We have here an account of Christ’s burial; for he must be brought not only to death, but to the dust of death (Ps. 22:15), according to the sentence (Gen. 3:19), To the dust thou shalt return. Observe,
I. Who buried him. His acquaintance stood afar off; they had neither money to bear the charge nor courage to bear the odium of burying him decently; but God raised up one that had both, a man named Joseph, Luke 23:50. His character is that he was a good man and a just, a man of unspotted reputation for virtue and piety, not only just to all, but good to all that needed him (and care to bury the dead, as becomes the hope of the resurrection of the dead, is one instance of goodness and beneficence); he was a person of quality, a counsellor, a senator, a member of the sanhedrim, one of the elders of the Jewish church. Having said this of him, it was necessary to add that, though he was of that body of men who had put Christ to death, yet he had not consented to their counsel and deed (Luke 23:51), though it was carried by the majority, yet he entered his protest against it, and followed not the multitude to do evil. Note, That evil counsel or deed to which we have not consented shall not be reckoned our act. Nay, he not only dissented openly from those that were enemies to Christ, but be consented secretly with those that were his friends: He himself waited for the kingdom of God; he believed the Old-Testament prophecies of the Messiah and his kingdom, and expected the accomplishment of them. This was the man that appears upon this occasion to have had a true respect for the Lord Jesus. Note, There are many who are hearty in Christ’s interests, how, though they do not make any show in their outward profession of it, yet will be more ready to do him a piece of real service, when there is occasion, than others who make a greater figure and noise.
II. What he did towards the burying of him. 1. He went to Pilate, the judge that condemned him, and begged the body of Jesus, for it was at his disposal; and, though he might have raised a party sufficient to have carried off the body by violence, yet he would take the regular course, and do it peaceably. 2. He took it down, it should seem, with his own hands, and wrapped it in linen. They tell us that it was the manner of the Jews to roll the bodies of the dead, as we do little children in their swaddling-clothes, and that the word here used signifies as much; so that the piece of fine linen, which he bought whole, he cut into many pieces for this purpose. It is said of Lazarus, He was bound hand and foot, John 11:44. Grave-clothes are to the saints as swaddling-clothes, which they shall out-grow and put off, when they come to the perfect man.
III. Where he was buried. In a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, that the prison of the grave might be made strong, as the church, when she was brought into darkness, had her way enclosed with hewn stone, Lam. 3:2, 9. But it was a sepulchre in which never man before was laid, for he was buried on such an account as never any one before him was buried, only in order to his rising again the third day by his own power; and he was to triumph over the grave as never any man did.
IV. When he was buried. On the day of the preparation, when the sabbath drew on, Luke 23:54. This is given as a reason why they made such haste with the funeral, because the sabbath drew on, which required their attendance to other work, preparing for the sabbath, and going forth to welcome it. Note, Weeping must not hinder sowing. Though they were in tears for the death of Christ, yet they must apply themselves to the sanctifying of the sabbath; and, when the sabbath draws on, there must be preparation. Our worldly affairs must be so ordered that they may not hinder us from our sabbath work, and our holy affections must be so excited that they may carry us on in it.
V. Who attended the funeral; not any of the disciples, but only the women that came with him from Galilee (Luke 23:55), who, as they staid by him while he hung on the cross, so they followed him, all in tears no doubt, and beheld the sepulchre where it was, which was the way to it, and how his body was laid in it. They were led to this, not by their curiosity, but by their affection to the Lord Jesus, which was strong as death and which many waters could not quench. Here was a silent funeral, and not a solemn one, and yet his rest was glorious.
VI. What preparation was made for the embalming of his body after he was buried (Luke 23:56): They returned, and prepared spices and ointments, which was more an evidence of their love than of their faith; for had they remembered and believed what he had so often told them, that he should rise again the third day, they would have spared their cost and pains herein, as knowing that in a short time there would be a greater honour put upon his body, by the glory of his resurrection, than they could put upon it with their most precious ointments; but, busy as they were in this preparation, they rested on the sabbath day, and did none of this servile work thereon, not only according to the custom of their nation, but according to the commandments of their God, which, though the day be altered, is still in full force: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.