Sermon – John 19.38-42 (Easter Vigil – 2019)

Heavenly Father, by the burial of Your Son, you sanctified the graves of Your believers, that it has become merely a resting place for us. We have eagerly awaited the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Give us full confidence, peace, and joy that comes from Christ’s resurrection, as we await the day when He returns and your redeemed shall awaken from the grave unto life eternal. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.

 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

 41 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.

 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

A Kingly Bed for Nappers

Dear fellow redeemed,

Notice what kind of death Jesus suffered. He suffered the death of a scoundrel, of the worst of criminals. It was the kind death that we deserved for we are guilty before God. We have sinned against the good and holy demands of the Law.

But then take note of how Jesus was buried. He was buried like a king by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. From the Gospels, we know that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a disciple of Jesus, perhaps one of the 70 followers of Jesus. But he was a disciple secretly, for he feared what would become of him if other Jews would have known. For one reason or another Joseph was willing to associate himself with Jesus. He asked Pilate for Jesus body, that he may bury Him, and permission was granted.

And so Jesus’ tomb was the tomb of a rich man. It was a beautiful and unused tomb with a garden nearby.

And then there’s Nicodemus, who was also one of the ruling Jews among the people. He also feared the Jews, for he came to Jesus under the cover of night to speak to Him. But now he shows his love for His Lord embalming Jesus with ointments fit for a king! He brings 100 Roman pounds which is the equivalent to 75 pounds as we know it.

What did they know about His resurrection? Were they burying and embalming Jesus merely out of love and respect for Jesus, hoping for His resurrection, or did they lack understanding, as just about everyone did, thinking that He was not rising from the dead. We don’t quite know.

But nonetheless there Jesus was laid to rest with a burial and a tomb made for a king.

In various pagan cultures kings were buried with their treasures, their horses and riches, and so on, believing that they would use those things in their next life. Jesus, our King, was buried, not with gold, riches, and possessions, but with our sins, that there they may remain.

Luther speaks about Jesus’ burial, “Just as Jesus took all our sins with Him to the cross and bore them in His body on the tree, so also He took all our sins with Him into the tomb; indeed, wee are buried with Him through Baptism. He took into the tomb with Him not only the cloths and linen shroud in which His body was wrapped but also the whole world’s sin, damnation, misery, fear, affliction, and peril, and He covered and buried it all so that it might not harm those who believe in Him.”

It’s strange to talk about a beautiful tomb, though Jesus once did when speaking about the hypocritical Pharisees. He was speaking about the whitewashed tombs, “beautiful on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” There in that rich man’s tomb, were our filthy sins, all our uncleanness. But also in that tomb was our beautiful Savior, which as expensive and kingly as that tomb was it was not a proper bed for our Lord, the King of Creation. How strange, how unfathomable, that our Savior, the Lord of Life lie dead there.

Yet, there He rested, making our own graves a resting place. And they are made royal beds, no matter how beautiful or how simple, how new or how deteriorated they are. For who are those who lie there? They are those who belong to Christ through faith, brothers and sisters of the King. They are children of the heavenly Father, they are the royal priesthood of God’s eternal kingdom.

And though death is a nasty thing, a result of our sins, but for us who trust in Christ’s redemption, our sins have remained buried in Christ’s tomb. And Christ, our Lord, is risen. And He makes our death merely a sleep from which we too shall waken.

So tonight we have kept vigil, we have waited, and soon we will begin to celebrate with Easter joy, our Lord’s resurrection from the grave with alleluias. But we also keep vigil, and await the eternal morning, the great Easter of our own resurrection, the day when the Lord who woke from the sleep of death and left the grave powerless behind Him will do the same for you. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever  shall be; forevermore. Amen.

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