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The tomb of Jesus: A catalyst for life

Facade of a 1st century AD burial tomb in Jerusalem
Facade of a 1st century AD burial tomb in Jerusalem
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

"[Joseph of Arimathea] took [Jesus’ body] down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain” (Luke 23:53).

No one had ever died the kind of a death that Jesus died- a death which put the weight of everyone's sin on His shoulders and subjected Him to the guilt of all the world. Everything about that death was new because Jesus was the one man death could not hold. The unique nature of this death is underscored by the tomb itself, which was brand new- no one had ever been laid to rest there before.

The grave itself becomes a character in the narrative, beginning with the place where it was physically located: The tomb, clearly representing death, was located in a garden, which represents life (John 19:41-42). The setting here is no mere coincidence. On the morning when the women came to the tomb expecting to find the body of Jesus, they would have been surrounded by life- flowers just beginning to open in the light of dawn, and herbs giving off their fragrance- subtly hinting at the unexpected truth. The gospel of John even shows that Mary mistook Jesus for a gardener, one who cultivates life by the tombs (John 20:15).

This juxtaposition of life and death is very clear in the gospels. John reveals that the burial shroud was laid aside at the resurrection as if to imply that Christ set death aside, that he shed it as one would shed a garment (John 20:5-7). Additionally, in Mark we see that the angel showed the women the place where Jesus’ body had been, which was now empty (Mark 16:3-6). The emptiness of the tomb expresses the idea that death had been robbed of the man in this tomb, and would soon be robbed of many, many others: Paul, in I Corinthians 15, speaks of Jesus’ resurrection, claiming that Christ is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Verses 21 and 22 continue, “ For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Christ’s death was actually the catalyst of everlasting life, beginning in Himself and extending to all who believe in Him. In Christ life burst forth from within the isolated confines of death and the tomb. His resurrection paved the way for ours, and our new life, which emerges with Christ from the tomb, will ultimately be both physical and spiritual. This is the glorious truth we will celebrate this Easter Sunday and forever, both in this world and the next.