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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Perfect Benefits of Jesus’ Burial

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

In all the preaching I have heard in the 72 years since I came to faith, extremely little has been expounded concerning the perfect benefits of Jesus’ burial.

While His burial is included in the Gospel message (1 Cor 15:1-4), little more is said about it, except that His burial was a part of the evidence He really died. This was a great concern for the Jewish leaders that His body should stay in the tomb. Better than His followers, they remembered Jesus saying He would rise from the dead. To this end, they not only had an extremely heavy stone put on His tomb’s opening, but sealed it. The seal was to make it a crime to move the stone if the Roman seal was broken. Breaking the seal would be an offense against the authority of Rome, which was a capitol punishment. To make it even doubly certain, they had a Roman guard posted to at keep the body secure until decomposition began. It was a Jewish belief that the soul had not fully departed until then (John 11:39).

His burial was an experience that would always be remembered. Grief and mourning were much more a custom in those days than it is today. They even had professional mourners to help carry on the weeping and whaling for as much as a month. This was especially so, when it was a particularly important person who died! For the disciples and close followers, this was especially so. For they were not persuaded that Jesus mission was primarily to accomplish the propitiation for sins (1 John 2:2). They did not perceive that the establishment of the promised Messianic Kingdom could only come after national spiritual conversion (Acts 3:17-21; Zech 12:10-15).

Their weeping and mourning was not just because they had lost a Person they had loved. But their Kingdom hopes had perished with Him (Luke 24:21). Particularly, the women close to Him grieved. They alone, except for John, had spent hours watching Him die. Especially Mary Magdalene was completely consumed, because He had cast seven devils out of her (Mark 16:9). Jesus had given her emotional and body life, great peace, and hope. Because of this, she had an abundant life. Her life was full of purpose, she had the great satisfaction of helping Jesus in His great ministry. Seeing Him as the promised Person that might bring in the long hoped for and cherished Kingdom of God promised to King David and all Israel. Her great hopes were agonizingly lost as she saw His life drain out of Him on the Cross. With the rest of the lady disciples, now even their hope of caring for His body was gone. The tomb was empty! Her heart and body was so full of despair and grief, it blinded her, even when she saw Him and heard Him ask her why she was weeping, until He called her by name: Mary. Then, she experienced a complete emotional transformation, from absolute grief to unspeakable joy, which none other will ever experience, as a much loved hymn said.

They could never forget those 3 days of despair. It was such a real experience that they could not come out of it, except by handling His body and touching His wounds (John 20:25) even until they watched Him eat some fish and honey comb (Luke 24:42).

Today, when far too many people are more occupied with dying Easter eggs for egg hunts, and family gatherings, than to give much attention to His burial. Few sermons, if any, speak of the blessedness of how His burial can have present benefits. Yet, there is great benefit, if it can be understood to get peace and victory over sin.

As with faith reckoning Jesus death and resurrection can give a transformed spiritual life, so can identifying with His burial give help in experiencing the overcoming life! However, it must be a personal act, as a definite faith reckoning and self identification with His burial! “Likewise you also, reckon (count) yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 6:11).

And: “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;” (2 Tim 2:11).

So, what are the benefits of His burial that can be ours, if we reckon His burial into our experience. The fundamental benefit is to reckon these cancelled sins were carried into His burial. So this is the place of freedom by faith reckoning for God make it a means of peace.

For some, with a consciousness of deep and multiple sins in their past life, it is a near absolute necessity. I have helped more than two suicidal men to find peace by seeing the greatness of Jesus' death for their overwhelming guilt and defeat.

In the days of much warfare and fighting, many soldiers are haunted by combat experiences. The greatly increased suicide rate of soldiers is proof that remembrances of their violent experiences can torment them to a breaking point. This does not only apply to them, but to those who have gotten forgiveness from God, but are not free from their own terrible memories.

For some have lived a very wicked and violent life before conversion. When they are converted are tormented by just how bad their lives were, they cannot get free of the memories. What they took pleasure in then now, became great evil and tormenting haunting memories. So that they feel compelled to punish themselves, even by trying to commit suicide. Even the Apostle Paul painfully remembered his past evil deeds:

“I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;” (Gal 1:13). Until he found the spiritual secret of the new life in Christ, he had great distress: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24).

These knew forgiveness, but past memories, distressed them greatly. Only when they applied the Gospel in the new living relationship did they find peace: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”(Gal 2:20).

The greatness of God’s forgiveness is described in several places in Scripture: “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(Ps 103:12).

When conversion is manifested in a new life, these are words of assurance, even in the Old Testament times: “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.” (Ezek 18:22).

And: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin." (Rom 4:7, 8 NKJV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24).

If believer’s sins are payed for in Jesus death on the cross, what benefit can be experienced from His burial?

In burying a person or thing, the purpose is not to have to have it present, to have to deal with the body or thing. In warfare, where a great number are killed, especially of the enemy, a trench dug by a bulldozer and then pushed the bodies in and covered them up. I saw this in my tour in Vietnam, after a great number of the enemy were kill as they had assaulted our fire support base, Mahone 2. Their bodies were just put into the trench and covered up! There was no ceremony as they were just those who were trying to kill us.

Also, in a video news report about what was found in a liberated concentration camp where the terrible murderous Nazi’s had killed thousands, in this concentration death camp! The Nazis killed many by just letting their prisoners starve to death. There were row after row of the poor victims just laying in the open. There were so many that they had to be buried just to avoid disease, if for no other reason. It tore my heart to see the bodies of these victims just pushed into a huge trench by a bulldozer. Sometimes these mass burials were later exhumed for a better burial in family plots, if there were any of their families left alive.

The basic purpose of burial of anything, especially dead bodies, was to no longer be occupied with it. With the Jews, the body was only left in the tomb until all the flesh rotted away. Then the bones were taken out and put into a stone box. If the dead were prosperous enough, the box was put into a place for family members. In many other countries, after the dead’s family were gone, who cared for the grave cite, the bones were taken up and thrown into an open pit. This was to make room in certain cemeteries for other bodies. For people as a whole, the cemeteries were used for other purposes. I remember seeing this many years ago in Mexico. This was the case with the founder of the US Navy, John Paul Jones. About a century later, Theodore Roosevelt wanted to raise the profile of our Navy by having his body interred at the Naval Academy. Jones’ body was buried in France and was disregarded so much that it was under the pavement of a parking lot. It is a wonder that the French had historical records adequate to find where it was located. The point is, the purpose of burial is to put away something so that it could not to be involved with.

So what spiritual benefit does God have for us to make it listed as a part of the Gospel that has any continuing spiritual benefit in the believer’s life?

For many, Jesus’ burial only reminds people that He really died. After all, after He was crucified even having a spear thrust into His body, how could anyone believe that He could have not died? In our day, it is common knowledge, there is a necessity for medical emergency teams to race to try to keep a severely injured person from breathing one’s last! How could those who have professed that Jesus only went into a coma even propose this idea that He could have survived and lived out a normal life. This is what fiction writers like Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, suggested, even asserted. It grieves me to remember an army medic in my outfit, had lost his faith and was killed. He had read and believed another novel, The Passover Plot. Also, a good number of Muslim Imams have asserted either it was not Jesus who was crucified or that He survived. The wanted to negate the power of the Gospel.

However, as important as validating the reality of Jesus’ death is, what other benefit does God have for the believer? As mentioned earlier, “So, what are the benefits of His burial that can be ours, if we reckon His burial into our experience.”

One of the greatest things about our heavenly Father is His ability to forgive and forget believer’s sins!

When sins are confessed, God’s treatment of Israel furnishes a great illustration.

“O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
22 "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.” (Isa 44:21c, 22).

Again: “So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:11,12).

Since this is true for the forgiven godly, how does Jesus’ burial function as THE PLACE where God’s forgetfulness resides! Jesus’ cross accomplished the payment of sin’s guilt and punishment, but in Jesus’ burial His memory of these canceled sins find their resting place. As it was pointed out, the cross is the instrument of death. When death is accomplished, the results are put into the grave. As the believer trusts Jesus death as payment by faith reckoning, so by faith reckoning, he should identify with Jesus burial as a part of the Gospel. So should he reckon Jesus burial as God’s place of where God no longer deals with the accountability of sin! "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb 10:17). So as the believer makes Jesus’ death his payment for sin, so he can make Jesus’ burial his resting place from the memory of his sin’s demands. The reason? Sin finds its home in the sinner’s body by which the memory continually haunts him. This needs to be done even by the know so forgiven, as the Apostle Paul testifies: “. . waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am!” (Rom 7:23-24a).

If the believer will reckoned Christ’s burial as the place where God makes the memory of cancelled sins remain, then the believer NEEDS TO make Jesus burial the burial of his troubling memories stay!

In light of the reports of believers letting sin’s memory even drive them to suicide, this precept can save them. I know this, because I have helped several, considering suicide find peace and an additional reason to lift their troubled hearts in praise to God, who forgets.

Thereby they can enter into new life as Jesus did from His resurrection. Faith reckoning of union with Jesus’ resurrection is making a life style of utilizing our body’s functioning to a new life perspective to: “. . present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom 6:13b).

Additional benefits

The lifestyle of living under sin’s solicitation and the resultant struggle not to fulfill them is on the cross and buried in the tomb so that what is right in God’s sight is what we consider and look for. This perspective is seen in Romans 12:1, 2: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5, describes the functioning of this lifestyle perspective: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

As burial of anything is an act of making that thing something that is no longer to be dealt with, so can the memory of paid for sins.

Living in this world, there are always things that will tempt any believer. As with the Lord Jesus, when Satan left Him being defeated initially in the desert, Scripture records that this was just for another time: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13).

This is specifically stated when Satan used Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ declaration that He was going to die. In His reproof of Peter’s effort Jesus said: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (Matt 16:23). After again telling His disciples of His soon coming death, Jesus said: “. . the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). Even though it is not stated that a part of Jesus’ agonizing prayers to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane to “let this cup pass from Me” (Mt 26:36-39) that Satan was involved. For in Jesus’ death, the prophecy against Satan made reference to Satan’s head being bruised as he would do to Jesus’ heel (Gen 3:15).

When the believe is tempted, he can find victory and peace by remembering that he has reckoned himself to be dead to sin’s lifestyle (Rom 6:11) and even if he gives in, the wages of his sins have been paid for (Heb 10:14). Even the memory of his past failures are in Christ’s burial, the place of God’s forgetfulness. Thereby even in the overwhelming temptation, his past cannot persuade him that temptation will end in failure and despair! He remembers victories, and is not weakened by the prospect of failures.

Through remembering the completeness of the peace of the Gospel, the threat of despair of the threat of the Law’s demands, he does not fear the consequences of the demands of its violations (Rom 3:20; 7:4; Gal 2:19,20). Neither does he need to fear God’s righteousness (Rom 10:4) that was satisfied in the Gospel. All this, as he not only trusts in the enduring forgiveness of the cross, but also in God’s forgetfulness centered in Christ’s burial.

Faith reckoned peace in the adequacy of God’s forgetfulness, found in Christ’s burial, is maintained in the believer’s conscience (Rom 5:1-8; Eph 2:13, 14a; 1 Peter 3:21d, 22).

This peace can also work in the struggle concerning the temptation in fearing defeat by remembering personal guilt of the past: “. . the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Why? The adequacy of God’s forgetfulness of His memory of sins forgiven is found in Christ’s burial.

The appeal of sin can be defeated as the believer remembers Christ’s suffering to get sin forgiven and its memory lost in Jesus’ burial (Rom 7:23-8:9). This is furthered by remembering as the believer rejoices in the memory of accepting God’s view of sin and the peace of forgiveness after confessing and forsaking sin (1 John 1:7-9). He has this by remembering that one’s sin is forever gone in Christ’s death and burial. And, then, the joy of praise for the adequacy of even the passing of forgiven sin’s. The remembrance of this is why many rejoice in singing the chorus: “I’m saved, saved to tell others!” For in Christ’s burial even the memory in God’s remembrance of his sins are gone is perfectly satisfied.

What a treasure to know that because of God’s forgetfulness of one’s sins in Christ’s burial, we have assurance before God’s Throne that Satan’s accusations of our sins fall empty on God’s ears. What peace the believer can have as he contemplates the final judgement before Christ’s White Throne (Rev 20:6) knowing that the believer will not be present, for in Christ’s burial even his sin’s memory is absent.

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