The story of Jesus’ burial from His last words on the cross
until Peter and John leave the empty tomb.
This narrative is based on an original harmonization of the Gospels using the New American Standard Bible, with some slight modifications and explanations added. Jesus has been on the cross for about 6 hours, the last three hours have been in darkness. It is about 3 PM, on Wednesday, Nisan 14. He will be dead in minutes. What follows is mostly Scripture.
Jesus now knows that everything (that had been prophesied about His death) has happened.
He said, “ I am thirsty.” This was foretold in Psalm 22:15. A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine and stuck it on a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. This was foretold in Psalm 69:21.
He accepted the sour wine, and shouted, “It is finished!” Then He shouted again with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” This was foretold in Psalm 31:5. After He said this, He bowed His head and took His last breath, and released His Spirit.
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. They came out of the tombs, but they remained outside of the city wall until after His resurrection, then they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
Now the centurion, who was standing right in front of Jesus, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, saw the way He took His last breath. They saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, and became very frightened. The centurion began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent. Truly this man was a son of God!”
Because it was the day of preparation, (some of) the Jews' leaders asked Pilate to have the legs of the three crucified men broken. That way, they would die quickly and their bodies could be removed from public view. They did not want bodies to remain on the crosses during the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day). So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, to make sure He was dead. Immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. These things were foretold in Psalm 34:20, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken,” and Zachariah 12:10 which says, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.”
The crowds who came together for this spectacle, saw all that had happened. Then they began to return to the city, beating their breasts.
All Jesus’ acquaintances, and the women who had followed Him from Galilee and ministered to Him, were watching from a distance. Among the women were Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and Salome. These used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
Some time had passed since Jesus died, it was already late afternoon (close to 4 PM), and twilight was approaching. And it was the day of preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, (and this was a special high Sabbath, Nisan 15, according to John 19:31 and Leviticus 23:6,7)
A man named Joseph, an honorable member of the ruling Sanhedren, who was secretly a disciple of Jesus, (he was afraid of some of the Jewish rulers), was a good and just man. He had not consented to the counsel or their decision. He was from Arimathća, a city of the Jews. He was one who lived in anticipation of the kingdom of God. He went boldly to Pilate, and pleaded for permission to take the body of Jesus away. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead and sent an order for the centurion to report to him. Pilate questioned the centurion concerning how long Jesus had been dead. When Pilate had confirmed the time and details of Jesus’ death from the centurion directly, he commanded that the body be released to Joseph.
Joseph left Pilate and went and bought some fine linen, then he returned to the crucifixion site.
(Before Jesus was lowered from the cross, a small cloth was used to cover Jesus’ entire head and was tied securely. This is the “facecloth” that John saw later in the tomb. This was placed on Jesus' head immediately after His death, so that no blood or fluid would fall to the ground. According to Jewish custom, blood lost while a person was alive was not as important as blood lost after a person dies, when the death was violent. Any blood or bodily fluid which came after death had to be buried with the body, so it had to be recovered. The facecloth may have already been at the site when Jesus died. This facecloth still exists and is known as the “Sudarium.” It is in Oviedo, Spain. It was not a high quality cloth.)
Then Joseph (under the centurion’s authority and probably with his help) had Jesus’ body supported while the nails were removed from his hands and feet. Finally, Jesus was lowered and removed from the area. His body was not allowed to touch the ground. He was not cleaned up in any way. He was taken to the area where Joseph’s garden tomb was, and there he was laid on the linen cloth, which was then folded over him. This linen cloth still exists, and is known as the “Shroud of Turin,” because it is housed in a church in Turin, Italy. There is limestone dust on the back of the Shroud, and the area of the “Garden Tomb” north of Jerusalem, is mostly limestone. He would have been laid there, while the next steps of preparation were being made. Mary would have had plenty of room to sit next to Jesus’ covered body.
Then Nicodemus arrived, the same Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night at the beginning of his ministry. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, some think it weighed as much as 100 pounds.
Together, they took the body of Jesus, and bound his hands, feet, and chin with linen strips. These cloth strips would have needed to be dry and clean so they would tie easily and stay tied. Then His entire body was wrapped in strips of lenin which had been saturated in the mixture of myrrh and aloes, according to Jewish burial custom. Because Nicodemus had made so much of the mixture, I think he intended to use it all. Only a small bowl of the mixture would have been necessary to prepare the three small strips of cloths needed to bind him.
I believe that Jesus was completely covered by these saturated linen strips. The mixture should have become hard and airtight. This was foretold in Psalm 16:10, “You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” These are the same strips of cloth that John says he saw in the tomb after Jesus’ resurrection. He had died a violent death, and the body had bled some after the moment of death, especially when his side was pierced. There would also have been some new bleeding after the nails and crown of thorns were removed. Jewish tradition prohibits removal of this kind of blood, so Jesus’ body was buried unwashed.
His body was laid in the tomb that Joseph had made for himself. It was cut directly from a solid rock. It had never been used. This was foretold in Isaiah 53:9, “His tomb was with a rich man." (I am aware of the translator's issues with this verse.)
Then he rolled a great stone over the door of the tomb, and departed. This was done in a hurry, because the Sabbath was about to begin. Joseph’s tomb was very close to the Crucifixion site and this is cited as the main reason for its use. Joseph had made this personal sacrifice spontaneously, due to the urgent need.
Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joses were sitting opposite the tomb, and they observed how His body was laid. The next day, on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
And during that same Sabbath, Thursday, Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests and the Pharisees went as a group to Pilate. They said to him, “Sir, we remember that when Jesus was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until after the third day. Otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ If that happens, it will be the worst deception yet.” Pilate said to them, “You have your own (temple) guards; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they sealed the stone shut.
Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices on Friday when the (high) Sabbath was over. They prepared these so that they might come and anoint Jesus’ body after the required three day wait. This was to freshen up the tomb for those who wanted to come and mourn.
Now after the (regular Saturday) Sabbath, while it was still dark, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, came to see the tomb. They brought the spices which they had prepared, so that they might come and anoint Him.
They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
And suddenly, there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The Temple guards had apparently recovered and fled before the women arrived.
The sun was just rising as the women reached the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, although it was extremely large.
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. “Come, see the place where He was lying.” But, they did not see the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They men said to the women, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words,
And the Angels said: “Go quickly and tell His disciples, and Peter, that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, you will see Him there, just as He said. Behold, I have told you.” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them. They said nothing to anyone along the way, for they were afraid. Mary ran and had come to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have removed the Lord’s body from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” The rest returned and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest of the disciples. Mary of Magdala and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to the disciples as nonsense, and they would not believe the women.
So Peter and the other disciple got up and ran to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first. He stooped and looked in, and saw the linen wrapping strips lying there; but he did not go in. Then, Simon Peter arrived, and entered the tomb; and he saw only the linen wrapping strips lying there. The other disciple then entered and believed. John said that the face-cloth which had been on His head, was not lying with the linen wrapping strips, but was rolled up in a place by itself.
The disciples did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
The Texts: www.biblegateway.com
The Shroud: www.shroud.com
The Sudarium: www.shroud.com/guscin.htm
The Garden Tomb: www.gardentomb.com
Psalm 22:15, 31:5, 34:20, 69:21