disgrace of “the” grave accrue to Him; but there is no special stigma in the disgrace. God shows us that the grave is but an intermediary state, and that heaven is busy preparing for the time when this “intermediary” condition will no longer be necessary (see page 500). Christ receives, He accepts, the new grave in which never yet man lay. We know that in old times an altar was placed on new stones, that holy things were set on a new vehicle, that beasts which had not yet been used were employed for holy work, and that holy salt was placed in a new container. No, God was not interested in making an aristocratic display. That word is inappropriate here, but God wants such an “exaltation” of Christ as points beforehand to the feast of the Passover. Heaven is in great haste, those who listen can already hear the sound of joy in the court. He who enters the grave here is none other than the Kurios, the Lord. On the one “Day of the Lord” the transitions from the one thing to the other can never be so sharply delineated that the first suggestions of the one are not traceable in the other. Just so the real glorification of the Saviour is already being realized. The Kurios is the Chief Claimant now. He is entering into Hades, to the extent that He is “among the dead,” but He is not gathered unto the fathers. This is true because of the great haste which characterized the bashful congregation. And it is also due to the fact that they did not know His forebears, and did not dare point to David as His Father. But this was due especially to the fact that God wanted to do so. He could not really be gathered unto His fathers. His congregation was too fearful. His death is but an intermediate condition. God is in great haste. The kingdom of David does not know Him. Why not? Well — He knows only the kingdom of David. And because He has borne the disgrace of father David, the disgrace of all the fathers, to the very end He does not need to enter their grave. His grave is not the grave of a given dynasty, but it is fresh and new and unused. As a matter of fact, it was not even hewn out for Him. This happened by accident; and yet it was an instance of the clearest possible prophecy of necessity. In his grave, too, He is a Prince after the order of Melchizedek. If only He enters “the” grave, the human grave, tout court, which makes Him share the disgrace of death together with all men as the Son of man, He may for the rest allow the luxury of what people call “aristocratic” to be selected for Him. This, in order that afterwards men may marvel that they appointed His grave with the wicked in His death, but He was nevertheless buried with the rich.[1]

[1] We shall not enter into the question here about whether Isa_53:9 is to be regarded as a prophecy which has its fulfillment now. The fact is that the New Testament does not refer to the text. Hence there is not in the New Testament a convincing explanation of this Old Testament statement. Accordingly we can freely open debate on the issue about whether the Hebrew parallelism in Isa_53:9 permits of a contrast such as is written in the masoretical text as it is usually interpreted, or whether the text is corrupt. Until this debate has ceased, we cannot decide.

We can say, then, that the line of Christ’s humiliation does indeed descend to the grave, but that it there effects the strength which will exalt Him again. He was buried by people who did not understand Him. But the seeds of the Spirit had nevertheless been planted in these hearts. That which blossoms over His grave was the flower of the Old Testament. Can it be that Joseph of Arimathea kneeled next to Peter, can it be that he had to bury Jesus, because he had to go outside and weep bitterly? If so, his self-accusation has in it the essence of repentance. In this way all were converted by Him; just so the old man in them was buried with Him. And he who is buried with Him has already been glorified with Him, arisen with Him, and been placed in heaven. I asked you a moment ago to name one sage of the world who had been understood so badly as He. You will find none, I said. Name one of the world’s sages, who, having been buried, buried all his own with him, and raised these from the dead. You cannot name one. In Jerusalem they were eating the lamb of the Passover. They thought of Egypt, and they thought of Rome, but no one had seen Satan at the feast. It is not possible to see Satan among a crowd of seething human beings, unless a person has seen the Word of God made flesh. Thus he who bruised the heel of the Son remained hidden, because the Son was hidden. But the day will come in which Satan shall be released, because the Son is preparing for the last Parousia. And every eye shall see Him, also the eye of those who pierced Him; and every spirit shall know Him, also the spirit of those who reviled Him by their words in His glory, but who mourned for Him through the Spirit of grace and of prayers after they had loved Him. He will not reject them because of their dazed and groping search for words, and He will teach them all His secrets with His own gentle voice. But the mysteries of His altar He will announce at the joy of the mysteries of the table, for the altar of atonement will have become the table of communion. After every conversation He will say: This was spoken by Jesus Christ, but it was really God who spoke it.

O God, Thou didst never yet weep, and Thou didst not weep then. Thou shalt call Him blessed, Lord, who is not offended by such a God. At least He can endure having angels as His brothers. For they grow used to God, who daily storms in His rage, and laughs. And they were much amazed by the incarnate Word, who came to paradise on Good Friday. God Himself had become oppressed, perturbed, and moved to tears in that incarnate Word, and He had worked by faith and not by sight. But God the Lord had not changed. In Him there is no change, nor shadow of turning. So the angels testified with fear and trembling. Blessed is he who sees the right relationships at the right place, for he will not be offended by such an immutable God. And the right place is here, on Golgotha — on Golgotha, near the carefully guarded tomb.

The End.