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JESUS’ DEATH AND BURIAL

Luke 23:44-23:56
Key Verse: 23:46

We really thank God for blessing 2016 Easter Celebration richly. Through this we could be reminded of the gospel that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. May we hold firmly to this gospel so that we may not believe in vain. May we also live a life worthy of the gospel and as of first importance pass on it to those whom we meet in this world.

We come back to Luke’s gospel study to complete it. In the last lesson we thought of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus was nailed to the cross in our stead because of our sins and prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In a true sense all sinners do not know what they are doing, although they may be accepted and even popular among people. When we think of his substituted crucifixion and his prayer, we newly learn that what is truly significant in life is to receive God’s forgiveness rather than to receive man’s acceptance and recognition. Whenever we sin, we need to receive forgiveness of our sin anew from God, not trying to receive people’s understanding, sympathy and even approval. Any unsolved sin problem should not prolong with the mastery of sin. In the grace of Jesus’ forgiveness of sin may we keep the humble prayer, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” to the end of our lives.

Today’s passage covers Jesus’ death and burial. Like Jesus’ crucifixion, his death was not a tragic and defeated one, but a victorious and glorious one, different from all other deaths. His burial was also unique in that he was not buried by his family members or relatives but a prominent man, his hidden disciple stressing the factuality of his death and burial. We will observe this in light of written words of God in Luke’s gospel and think of the meaning of it.

First, Jesus death (44-49). Look at verse 44. “It was not about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.” We are reminded of the ninth plague among ten plagues with which God struck Egypt. When Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, total darkness covered all Egypt for three days, while all the Israelites had light in the place where they lived (Ex 10:22-23). It could not be explained humanly. It was God’s judgment upon Egypt to free the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. At the time of Jesus crucifixion, from noon to 3 P.M., darkness came over the whole land. It was not a solar eclipse, for solar eclipses do not occur at Passover time. It was a strange darkness. The darkness was as the expression of Gods judgment due to mans sin. The judgment was poured out upon his Son Jesus on the cross. Luke wrote, “for the sun stopped shining”, indicating that the cause of this darkness was God as the expression of his judgment, for it is God who lets the sun shine or stop shining. When Jesus told his disciples about the signs of the end of the age, he said, “the sun will be darkened” prior to his coming (Mt 24:29; Mk 13:25; Lk 21:25). And in Revelation 6 at the opening of sixth seal the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair (6:12).

Then after this darkness something extraordinary transpired: the curtain of the temple was torn in two, in Matthew and Mark, from top to bottom. Since the time of Moses to whom God had commanded to build the tabernacle until that time there was a curtain that divided the holy place and the Most Holy Place in the temple. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year with the sacrifice of a lamb to atone peoples sins on the Day of Atonement. At the moment of Jesus’ death the curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mt 27:51; Mk 15:38). So the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (Heb 10:19-22). According to Hebrews, the curtain of the temple being torn means a new and living for us to come to God was opened.

Look at verse 46. “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” What a victorious and glorious death! No one can resist death. The power of death has defeated all mankind. All were helpless before the power of death. But as for Jesus he chose to die. All the gospel writers did not record, “Jesus died”, but “he gave up his spirit” or “he breathed his last (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37; Jn 19:30). It is written in Psalm 31:4-5, “Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.” As for the Psalmist his enemies set a trap, but he asked God to flee him from the trap, believing that God was his refuge. Then he committed his spirit in to the hands of God, the God of truth. This was a common Jewish prayer of complete trust in the Lord. Now as for Jesus, he was very close to death, hanging on the cross. His enemies thought that they won a victory as they crucified him. Especially the devil was sure that he triumphed over Jesus, the Son of God. Yet, even at such a time he fully trusted in God, calling him Father, and committing his spirit into the hands of the Father. Jesus knew that death could not keep its hold on him. Yes, death could hold his body for a while, but could not hold his spirit at all. So he committed his spirit into the hands of God the Father.

Here we see that all the event that happened while Jesus was on the cross, his prayer, the darkness that covered the whole land, the curtain of the temple torn into, his calling out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and his breathing last clearly show that his death was not a defeat, but a victory in the full commitment to God the Father, after much suffering. It was an atoning death for our sins. He chose to do so. It was his willful death for us. He offered his life as a sin offering for us. As we studied in 1 Corinthians 15:3, he died for our sins. He died for us sinners. When David was tending his father’s flock of sheep, he risked his life to rescue a sheep from the mouth of a lion or bear when it came and carried off a sheep from the flock (Sa 16:34-35). He fought a good fight for us unto death. In this way he showed that he truly came to seek and to save lost and perishing sinners. Through his death he brought salvation and victory. Death, spiritual, physical and eternal death has died in the death of Christ.

As for Apostle Paul Christs death meant God’s love. So he wrote in Romans 5:6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even now, who can willingly die for me, especially when I am not in that condition, hard-hearted and even disgusting to myself? We cannot expect a positive answer. However, according to the Bible, Christ (the most precious one, the most honourable person, the greatest one in the whole universe) died for me, when I was powerless, ungodly, and wretched as sinners. He died willingly for us bearing all the punishment upon himself. This is the demonstration of Gods love. When Jesus was born in a manger, Gods love began to shine. Through his messianic ministry Jesus displayed the love of God. And his death on the cross was the powerful demonstration of Gods love.

Last week I heard of someones committing suicide. According to recent worldwide statistics, each year roughly one million people kill themselves by intentionally committing suicide, averaging out of one suicide every 40 seconds. Significantly, that number is higher than those who are murdered or killed in combat. Moreover, it is estimated that unsuccessful suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide. Based on such estimates, a suicide is attempted every 2 seconds. Why do people suicide? How can we know all the complicated reasons However, spiritually speaking, the only reason is not knowing the love of God. If they have known the love of God that Christ was killed for them, they would have not killed themselves. The love of God makes all the difference in life. Everyone has troubles and agonies and hardships in life. But the love of God is the source of strength and power to overcome any life situations. So Paul wrote in Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…or danger?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We need to keep the love of God that was demonstrated at the time of Christs death and live by faith in him at any life condition (Gal 2:20).

Look at verse 47. “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’” What an astonishing event! We have heard one criminal’s prayer, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This was an amazing confession of his faith in Jesus at the last moment of his life. Here is another amazing confession of a man. He was the centurion. At that time centurions were the backbone of Roman army. He was a Roman of Romans, as Paul said of himself, “a Hebrew of Hebrews” in the past. The centurion’s thought and life were made in Rome. So Roman thought and mentality was the backbone of his life. As a Roman centurion, at that time he joined in executing three criminals including Jesus, and just finished the tough work. However, seeing what had happened, surely hearing Jesus’ prayer on the cross and his last calling out in a loud voice, God-praising came out of his heart and mouth, along with this confession, “Surely, this was a righteous man” totally unexpected to anyone. To his eyes, Jesus was not a criminal but an innocent one. He was convinced that surely Jesus was a righteous man, the only righteous man he had ever encountered. He praised God and made this confession. His praise and confession was marvelous. But by doing so, unwittingly he was standing against Rome, most probably losing his job and more than that putting his future life in a great danger. When we think of this, his confession was truly amazing and great. Yet, we believe that he was happy to make such a confession because of the love of God that came to him at the time of Jesus’ death, and this confession in God’s love was the true backbone of his life.

The confession of the centurion shows the undeniable universal love God. It reminds of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I heard of one old Palestine lady. When she was young she came to Canada alone. As an old lay she is alone. She is full of bitterness toward Israeli and the God of Israel, saying, “They came to our country and occupied it.” May God help people like her come to know the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Look at verse 48. “When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.” They would not forget this event in their lives. Probably they could be among those three thousands who repented and put their faith in Christ when Apostle Peter delivered the message of Jesus cross and resurrection at Pentecost. And verse 49, “But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” It must have been a great danger to identify themselves by standing close at the cross. Anyway, they stood at a distance, watching these things. God would remember all.

Second, Jesus burial (50-56). Look at verse 50. “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God.” The name Joseph of Arimathea is written in all four gospel at the time of Jesus burial. He was the one who buried the body of Jesus. We can know who he was when we refer to all four gospels. He was a disciple of Jesus but secretly because of his fear of the Jews (Mt 27:57; Mk 15:43; Jn 19:38). According to Matthew he was rich (Mt 27:57). And in Mark and Luke he was waiting for the kingdom of God (Mk 15:43; Lk 23:50). And also according to Mark and Luke, he was a prominent member of the Council, Sanhedrin, a good and upright man. This shows his high social status and respectable personality. Yet, Luke specifically wrote that Joseph had not consented to their decision and action. At the court of Sanhedrin, all condemned Jesus as worthy of death (Mt 27:1; Mk 14:64; 15:1; Lk 22:7; 23:1). So most probably, he was absent at the time of Jesus trial before Sanhedrin. Anyhow, he had not consented to the decision and action of Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members. This was really huge. Sanhedrin was the supreme ruling council of Israel and they all stood against Jesus, reaching the decision to put Jesus to death. How strong their peer pressure must have been! But Joseph did not consent to their decision and action. Now after Jesus’ death he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. This was also truly great. This act was like standing against Rome and also the Jews. With human courage he could have not done this. Surely, at the time of Jesus death divine courage must have come to him through the love of God. May we look up at the cross and hold fast to it until we can have such courage to stand against the trend of the world.

Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus body. Then he took it down, wrapped him in linen cloth and placed him in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. This new tomb was that of Joseph (Mt 27:60). Probably, he prepared this tomb for himself, but he offered it to Jesus. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid on it. They went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. This description of when and where and by whom Jesus was buried and who witnessed his burial shows that Jesus burial was also a sure fact with no ambiguity at all. If some of Jesus twelve disciples had buried him or his family members, there could have been a doubt about his burial. However, in fact they were too poor to do it. Or if any unknown person had buried him, Jesus burial could have brought a doubt. God had prepared a rich and prominent man, who was also a disciples of Jesus, for his burial. Jesus died and was buried. His burial was the confirmation of his death and preparation for his resurrection.

We thank God for Jesus death, his atoning death for our sins of his own accord. His death was victorious and glorious as he called out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Indeed this was the demonstration of God’s love in the death of Christ Jesus. With faith in this love of God through the death of Christ Jesus may live in this world having divine courage to overcome pressures and opposition.

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