The burial of Jesus in a borrowed tomb seems at first like an anticlimax to the previous six hours as Jesus hung on the cross. No other passage in the Scriptures can match the tension and suffering that is depicted in Jesus’ suffering and death. But the account of his burial immediately following is an essential part of the story. The burial is evidence that Jesus truly bore the chastisement that belonged to us. He did not only suffer for us. Jesus truly died for us.
The Christian Church has always realized the significance of Jesus’ burial. In The Apostles Creed we confess that Jesus “was crucified, dead, and buried.” That article of the creed is based on such biblical passages as 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “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 again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
But as definitive as the burial of Jesus is as evidence of his actual death it is the necessary prelude to his glorious resurrection. The quietness of Luke’s description of the third day underscores just how unexpected was Jesus’ resurrection among his closest followers. Even the women who so faithfully identified with Jesus throughout his crucifixion and death did not expect him to be anything other than dead on that Sunday morning. They arrived at the tomb expecting only to complete the burial ritual, not to be met by a vacated tomb and news of resurrection: “He is not here, but has risen” (24:6).
The disciples saw for themselves the tomb of Jesus occupied only by his discarded grave clothes. They heard the testimony of angels. Only then did they remember his words. How often Jesus had told them to anticipate this very event! The disciples were not myth-makers. After Friday they had no thought of following a dead master. Their own slowness to believe was replaced by a sudden unshakable confidence that Jesus had indeed walked out of his own tomb under this own death-defeating power. And nothing would ever be the same after that.