Death, Burial and Resurrection :: by Ron and Nathele Graham

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). When we are young death seems very far off and we rarely think about it until it touches us in some way. Maybe a grandparent dies or an elderly aunt or uncle.

The reality of death comes into focus when we attend a funeral and see our loved one lying in a coffin. We share memories of that person, but then we move on.

My first brush with death was when my older brother died in a car accident at the age of 14. I learned at a young age that death can come to the young as well as the old. Some people think that when a person dies there is nothing else…they think that upon death you cease to exist. Wrong.

Others believe that everyone goes to heaven. Wrong again. Everyone dies, but death is not annihilation nor does everyone step into a “better place.” It is never too soon to consider what comes after the death of the body.

Our body is important to us during life and we take care of it. We feed it when it’s hungry, give it water when it’s thirsty, bathe it when it’s dirty, and soothe it when it hurts. No matter how we care for it there will come a day when that body dies. Then what?

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die” (1 Corinthians 15:36).

Paul used this word picture to help us understand what happens when we die. Farmers and gardeners plant seeds in the ground and the individual seed dies. From the death of that seed comes a plant…a tree, flower, or grain.

When a person dies their body is usually put into a grave, but that body is just a shell…a seed that had to die in order for the true person inside to be quickened. The word “quickened” comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which means to make alive. We step into eternal upon death, but where that eternity is spent depends upon the choice a person makes while living on this earth.

“And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house’” (Acts 16:31).

It is belief in Jesus Christ that will bring eternal life. These words were directed to a jailer in Philippi who had almost committed suicide. An earthquake had just shook the prison and he thought his prisoners had escaped. This meant death for him and suicide seemed the easiest way out. Paul and Silas were among those prisoners and they had been singing and praying all night. Everyone, including the jailer, knew they were Christians.

When he found that all of the prisoners were still in the prison and hadn’t escaped, he was thankful. Because of Paul and Silas’ faithfulness to God this jailer knew that it was by the grace of the one true God the prisoners were still there. He wanted to know what he must do to be saved and Paul simply told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul also said his household would be saved.

The servants of the house had also been aware of the earthquake and the fact that the prisoners were still there. They would follow the example of the jailer and they would also believe. This jailer had almost committed suicide and if he had he would have been eternally lost. Death comes to all of us, but if you have not believed on Jesus Christ then you have committed eternal suicide.

DEATH: What was it that this jailer was to believe? What are we to believe? The gospel. When Adam sinned he was no longer able to stand in the presence of God Almighty. Sin had broken the fellowship they had and sin is still what separates us from God. Only God could redeem His creation and make a way to restore the lost fellowship. He became a man in order to redeem mankind.

“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands” (Hebrews 2:7).

Jesus was God incarnate…fully God and fully Man. He had to be fully human in order to save humanity from eternal death. He had to be fully God because if His blood was tainted by sin it would not have been sufficient to redeem us.

“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

According to God’s perfect plan Jesus would be the once for all sacrifice and purchase our redemption.

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

His life offended the Jewish leaders and they determined to have Him killed. He claimed to be God and the Pharisees deemed that to be blasphemy because they were blind to the fact that He is God. After an illegal trial Jesus was crucified and His body died. The religious leaders thought they were done with Him.

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46).

If He had been a mere man He would have faded into oblivion and been forgotten by history but He wasn’t a mere man.

God had given the Law to the Jews. It set out the way they were to live, and gave a detailed list of sacrifices to cover various transgressions. According to the Law blood must be shed to cover sin.

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

The blood of animals could not take the sin away, just cover it. The sacrifices had to be repeated because they weren’t a permanent solution. The Law was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, and when He died on that cross He shed His own blood. His blood is the once for all sacrifice that takes sin away.

“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12).

Only God’s blood could be the once for all sacrifice to take our sin away.

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

Christ died once for all. His blood was sufficient for our redemption.

BURIAL: The scribes and Pharisees wanted to condemn Jesus. They weren’t looking for confirmation that He was Messiah, but were looking for ways to mock and condemn Him. After witnessing many of the miracles Jesus did, they still asked for a sign. Jesus told them:

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

This wasn’t the sign the Pharisees wanted, but it was what Jesus wanted them to understand. Yes, Jesus Christ willingly shed His blood and died on the cross…then He was buried. His body was planted like the seed that Paul used in his example. Joseph of Arimathaea had a new tomb and that is where our Lord’s body was buried.

“And when Joseph had taken the body, he 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 sepulchre, and departed” (Matthew 27:59-60).

Jonah spent three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, and Christ would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. God had become a man, and the man’s body had died. It would have been a tragedy if the story ended there, but that isn’t the end. The greatest victory of all eternity was about to happen.

RESURRECTION: On the morning of the third day after the crucifixion a few women went to the tomb expecting to find it sealed. Imagine their shock to find the stone rolled aside and an angel sitting on it. They were afraid, but the angel said:

“…Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5-6).

The grave could not hold Him. The tomb was empty! Christ conquered death! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Joy and confusion must have gripped the minds of these women.

“And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (Matthew 28:8).

Yes, Christ conquered death and because of His sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection eternal life is available to everyone. It is available, but it has to be accepted by faith. The jailer had asked Paul what he must do to be saved, and the answer is the same today as it was then. Believe. “… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. Go with great joy and spread the gospel to everyone. Tell them what He accomplished on the cross. Tell them all to believe on Jesus Christ, and be saved.

God bless you all,
Nathele Graham