These verses tell how Jesus was buried after he died on the cross.
The burial was accomplished by a man named Joseph. He was a man of some standing since he was a member of the council, the Sanhedrin. (50) He also had access to Pilate, the governor, and was able to obtain Jesus’ body. Luke wrote that he was good and righteous. He had not consented when the Sanhedrin voted to put Jesus to death. (51) That had to have been an unpopular decision.
Luke also wrote that Joseph was “looking for the kingdom of God”. (51) This seems means he was a believer, especially if when we consider Matthew 27:57 which calls him a disciple of Jesus.
Joseph got Pilate’s permission to take care of Jesus’ body, then he took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen shroud, and placed it in a tomb made of stone. This would be a rich man’s tomb and, indeed, Matthew 27 says Joseph was rich. It is likely that this tomb was intended to be Joseph’s own tomb, but he used it to bury Jesus. Isaiah 53:9 says they made his grave…with a rich man his death.”
It was fitting that the tomb had never been used. No body had been placed in it. That would seem normal to us, but at that time, bodies were placed on shelves in tombs, but when the flesh had decayed from the bones, the bones were gathered and placed into a box.
In the Old Testament, nothing used for worshipping or ministering to God could be used for anything else. And it is that way at Jesus’ burial; no one had ever used the tomb. (53)
Luke placed a time stamp on these activities. It was Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath. Preparations had to be made on the day before the Sabbath since one could not work on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath started Friday at sundown, these things happened on Friday afternoon.
Verse 55 begins the telling of the story of the women who followed Jesus and wanted to take care of his body. You have to love these women for their devotion to Jesus. And it is so typical of women, thinking even in sorrow of the things that need to be done, even unpleasant things.
The women followed Joseph and his helpers to the tomb so that they would know where it was. They observed the placement of the body, so they would know which one it was. Jesus’ body would be covered in a shroud and they would expect that other bodies might be there also. In other words, they made sure they knew where Jesus’ body was so they could take care of it. They knew they would not have time to do this before the Sabbath began, and they would not violate the Sabbath.
In that day, the Jews prepared bodies by placing spices and ointments on the body and in the shroud. After the women made sure they knew where the body was, they went home and prepared the spices. (56) They got all this done before sundown, and then observed the Sabbath.
Why did Luke go into this detail about Jesus’ burial? As a historian, Luke wanted to record all of the relevant details for those who would read his gospel to learn about Jesus. As a theologian, Luke, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wanted to record that Jesus was indeed dead and buried. Unless Jesus is buried, he cannot be resurrected.
You see this in Paul’s confession in 1 Corinthians 15. He called it a matter of first importance that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raise on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
Friday night passed, then Saturday. Although the Sabbath ended at sundown on Saturday, it would then be too dark for the women to go out to the tomb. But on Sunday morning, at dawn, the women went to the tomb. (25:1)In other words, they went as soon as it was light enough to see. You can imagine them lying in bed, unable to sleep, wanting to go at the earliest possible moment to take care of the Lord’s body. That is true love and devotion.
But when the women arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away, leaving the entrance open. This would be a heavy round stone that was rolled in a trench to seal the entrance to the tomb.
The women looked into the tomb to the place they had seen Joseph place the body. But they were shocked they did not see a body. (3) They saw the shroud, but it was empty. (We know this because Peter saw the shroud when he got there. John 20:6-8)
This is also the first time Luke uses the phrase “the Lord Jesus”. He has often referred to Jesus as “the Lord”, but for the first time says “the Lord Jesus”. I think this is to emphasize that Jesus is now the risen Lord.
The women did not understand in that moment. They were “perplexed”. But God sent two angels, men dressed in dazzling apparel, to explain. (4) Angels are God’s messengers. They often appear glorious and radiant. That is what Luke meant by “dazzling apparel”.
These angels were so glorious the women fell to the ground in fear and reverence. The angels delivered a rebuke: “why do you seek the living among the dead”. (5) That is a rebuke for their failure to believe in the resurrection.
The angels told them “he is not here, but has risen” and reminded them that Jesus had told them this would happen. (7) We have seen in our study that he told them this three times. One example is Luke 9:22, where Jesus said “The son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. And, being reminded of this by the angels, they remembered. (8)
Once they remembered, the women went back and told the Eleven (the Twelve minus Judas) and the rest of the followers. (9) Luke gave us specific names for the women who did this: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. (10) Plus, other women were with them who Luke did not name.
The disciples did not believe the women. They thought is was an “idle tale”. (11) Indeed, at that time, women were not generally considered to be reliable witnesses.
But there was one exception. That was Peter. He jumped up and ran to the tomb. He saw the empty grave clothes. We do not know if he believed, but Luke wrote that he marveled at what happened. (12) Peter probably at least hoped that Jesus was raised and alive so that he could make things right between them.
There is a hymn that says we know that Jesus lives because he lives within our hearts. But, anyone can claim that without proof. And the world wants proof. Luke took great care to give us proof. These women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. They saw an empty tomb and empty grave clothes.
At the beginning of his gospel account, Luke said he wrote it that his friend might have certainty concerning the things they had been told and had believed. (1:4) While we come to Jesus by faith, we do have a written record of the historical facts with witnesses to the events.
You, too, can have certainly. Believe in Jesus today.