Jesus in the Tomb

Day 46

Holy Week – Saturday

Matthew 27:57-66
Mark 15:42-47
Luke 23:50-56
John 19:38-42

Jesus in the tomb. Jesus dead. Jesus buried. This is part of the gospel.

We know what happened on Good Friday and we know what happened on Easter Sunday. But what happened on Saturday is also part of the gospel. So what happened on Saturday? Nothing. Nothing happened. Nothing happened because Jesus was dead and buried. Indeed, this is an essential part of the gospel.

The oldest Christian creed is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians are the earliest New Testament writings, written even before the Gospel of Mark. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul inserts a creed he learned in Aramaic shortly after his conversion. This creed was written in the first few years after the resurrection (probably by the original Apostles while they were still in Jerusalem). It says…

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
He was buried,
He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
He was seen by Cephas,
Then by the Twelve.
After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once.
After that He was seen by James,
Then by all the apostles.


Don’t skip over the second line of the Gospel: “He was buried.” The burial is the death certificate of Christ. We don’t bury people who are alive; we bury people who are dead. And Jesus was dead. Dead and buried.

To be dead is one thing…to be dead and buried is another. Buried means, “beyond hope.” Saturday is harder than Friday. Friday is full of drama and peril; but though it is awful, there is still the glimmer of hope that there might be a miracle. But Saturday there is nothing. Nothing to do but to face the fact that all is lost. Friday has its horrific shock, but Saturday is more cruel still, because on Saturday the shock wears off and the devastating reality sets in. Many people are familiar with Tony Campolo’s famous sermon, It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming! But before Sunday comes, we have to endure Saturday.

What was that Saturday like for the disciples? For Peter? For the women who followed Jesus? It must have been utter hopelessness…and hopelessness is a kind of hell.

While the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky was living in Switzerland, he visited an art museum in Basle where he saw a painting by Hans Holbein entitled Christ in the Tomb. Dostoevsky was profoundly affected by this painting which depicts Jesus dead in the tomb with harrowing realism. When Dostoevsky saw the painting, which was above a door in the gallary, he stood upon a chair to get a closer look at it and then remarked, “Such a painting could make a man lose his faith.” At that time Dostoevsky was writing his novel, The Idiot, and he placed those words in the mouth of the central character, Myshkin. The painting figures prominently in the book; some editions of The Idiot even put this painting on the cover. Later Myshkin comes to realize that instead of making a man lose his faith, knowing (and feeling) that Jesus really was dead, is precisely the antecedent to overcoming faith. Myshkin comes to understand that there surely were those who had seen the dead body of Jesus in just such a horrifying state as depicted by Holbein in his painting, and only one thing could turn them into the apostles and heralds of the Christian faith: The FACT that Jesus Christ rose from the dead! Until we see Jesus as really dead in the tomb, the resurrection is little more than a fairy tale.

Here is Holbein’s painting…

Christ in the Tomb

Jesus really was that dead.

Meditate upon this fact…and then get ready for THE GREATEST FACT IN HISTORY!


Tomorrow is Easter. It will be the greatest Easter Sunday we’ve ever had at Word of Life! I promise that! You will never forget this Easter celebration!