The Humiliation of Death

Death is humiliating. It doesn’t seem like that nowadays when we go to music-filled funeral halls in suits to gather around the dearly departed. There the person lays, sometimes wearing perfume for the first time ever, seemingly asleep and no odor escaping their preserved body. The perfectly ironed suit, the cushioned coffin, the gilded gold and the deep cherry wood—all of it looks rather royal, presidential even. But somebody else washed that corpse, carted it around, ensured that it wouldn’t stink then propped it up for people to see: humiliating.


Oh, we all know about the humiliations Jesus suffered before the cross: the beatings, the spittings, the ripping out His beard and the crown of thorns. We know about the humiliations on the cross: naked, battered, laughed at, given a foul concoction to try to drink. But we don’t often think about the humiliation at his death.

  • It’s a Sabbath high day and the Jews don’t want the crucified bodies spoiling their feast; so they want the crucified men to be killed and carted away like trash.
  • The soldiers came and broke the legs of two of the crucified knowing it would speed up the death but the final man was already a corpse; no need to break a corpse’s legs—just stab the thing to make sure it’s truly done.
  • They take a spear, shove it upwards through the ribcage towards the heart and all the bodily fluids gush out; it’s just a chore.
  • Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus has to get permission to get the corpse: it has no power over Romans but it’s a chore. With permission granted he takes the body away.
  • Nicodemus, the man who came to Jesus in secret (at night) brings a costly amount of perfume but for what? To slather on the body so that it’s stink isn’t overwhelming and to show how much he estimated the man. Sure they laid him in a rich man’s burial ground but that just means there were a lot of corpses around with little use for money.

Humiliating. Jesus, the descendant of David who preached the impending Kingdom of God, who performed miracles, was just a corpse with secret friends rushing off to get the job done before the festival started.

But unlike any corpse in history this one wasn’t rotting. Peter points out that “God refused to let this corpse suffer the corruption and the rot but he turned around those processes—and the man was resurrected!” That’s in Acts 2.

Paul explains the nature of resurrection. One star is brighter than another, and the flesh of animals are different from each other—in that way the resurrected body is similar to the rotting body but very different. The corpse rots but it comes up incapable of rotting; the corpse is planted in dishonor and humiliation but it’s raised in glory; it’s buried in weakness but raised in power—because it is buried as a natural body and raised as a spiritual body.”

This Jesus who was buried was a corpse in weakness but was proved to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. How so?

I want people to get this point: Why was the stone blocking the tomb’s entrance rolled away? Think about it. This same Jesus who made the lame to walk, caused the blind to see, who walked on water—did He need to have the stone pushed aside to get out?

No.

The stone was rolled away to show that a man was buried there and the linen sheets attested to that. The stone was rolled away to show that the man was gone, the face covering put to the side with the likeness of a person waking up and removing the obstruction. The stone was rolled away to show the emptiness of the tomb to whoever wanted to see.

Paul, in light of this resurrection, laughs “Grave where is your victory—Death where is your sting?”

The stone is gone because it’s the first revolving door to the grave. Jesus Christ died, a man, died—then got back up. Death, unable to stop Him, was left humiliated.

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