Christians hold dear the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, as an example of fulfilled Messianic prophecy. Nicknamed the "fifth gospel," it relates the sufferings of an obedient servant through undeserved physical, mental and emotional afflictions. The chapter concludes with the promise of redemption and restoration to a prosperous life. Christians consider verse 9, which refers to the servant's "grave among the wicked" and "with a rich man in his death" to be prophetic of Christ's death and burial.
The Prophecy of Isaiah
In the American Standard Version of the Bible, Isaiah 53:9 reads: "And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." Christians consider Jesus' execution as a criminal a fulfillment of the verse referring to "his grave with the wicked." The accounts of Jesus' actual burial recorded in the four books of the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all record that a man named Joseph of Arimathaea claimed the body of Jesus and laid it in a stone tomb. The four accounts vary only slightly, not in substance but in added or omitted detail.
Matthew's Account of Jesus' Burial
Matthew, who had been a tax collector, explicitly notes that the tomb where Jesus was laid belonged to a “rich man.” He wrote: "And when even was come, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph ... " His account, as do the others, includes mention of the linen cloth used to wrap the body. “ ... this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. ... And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed." As a rich man, Joseph had likely prepared for his own eventual burial with a tomb befitting his station in life. We may conclude that Joseph's stone tomb was substantial and possibly impressive, requiring a "great stone" to cover the opening. The disciple Joseph would have certainly wrapped the body of his Lord in costly linen.
Jesus' Burial According to Mark
Mark was evidently an early and active disciple of Jesus Christ – he is mentioned in the book of Acts as working along with early disciples, including Barnabas and Saul, who were engaged in traveling missionary work. His account mentions Pilate's surprise at Jesus' speedy death. " ... there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a councillor of honorable estate, who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God; and he boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead ... he granted the corpse to Joseph. And he bought a linen cloth, and taking him down, wound him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb." Mark alone does not specify that the tomb was new.
It is noteworthy that Luke focused on Joseph's personal qualities and reputation rather than on Joseph's material wealth. He records: "And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a councillor, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their counsel and deed), a man of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews, who was looking for the kingdom of God: this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that was hewn in stone, where never man had yet lain." Luke the “beloved physician” revealed his compassionate nature and interest in people through his comments.
The Account According to John
John, the “disciple whom he (Jesus) loved,” includes the touching detail that the tomb is in a garden. "And after these things Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus ... asked of Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. ... Now in the place ... there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb wherein was never man yet laid." John's account is the only one of the four to mention the expensive materials used to prepare Jesus' body for burial. “And there came also Nicodemus ... bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. So they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” Mark and Luke do record that women brought spices and oil later in an attempt to dress the body.
- Princeton Theological Seminary Center for Barth Studies: Karl Barth and the Fifth Gospel
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Isaiah Chapter 53
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Matthew 27
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Mark 15
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Luke 23
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- John 19
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Acts 12
- The New Bible: American Standard Version -- Colossians 4
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