A Psalm for Burial

The burial of Jesus isn't peripheral to his work. In fact, the Apostle Paul names it as one of those things of first importance (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

When we sing this Psalm [16] (the Psalms were written to be sung after all) we do so as those who have been buried with him in baptism. And it connects us to the very words of him who is the firstfruit of the resurrection, of him who bore our sins, and of him who was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. We get to sing with Jesus about his burial in anticipation of our own resurrection with words given by the Holy Spirit. “

 

When is the last time you thought about the burial of Jesus Christ? It seems to me that in our eagerness to move beyond the sorrow of crucifixion we quickly jump to the victory of resurrection forgetting the interval between death and life. In one of the most detailed and public announcements concerning his work Jesus said: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:4). The emphasis of Jesus falls not on his death or even his resurrection but on the length of time between the two – on his burial.

The burial of Jesus isn’t peripheral to his work. In fact, the Apostle Paul names it as one of those things of first importance (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But, as Bernard Northrup once suggested: “The portion of time in the life of Messiah that lies between His death and His resurrection is undoubtedly the most obscure period in the life of the Messiah. It is a period of darkness because it is so little considered by believers. It is not that we do not have revelation in the Scriptures on the subject. Seldom do we give attention to the three days and the three nights during which the Savior’s body lay in the grave. Those three days and three nights lie in the shadow of the cross.”

So where can we go to understand something of the burial of Jesus? Obviously the gospel accounts tell us something about the history and circumstances – important little details that mean so much. But it seems to me one of the most vivid and instructive places is in the Psalms. While the gospel authors wrote as historians or even eyewitnesses to the details of Jesus’ life, the Psalmist wrote as a prophet led by the Holy Spirit to write concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

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