Last week, I shared why I believe God chose the cross. The week before that I shared why I think Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, just a few weeks before his own death. So this week I would ask why did Jesus have to be buried in this tomb, in this way.
First, let’s consider what kind of burial most crucified people received. There is a mass burial site right outside Jerusalem at the base of Golgatha. Most criminals and insurrectionists were simply thrown into this mass grave when they were removed by the Romans from the cross.
In a rare twist, Jesus’ followers ask for and receive his body. Now he was not a criminal meaning he must have been an insurrectionist. If Pilate had truly believed this, he would have arrested Jesus’ followers as insurrectionists as well. The tomb alone shows that the accounts of Pilate’s feelings toward Jesus are accurate.
Second, by having a special tomb, the place where Jesus was laid was well marked. Tombs hold the bodies of rich men, not carpenters, but by being buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, everyone knew where Jesus was. Some who might postulate later that the women went to the wrong tomb in their grief, have lost sight of the fact that any Jewish or Roman leader could have easily refuted the claims of the resurrection by pointing to a well-marked tomb and showing Jesus’ body.
Third, the tomb was a proof that Jesus was dead. Pilate was surprised by Jesus’ early death. His suffering was short compared to some crucifixion victims, but his own soldiers confirmed Jesus’ death by putting a spear in his side. Some who claim Jesus only swooned are being unreasonable.
Finally, the tomb was sealable. The biblical accounts tell us that Pilate sealed the tomb of Jesus and put a guard on it at the request of the Jewish Council. The Jewish leaders understood Jesus claim of resurrection before he rose, and they wanted to make sure no one pulled a fast one.
Interesting isn’t it, that after his resurrection they turn to the very story they had set up to not come true as the lie they tell. They claim the disciples stole the body, in spite of the seal and the Roman soldiers who outnumbered the fishermen and tax collectors from Galilee.
There is a scene in the movie Remember the Titans, when the referees are calling an unfair game against the Titans due to obvious prejudice. The defensive coach starts get very angry and yells at the refs. The refs give him a warning to stop, so he calls his defense together and tells them, “I don’t want them to gain another yard, do you hear me not another yard!” Then he looks at his team and yells, “Leave no doubt!”
Why did God choose this tomb in which Jesus would be buried? He chose it to leave no doubt. You may choose not to accept Jesus as Lord. You may choose to reject the obvious reality of his resurrection, but the cross and the tomb, leave no reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, is the Lord of all.
Dow Tippett is Associate Pastor with Faith Family Church.