Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: The Burial of Jesus
Theologians speak of the work of Jesus Christ as being performed in two states or conditions: the state of humiliation and the state of exaltation. The state of humiliation consists of the Son of God taking to himself a human nature, his entering the world as a man, having been conceived in the womb of his virgin mother, his living in the world subject to all the miseries of life, his rejection by men, his suffering, and his death on the cross. In other words, the state of humiliation is all the Son of God endured for our salvation. His state of exaltation then begins with his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to the Right Hand of God, his session, that is his sitting at the Right Hand of God the Father ruling over all things for the church, his coming again, and his judging of the world. In other words, the state of exaltation is all he does as our Savior after his suffering has been concluded.
In many ways, Jesus' burial was a part of his humiliation. His burial was important because it testified to His death, and, quite frankly, the hopelessness of His disciples. Burial expresses the finality of death and the burial of Jesus was no different.
But His burial was also the beginning of His exaltation. He was not buried in a common grave, but rather in a rich man's tomb.
Rayburn also points out the personhood of the dead. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of our own resurrection, dead people are still dead people. Yes, our soul is absent from the body, but the body will still have a role to play. Rayburn argues against cremation for this reason - something I had never even thought of before. Of course, the bodies of believers who have been cremated will still be resurrected, but Rayburn says... Decomposition is not cremation in precisely the same way a miscarriage is not an abortion. We are to practice our faith as Joseph of Arimathea practiced his. We are to affirm by our actions both the personhood of the body and our conviction that that self-same body will live again as did Jesus’ body. When Paul speaks of these things he assumes both that the dead body in the grave is a human being a person himself or herself – he too uses personal pronouns to speak of buried bodies, “they who are in their graves” – and he also assumes that Christians will have buried their dead as they did in apostolic times and ever thereafter until our own lifetime.
Jesus Christ sanctified the grave for us, not the crematorium! He sanctified a reverent procedure in which the person is laid to a rest, a rest from which we know he or she will soon awake. No one can confess and embody that faith by cremating a human body, a human being!...
If the dead body were an it, you could by all means burn it up to save money. But it is not an it; it is a he or she. You cannot burn up God’s people!
Interesting food for thought.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 16:1-8