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The Borrowed Tomb

Tom Pennington Mark 15:42-47


Jesus Christ was crucified and was buried just outside the western walls of the city of Jerusalem. Perhaps you're not aware, but the site was actually an ancient quarry dating to the seventh century B.C. After all of the usable stone from the site had been quarried, there was a small, artificial hill that was left. Archeologists tell us that that artificial hill was about 40 feet high. In the first century, that area had been converted into a garden, just outside the western gate. And the soft sides of that limestone hill had become a favorite place for the wealthy to carve out graves for themselves and their families. After Jesus' resurrection from this very spot, the site became a place that Christians visited and began to visit increasingly as the gospel spread through the Roman empire. And so, in 135 A.D. the Roman emperor Hadrian, in order to squash out all memory of Christ and Christianity, built a pagan temple on the site in order to desecrate it. Hadrian's temple stood in Jerusalem until the early 300's when Helena, Constantine's mother, had it destroyed. And she built on the very same site, a church to commemorate the place of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Helena's church would eventually be destroyed by the Persians and then rebuilt in the very same place at the time of the crusades. Today, the church that stands there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And it is almost certainly the site where Jesus was crucified, where he was buried, and where he rose again from the dead on the third day. It's hard to get a picture of what it was like at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but there's another first-century grave nearby called Gordon's Calvary. It's not the actual place, but it certainly, if you visit there, gives you a sense of what Jesus' tomb and the area around what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre would've looked like in the first century.

Now, I tell you all of that to make this point: The tomb of Jesus of Nazareth still exists. But He is the only person in history to borrow a tomb, and to use it for three days. And ever since, it has been empty. When we think about the essential elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we rightly focus on two of them. And that is His death and His resurrection. And both of them are essential to Jesus' message and to the gospel. But it's interesting that in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul adds a third element to the gospel message. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

It's interesting to note that all four of the gospels do not include the birth narrative of Jesus Christ. But all four record Jesus' burial in a borrowed tomb. Why is that? I want us to consider that this morning, and I want us to do so by looking at Mark's record. Turn with me to Mark 15:42-47. Let me read it for us. You follow along.

When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 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. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.

The point of this text is pretty straightforward. And that is that Jesus' burial in a borrowed tomb is absolutely essential to the Christian gospel. And as this historical record unfolds, we learn why that is. In fact, I want us to see, as we walk through this text this morning, five essential pieces of evidence that explain why Jesus' burial is in fact essential to the gospel that Christians believe. Let's look at these pieces of evidence together.

The first piece of evidence that Mark presents here, is the influential man behind Jesus' burial. Verse 42, "When evening had already come". He sets the time of day for this event based on the Hebrew of Exodus 12:6, which literally reads, "between the two evenings", talking about the Passover. The Jews believed there were in fact two evenings. The first of those was from the time of the afternoon sacrifice at 3 P.M. until sunset. And the second evening they said was from sunset until dark, or what we would call twilight. These events unfolded between Jesus' death at 3:00 at the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs and sunset. So, this was during the first evening.

Mark also tells us the day that Jesus died and was buried. Verse 42 says, "it was the preparation day". Since the Jews were not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath, they spent Friday preparing for the Sabbath. The Greek word here, translated as "preparation", is still the normal, modern Greek word for Friday. In case his Roman readers didn't know what the preparation day was, Mark explains, "it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath". So, Jesus died then at 3:00 on Friday afternoon at the very time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple just a short distance away. He was the Passover Lamb. 3 P.M.

If his body was to be buried, it had to happen then between that time and sunset, which this time of year is about 7 P.M. in Jerusalem. It was common in other places in the empire to leave the bodies of those who had been crucified on the cross to decompose as a kind of warning to other criminals. Another common tact was to leave the body down from the cross but unburied on the ground for scavengers to eat, again as a sign of what happens to those who cross Rome. But Judea was a special exception to that normal rule. Deuteronomy 21 required that the bodies of executed criminals be buried by nightfall. The first-century Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms that it was true. In Judea, the crucified by the Romans were in fact buried by nightfall. The Jewish Mishnah specifies how they were to be buried. It says that executed criminals were to be buried in mass graves outside the city. They were not to get the special treatment of an honorable burial.

This was the problem with Jesus' corpse that now hangs on the cross. But it presented a greater problem than that because the next day was the Sabbath. And to leave a body unburied on the Sabbath was a double desecration. And, that Sabbath was not a normal Sabbath, it was a High Sabbath – a Sabbath connected to the Passover feast. And so, the Jewish leaders came to Pilate with a request. Look at John 19:31.

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.

Now, if you're not familiar with crucifixion, it explains why the legs were broken. You see, crucifixion was actually a slow, painful death of suffocation. As the victim hung suspended by his arms, nails through his wrists supporting his weight, eventually the weight of his body became too great and it became impossible for him to get enough oxygen to breathe. And so, he would pull and push himself up against the wounds in order to get a breath of air, but then suddenly the pain became too great and he would slump back down against the weight of the nails. And this cycle was relentless. For hours, usually days, until the victim died. But history tells us that the Romans would take an iron bar, and they would come up to those who had been crucified and swing that iron bar, shatter the lower legs of the victim, so that they could no longer lift themselves up to get the oxygen they needed to survive, and they died a short time thereafter. That was the reason for breaking the legs.

So, they want the bodies off the cross and they want them buried before sunset. What's about to happen to Jesus' body? Well, their plan is exactly what the Mishnah states. And that is, Jesus' body was about to be dumped in a mass grave along with the criminals who died alongside of Him.

But then suddenly, a man who hasn't appeared in the Gospels until now, comes forward. Verse 43, "Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God". When you put the gospel record together, the four Gospels, this man is described in several ways. First of all, he's called as he is here, Joseph of Arimathea. Arimathea was the ancient village of Ramah, famous as the hometown of Samuel the prophet. About 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. But since Joseph has a new tomb in Jerusalem, it's likely that he and his family had recently become permanent residents of the city. Matthew tells us that Joseph was a rich man. And based on the location of his tomb just outside the western entrance to the city, he was probably one of the richest men in the city. Mark here tells us he was a "prominent member of the council". That is, he was one of the 70 men on the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel. Sort of the President and Congress combined. But he wasn't just one of those 70 men. He was a prominent, influential member of the council. Luke tells us, and this is surprising, he was a good and righteous man who had not consented to their plan to murder Jesus. So, either he didn't attend Jesus' Jewish trials, or he had dissented, or more likely, abstained from the vote on Jesus' execution. Mark adds here that he was himself waiting for the kingdom of God. Joseph was living in hope of the kingdom of the Messiah. Now all of those things so far, are not surprising.

But, what Matthew tells us about this man is truly shocking. Matthew says, "he himself had also become a disciple of Jesus". And John adds this, "but a secret one for fear of the Jews". How could a man of this reputation, this wealth, this prominence, be afraid? Well, John explains in John 12:42. He explains what he and other rulers were afraid of. "Many even of the rulers believed in Jesus, but because of the Pharisees, they were not publicly confessing Him for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue". Now, sitting here in the 21st century in Dallas, it's hard for us to understand what that meant. But in the first century, that was the loss of everything. If you were put out of the synagogue, you lost your social circle, you lost connection to your family, you lost your status in the community. He certainly lost his position on the council. And you lost even your ability to do business in the community. You were shunned.

Verse 43 says in spite of all that, Joseph "gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus". It's remarkable isn't it? I mean, before this he hadn't announced his faith in Jesus as Messiah because he knew what it would cost him. And he has to know, he does know, what going before Pilate and asking for Jesus' body is going to cost. He knows this will almost immediately get to the other members of the Sanhedrin. And so, he risks losing his position. He would be put out of the synagogue. He would lose his livelihood, his wealth. He would be shunned. He would be a pariah in the city of Jerusalem. In fact, that's exactly what happened. The Sanhedrin immediately heard about this, because the next day on Saturday, they asked Pilate to send a Roman guard to put at Joseph's tomb. Now can you imagine how angry these men were? That one of their own has given Jesus an honorable burial.

But there was even a greater risk for Joseph beyond that. The bodies of executed criminals could be granted to their families and close friends. But according to the Roman historian Tacitus, there was one exception: Roman law did not allow someone who had been crucified for high treason to be given an honorable burial. So, Joseph's request here was a dangerous confession to the entire world, including his fellow members of the Sanhedrin, that he was a believer in Jesus as Israel's Messiah. And, he was publicly connecting himself to a man who was condemned and executed for high treason. His political advancement was over. But in spite of the danger, in spite of the cost, Joseph summoned his courage and he approached Pilate to ask for Jesus' body.

The question I've asked myself often is, why? What would make him throw such caution to the wind? What motivated Joseph? There's no evidence that he expected Jesus' resurrection. I mean, perhaps because he was a good and righteous man, he resented the injustice done to Jesus and he wanted to ensure therefore that he got a decent burial, that his body wasn't dumped in a mass grave with other criminals. But I think it's more likely that his own conscience is bothering him. And I think there's evidence that he was at the cross. Clearly, he knew when Jesus died. He immediately shows up at the praetorium to ask for Jesus' body. And so, there were other members of the Sanhedrin who were at the site of the crucifixion. I think it's very likely that he was as well. And I think when he heard what Jesus said from the cross, when he heard what his enemies said, what some of his fellow councilmembers said, when he heard what the soldiers and the thief said, when he experienced the miracles of Calvary, when he saw the sun go dark from noon to 3, when he felt the earthquake, when he saw Jesus choose to die – I think Joseph didn't understand why the One he knew to be Israel's Messiah had died. He didn't know why that had happened. But his faith apparently remained unshaken, perhaps even confirmed by what he'd seen at the cross. But what he's doing here in our text, is publicly confessing to the world that he is still a disciple of Jesus Christ. One commentator writes, "It took great courage when the cause of Jesus seemed to be hopelessly lost".

But regardless of what Joseph's motive may have been, behind his decision to ask for Jesus' body there was a divine motive. Jesus had to be buried in a place and in a way that would make the resurrection unassailable. And so, driven by his own motives, and ultimately driven by the motive of God Himself, he goes into the praetorium and asks Pilate the Governor for the body of Jesus. In addition to the things I've described so far, he knew that he was also defiling himself ceremonially by doing both. By entering into the Gentile praetorium, the palace of Pilate the Governor, and by touching the dead body of Jesus Christ. That meant he would not be able to celebrate the Sabbath. He would not be able to celebrate the Passover. He would not even be able to enter the temple. So, there's the first piece of evidence: the influential man behind Jesus' burial.

A second piece of evidence is the legal certification of Jesus' death. Look at verse 44, "Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time". When Joseph showed up asking for Jesus' body, Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. After all, he had just given the order for the legs of the prisoners to be broken and after that happened, they could survive for a short time, but this is almost immediately following. And so, Pilate calls for the centurion, verse 44, "and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead". We aren't told if the centurion had already returned to the praetorium or if he was still at the site of the crucifixion, but once he arrives at the palace, Pilate asks him if in fact Jesus was already dead. Verse 45 makes it clear that the centurion legally certified the death of Jesus. Notice what he writes in verse 45, "And ascertaining this from the centurion". The Greek word translated "ascertaining" is the Greek word "to know". "Coming to know the truth of this from the centurion". In other words, he learned from the centurion that Jesus was in fact truly dead.

This centurion knew death. He recognized it. Undoubtedly, he had supervised many other crucifixions. Josephus tells us there were mass crucifixions in Palestine in the first century. And in Jesus' case, this centurion had stood right in front of the cross and watched Him die. But if you're a bit of a skeptic, you might ask still, "How did the centurion really know Jesus was dead?". Well, John the Apostle was there. He was on site watching the death of Jesus, and he tells us how. If you're still in John 19, look at what's written, verse 33, "coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers", probably the centurion, the head of this detail of four responsible for the crucifixion, "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". John says, "I watched it with my own eyes".

All of those paintings in the Renaissance show Jesus hanging on the cross with a little prick in His side. That's not what happened here. This was to determine that Jesus was in fact dead. And so, the Roman centurion takes his spear and he thrusts it up into the chest cavity of Jesus, piercing His heart, to ensure what he already knew was true, was in fact true – Jesus was dead. When he reports this to Pilate, at the legal risk of his own life if he was wrong, the centurion certified Jesus' death to Pilate the governor.

There's a third piece of evidence here in our text. And that is: the official release of Jesus' corpse. Verse 45, "And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph". Once Pilate received the legal certification of death, he released Jesus' body to Joseph. The Greek word translated "granted" here refers to formal, official permission from someone in authority. The Roman historian Tacitus writes this, "People sentenced to death forfeited their property and were normally forbidden burial". So, the release of any criminal's corpse really depended entirely on the whims of the judge, the governor, the magistrate. But if relatives and close friends asked permission to bury, typically that was granted. In Jesus' case of course, there were no relatives. His siblings were apparently not in Jerusalem for the feast. There's no mention of them anywhere in the gospel record. Mary had been at the cross but she was in no condition to go to Pilate and ask for her son's body. And of course, except for John, all of the rest of the disciples were in hiding, fearful that they would be next. So, one of Jesus' secret disciples – Joseph of Arimathea comes forward.

As I mentioned, Roman law did not allow someone executed for treason to be buried. And yet, in spite of that, Pilate grants Jesus' body to Joseph. Why? Well, Pilate knew. He knew Jesus wasn't guilty. He'd said that several times in the trial. You remember? Again and again he says "I find no fault in this man" He's innocent. He's innocent. He's innocent". And he knew that it was for envy that the Jewish leaders had handed Jesus over. And so, he officially granted Jesus' corpse to Joseph. The time at this point is probably between 4 and 5 P.M. The clock is ticking. Sunset is coming.

A fourth piece of evidence is the traditional burial of Jesus' body. Verse 46, "Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth". At this point, at the most, Joseph has three hours until sunset. But the good news is he has help. He is a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin with a private tomb just outside the city. So, he undoubtedly also had a large number of servants, and almost certainly they were involved in this process.

In addition, Joseph has a plan. Apparently, on the way from the praetorium, Pilate's residence in Jerusalem, outside the western gate, on the way there to the site of the crucifixion, Joseph purchased, not the normal cotton strips that were used for burial, but fine linen cloth. And then with the help of his servants, he took Jesus down from the cross.

Now, around this time, he is joined by another secret disciple. If you're still in John, look at John 19:39. It says, "Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came". Nicodemus, you remember. John 3. Connection with the most famous verse in the Bible. That Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee. He was a fellow member of the Sanhedrin. And Jesus, in John 3, calls Nicodemus "the teacher in Israel". In other words, he was the most prominent, influential teacher of the Law in first-century Judea.

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.

Joseph and Nicodemus split the necessary duties. Joseph provided the tomb and the linen. Nicodemus brought a mixture of spices. About 70 pounds in our measuring system. And then, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both wealthy, influential members of the Jewish High Court who had secretly become followers of Jesus Christ, quickly prepared Jesus' body for burial. John tells us that they followed the normal Jewish burial customs.

So, what did they do to Jesus' body? Well the first thing they would've done would be to wash it entirely. That was a normal and necessary part of the burial ritual. In fact, according to the Jewish Mishnah, it was even permitted on the Sabbath. So, that was almost certainly done. And then the text seems to imply, and this was sometimes done, that they put a linen shirt over Jesus' body. Having washed it, they put a sort of undershirt if you will, that would have hung down to about the knees. Then, they wrapped His body in the strips of linen cloth with the 70 pounds of gummy, aromatic spices placed between the layers as they wrapped. That was of course in a day without embalming. The Jews didn't embalm. They would preserve some semblance of dignity as the body decomposed.

Then they placed Jesus' body in a new tomb nearby. Verse 46, Joseph "laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock". Now Scripture gives us several details about Jesus' tomb. First of all, it was a cave, as we read here, dug out of the soft limestone – the part of the quarry that was left, soft stone that couldn't be used for building. It had been dug out of that hillside. John 19:41 adds several details. We learn that it was near the place Jesus was crucified. It was in a garden. It was new and had never been used. And it was in fact, the personal tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Verse 46 here in Mark says, "and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb". Once he placed Jesus' prepared and wrapped body into his own new tomb, he sealed it with a large, heavy, circular stone. Typically, this disc-shaped stone was somewhere between three and four feet in diameter. It was massive and massively heavy. The groove in which the stone rolled, sloped toward the entrance so that the tomb could be easily sealed. But to roll the stone away required several strong men. This was done to protect the body both from scavenging animals as well as from grave robbers.

There's a fifth piece of evidence: the principal witnesses of Jesus' tomb. Verse 47 says, "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on". At least two of the women who had witnessed Jesus' crucifixion and death, back up in verses 40-41, also witnessed His burial. At least two. They're named here. Mary Magdalene. We know very little about Mary. We know where she was from. Magdalene means "from Magdala". It's a small fishing village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. You can still visit there and see the little town, in fact, you can see today, the first-century synagogue where Jesus taught – perhaps where she was redeemed. The other thing we know about Mary Magdalene is that she was amazingly saved. Because Luke tells us, out of her, Jesus cast seven demons. She had gone from being a very troubled woman to being a woman who was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. The other woman here, Mary the mother of Joses. Elsewhere we're told she's also the mother of James the Less, who was one of the disciples – one of the 12.

So, these two women and possibly others were there to witness, notice verse 47, "where He was laid". That is, the exact location of His borrowed tomb. Luke puts it this way in Luke 23:55, "the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw", number one, "the tomb", they saw where it was, "and how His body was laid". So, they not only saw the tomb and His location, but they looked inside the tomb and they saw the stone shelf on which Jesus' body rested. So, they saw all of those things. Three Gospels tell us that these women witnessed the burial.

Now, Joseph and Nicodemus had done a remarkable job in light of the time pressure, but in the rush to get Jesus buried before sunset, they had neglected one part of the ritual. And that was the anointing of Jesus' body. And so, these ladies, having seen that, decided that they would buy anointing oil after the Sabbath ended, Saturday at sunset, and then they would return to the tomb early on Sunday morning to finish Jesus' burial with the traditional anointing of His body. They show up Sunday morning and they never got the chance because His body was gone. But you remember, if you were here last week we studied, a week before, the Saturday night before, Mary – Lazarus' sister, had anointed Jesus' body for His burial. It had already been done.

So, that's the record. The question is, why? Why do all four Gospels include Jesus' burial? And what do these five pieces of evidence tell us about why Jesus' burial is essential to the Christian gospel? Well, there are several crucial implications of Jesus' burial. Let me just bring them out for you very quickly.

First of all, His burial proved His credentials as Israel's promised Messiah. Turn back to Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about the Messiah, about His life and death written 700 years before Jesus of Nazareth. But notice what it says about Him in Isaiah 53:9, "His grave", and notice the wording very carefully, "was assigned with wicked men". It was assigned by Pilate and by the Sanhedrin's plan. They assigned Jesus' grave to be that mass grave with other executed criminals. "Yet He was with a rich man in His death", that's Joseph of Arimathea. 700 years before Jesus' death and burial, the prophet Isaiah says when Messiah comes and when He dies, this is what it will be like. "His grave will be assigned with wicked men, yet He will be with a rich man in His death". This, along with so many other things in the Old Testament, proves Jesus' credentials as the promised Messiah. The One God said will come to redeem His people.

Number two. Stay in Isaiah 53. It proved His innocence from God's perspective. It proved His innocence. He was being executed as a criminal. He was accused of blasphemy by the Jews. And He was accused of insurrection in the Roman courts. Verse 9 goes on to say, "He was with a rich man in His death", why? "Because", here's why God made sure Jesus' body didn't show up in a dump outside the city of Jerusalem, "because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth". God says I'm not going to let Him be buried in a mass grave with criminals because He is innocent. His burial proved, from God's perspective, His innocence.

Number three: It documented His substitutionary death for sins. Scripture is clear. The wages of sin is death. Your sin, my sin, deserves death. Not just physical death. It deserves spiritual death. We're born in that. It deserves physical death – every person in this room will die. And it deserves eternal death – apart from Christ eternal separation from God in a place John the Apostle calls "the lake of fire". This is what sin deserves. It deserves death. So, Jesus, in order to purchase our forgiveness, had to die for our sins. The Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. He couldn't just suffer some on the cross and have accomplished our salvation. He couldn't just shed some blood. He had to die in our place. Again, in Isaiah 53:8, "He was cut off out of the land of the living", He died, why? "For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due". Jesus died, suffering the stroke of justice. Not against Him. He was innocent. God just declared that. But for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Notice verse 9, "His grave" and "His death", why? Go down to verse 10, "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering". This is why He had to die. He was the fulfillment of all those sacrifices in the Old Testament. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. To Him, the guilt of every person who would ever believe in Him was transferred and He suffered the penalty – He died. And His burial documented His substitutionary death for sin. He did die. For all of His own.

Number four: Jesus' burial certified the fact of His death. Jesus really died. There were many witnesses of Jesus' death. There was a large crowd of spectators who left the crucifixion site after they saw Jesus had died. The Sanhedrin unintentionally provided proof of Jesus' death by insisting that He be dead before sunset on the Sabbath. The centurion witnessed Jesus' death and confirmed it by thrusting a spear up into the chest cavity of Christ. Pilate officially certified that Jesus was dead. The women witnessed Jesus' death, burial, and the location of His tomb. And Joseph and Nicodemus personally prepared Jesus' dead body and buried it. Jesus' corpse was placed in a grave because He was certifiably dead. And He had to die, as we just saw, for sin.

But the final reason is the most glorious of all. Here's the greatest implication: His burial identified His tomb and thereby provides one of the greatest proofs of the resurrection – the empty tomb. At least two women saw the tomb where Jesus was buried. A member of the Sanhedrin, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem, and the greatest teacher in first-century Judaism were firsthand witnesses of Jesus' burial. There was no question about where Jesus was buried. It was in the new grave of one of the richest, most influential men in the city. A grave that the people of Jerusalem walked by often. Even Jesus' enemies knew where the tomb was. In fact, it belonged to one of their own. I think one of the greatest testimonies to the reality of the resurrection is Jesus' enemies never denied the empty tomb, and they never produced His dead body. The best they could do was to say that His fearful disciples had overcome the Roman guards, 12 of them that they themselves had set, and overpowered them and stole Jesus' body without anyone knowing it.

Although Jesus' tomb was sealed and guarded by 12 Roman soldiers, on Sunday morning it was empty. And folks, you can visit it today. It still is. One of the greatest lines of evidence that convinced His disciples of the resurrection was the empty tomb. It did John. In John 20:8, John who had first come to the tomb, entered and when he saw the empty tomb, he believed. Now, putting all we've learned together. Jesus' burial is crucial to the gospel because it proves both His death – His death for sin, and His resurrection.

How do you respond to this? How should you respond this morning? Well, if you're already a follower of Jesus Christ, then let me tell you how to respond. You can have confidence in, and you can hold fast to the gospel you've received. Look at 1 Corinthians 15. This is where I began this morning. Here's what Paul says to the Corinthians and to us. 1 Corinthians 15:1.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to many.

Folks, that is the gospel. And if you're a Christian, as we've seen in 1 John, that's what you believed at the beginning of your Christian life and experience. And Paul says "keep on believing. Hold fast". It's true. It's verified.

If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ. Maybe you know that. Maybe you came in knowing that you've never really repented and believed in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Or maybe you came in thinking you were a Christian. There are a lot of people, Jesus said, who are going to show up at the judgment and say "Lord, Lord" and He's going to say "I never knew you". Why? Because they have a wrong view of what faith in Jesus is. They think because they prayed a prayer when they were six that that means they're in.

Listen, if you want forgiveness of your sins, if you want to know and follow Jesus, He demands more. He demands everything. It will cost you everything. He demands that He be more important to you than anything else in this life. More important than wealth, reputation, position, status. You know what He demands? He demands that you do exactly what Joseph of Arimathea did. Exactly what Nicodemus did. And that is, if it comes down to anything else or Christ, you take Christ. That's faith. Following Jesus has to be more important to you than your own sin. Than anyone else.

Listen to what He said. Luke 9:23, "And Jesus was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me". You must renounce yourself, your own autonomy, your own right to self-rule, and you must take up your cross – that is, be willing to die for Christ, and then follow Him every day. That's faith. Not praying a prayer when you're six. Not showing up at services at church. And then He says this in Luke 14, "Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said", so here are all these people attached to Jesus, right? "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple". Jesus wasn't saying you need to hate all those people. He was saying that your love for Him, your commitment to Him, ought to be so great that your love for everyone else looks like hate in comparison. He says nobody's going to be my disciple for whom I'm not the most important.

So, my question to you this morning is: Is that what your faith looks like? That's saving faith. That's real faith. That's what He demands. Following Jesus will cost you everything just like it cost Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Oh, He may not ask you to give everything up, but He does ask you to be willing. That's why the burial of Jesus Christ is so important. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for our study together this morning. Lord, I pray that You would help us to respond rightly and biblically. Lord, I pray for the many of us in this room who are true followers of Jesus Christ, who have repented, who have believed in Jesus and Him alone as our only hope of being right with you. Father, help us to hold fast to the gospel that we believed in the beginning. Not to ever let it go. To keep our confidence in the work of Jesus Christ and His work alone. Lord, I also pray for those who are here this morning who have received just enough Christianity to be inoculated to the real thing. Who made some commitment years ago but haven't really followed Jesus, ever. Oh Lord, help them to see the lie that is. And I pray that today, they would see the value of Jesus and be willing to count everything else loss. Like Paul did. Like Joseph of Arimathea did. Like Nicodemus did. To the value of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Lord, may that be true of many here today. We pray in Jesus' name, and for His glory. Amen.