“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. … For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”—1 Corinthians 15:2-4, NIV
One important and often forgotten aspect of the Easter Story is when Christ’s body was laid in the tomb. The burial of Christ paints a clear picture of the burial of the believer’s “old” life.
We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Think of our representative union with Christ. When He died and was buried it was on our behalf, and we were thus buried with Him. Be buried in Christ! What for? That you may be dead forever? No, but that now getting where Christ is, you may go where Christ goes. Behold, He goes, first, into the sepulcher, but next out of the sepulcher; for when the third morning came, He rose. If you are one with Christ at all, you must be one with Him all through; you must be one with Him in His death, and one with Him in His burial, then you shall come to be one with Him in His resurrection.
Burial is, first of all, the seal of death.
It is the certificate of decease. If I am able to say, “I was buried with Christ 30 years ago,” I must surely be dead. There must be in us death to the world, and some of the effects of death. As burial is the certificate of death, so is burial with Christ the seal of our mortification to the world.
Burial is the displaying of death.
While the man is indoors the passers-by do not know that he is dead; but when the funeral takes place, and he is carried through the streets, everybody knows that he is dead. This is what baptism ought to be. The believer’s death to sin is at first a secret, but by an open confession he bids all men know that he is dead with Christ. Baptism is the funeral rite by which death to sin is openly set forth before all men.
Burial is also the “separateness” of death.
The dead man no longer remains in the house but is placed apart as one who ceases to be numbered with the living. Such is the believer when his death to the world is fully known: he is poor company for worldlings, and they shun him as a damper upon their revelry. The true saint is put into the separated class with Christ: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The saint is put away in the same grave as his Lord; for as He was, so are we also in this world. He is shut up by the world in the one cemetery of the faithful, if I may so call it, where all that are in Christ are dead to the world together, with this epitaph for them all: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
The grave is the place of the “settledness” of death.
For when a man is dead and buried, you never expect to see him come home again. In spiritual things, however, I am afraid that some are not so buried with Christ but they walk a great deal among the tombs. The man in Christ cannot walk as a ghost, because he is alive somewhere else; he has received a new being, and therefore he cannot mutter and peep among the dead hypocrites around him.
“Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more … he died unto sin: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Romans 6:9-10). If we have been once raised from dead works we shall never go back to them again. I may sin, but sin can never have dominion over me; I may be a transgressor and wander much from my God, but never can I go back to the old death again. When my Lord’s grace got hold of me and buried me, He wrought in my soul the conviction that henceforth and forever I was to the world a dead man. Tell the world they need not try to fetch us back, for we are spoiled for them as much as if we were dead. Tell the world not to tempt us any longer, for our hearts are changed.