The other night I was reading the bible in the gospel of Matthew and noticed something I hadn’t thought about before. Matthew 27 walks us through the judgment, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus Christ. The one part of that story I’ve never really focused on is the burial of Christ accomplished by a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, but after reading it, I can’t help but think it to be a symbolic picture helpful in understanding the gospel, the fact that Christ died for you, which Romans 6 says you died with Christ to sin, and that He raised from the dead in victory over sin and death, in the same way Romans 6 says we were raised to a new life changed forever.
The story serves to prove Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 about Jesus being buried in a rich man’s grave and that was definitely the primary intent of the author, but reading it the other night I couldn’t help but see it in a new light.
Matthew 27 talks to us about Joseph of Arimathea when it says in verses 57-60:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The part that really stuck out was verse 59, Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb that he had cut for himself. While this was obviously a gesture of love for Jesus, the symbolism from the story is what strikes me. Joseph buries Jesus in his own tomb symbolizing Jesus’ death for him, entering his grave where Joseph had prepared to be laid upon death, but 3 days later Jesus raises from the dead out of Joseph’s tomb, symbolizing that sin and its consequences (death) no longer had eternal power over Joseph or anyone who believes.
It just struck me as I heard and read the story, I am Joseph of Arimathea, that Christ has gone to the grave that I dug for myself through sin, but He conquered it for me that I wouldn’t have to endure everlasting death, but be able to enjoy everlasting life.