Did Jesus have to be buried in order to complete his work?

As regards our Lord’s burial, is it right to say that, “Burial is a necessary part of our Lord’s vicarious work”?

“The Gospel includes it as we see 1 Corinthians 15: 3, 4. Adam being guilty, the judgment of God required that he should return to the earth whence he came. The burning outside the camp of the sin- offering when its blood was taken inside the veil, points to this”

It is important to distinguish between the penal and governmental consequences of sin. The former are defined in the words of the Lord God, “In the day that thou eatest therefore thou shalt surely die.” There is no mention till later of dust returning to dust, if we must take that as the equivalent of burial, though it is more a putting out of sight, than physical dissolution. Nor indeed was physical death the death primarily referred to in the above warning: additional precautions had to be taken to ensure that, namely the prevention of access to the Tree of Life—”Now lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever (i.e., exist in a sin-haunted body), therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.” Nothing of an outward physical change seems to have taken place at the Fall, but a mysterious moral gulf had appeared between the creature and his Creator; he was afraid of God and hid himself. This was spiritual death.


In verses 16 to 19, the governmental consequences of the Fall are detailed quite distinct from death. The Christian is saved from the penal consequences of sin whereas he often has to know its governmental consequences. I believe the former were exhausted at the cross as the words, “It is finished,” declare, and as the rending of the veil proves. The Lord before breathing out His spirit was now no longer forsaken of His God for He commends it to His Father.

But as the writer Mr. J. T. well says, “The forsaking would not have been a public matter, had not our Lord uttered the cry.” So the death of the body was the outward and visible sign of that other death which had the much deeper significance of separation from God. I am surprised that Mr. J. T. should understand the meaning of the burning of the sin-offering outside the camp in Lev 4 as burial. The word for “burning” is “araph,” representing Divine judgment; it is Christ’s suffering under God’s righteous judgment, outside the camp.


It is difficult to conceive our Lord Jesus as under Divine judgment when with reverent and loving hands He was laid in Joseph’s tomb. We may remark that His grave with the rich man was not a penalty for sin, but, “because he had done no violence neither was there any deceit in His mouth.” It is perfectly true that Christ’s burial is an eloquent testimony to the complete setting aside of the old man; but could it be said that our Lord was buried vicariously? I trow not. It is part of “the truth of the Gospel,” but as far as I remember, is only once referred to by an apostle in any public address in the Acts, which seems to show that it is not a significant part of the Gospel for the unsaved. But the Gospel is very great and extended, and has a close application to the believer. Perhaps we would be right in saying that the cross is the refuge for sinners, the sepulchre, the receptacle for the old man— Signified by baptism; and “in Christ” risen, the residence of the new man.

W.H.