Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul told the new Corinthian Christians that the gospel rests of three key realities:
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
- He was buried.
- He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Most of us understand the essentiality of believing that Jesus died for our sins. Most of us recognize that without his resurrection, not much else about our faith in Jesus would matter. But, what's the big deal about his being buried? When people die, they are buried. That's part of the dying. So, why is the reality of Jesus' burial so essential for us to believe and remember?
James Nored addresses this question in today's video message:
The first time I thought much about the importance of Jesus' burial was when I heard Andy Stanley talk about the time "Nic and Joe Saved Easter." He emphasized how important it was that Joseph of Arimathea, with the help of Nicodemus, lovingly buried Jesus (John 19:38-42).
Those two important men — one rich and the other respected as a member of the Jewish ruling council and a well-respected teacher — made themselves unclean and unable to participate in Passover because they took care of the dead body of Jesus. They fulfilled a prophecy by burying Jesus in the tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53:9).
As two unassailable witnesses (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15), Joseph and Nicodemus could confirm that Jesus was genuinely dead and then was securely buried (Matthew 27:57-61). They risked their reputations, their standing within the ruling society, and even their lives. How? By coming out of the shadows and identifying with Jesus. Why? For Jesus to be the risen Messiah and Son of God, he also had to be the dead and buried Jesus of Nazareth. Nicodemus and Joseph ensured that Jesus' death and burial were certain.
As James points out in our video, however, there are other emotionally significant reasons for us to know that Jesus was buried. For Jesus to face everything that we as mortals face to be qualified to intercede for us. He had to face the reality of death and the world of the dead for us so we could know he understood what we face (Hebrews 2:14-15).
For Jesus to conquer death for us, he had to enter the Hadean world of the dead and defeat its powers of sin, the devil, and hell (1 Peter 4:19; Ephesians 4:8-9). Jesus did. Jesus entered death for us to conquer it and make it captive so it couldn't separate us from God (Romans 8:35-39). That means when we face the reality of saying goodbye to someone in death, we can trust in Jesus for several things:
- He knows what it is like to face the fear and reality of death (Mark 14:32-36).
- He has defeated death's power so that we don't have to fear it (Hebrews 2:14-18).
- He has guaranteed to us that death will not separate us from God's love and from his presence (Romans 8:35-39).
- He has ensured that death and the grave do not have the final word for us. He assures that reunion with him, and reunion with all those who belong to him, is our certain future (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Jesus died. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. Each of those reminds us that Jesus was not an antiseptic hero who is God from a distance. Instead, God, the only Son, was one of us in every way so that we could know with certainty that nothing could separate us from God's love for us.
Buried! Yes, Jesus was buried. Our Lord's burial, however, wasn't the final act of his life. Neither will any of our burials be the final act of our lives. Because of God's grace for us in Jesus, death cannot hold us, and no grave can keep us.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).
Ah, but that's getting ahead of ourselves. The resurrection is next week's story. For now, let's give thanks that each burial we face — our own or those we love — has been reshaped by the one who gave his life so that we could be sure that our lives never end (John 11:25-26).