Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program


    It’s great to be together again as we look in to the Word of God, make personal application and share its truths with others.  The title for the lesson is: His Own New Tomb.  And our text is taken from the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew, chapter 27, verses 57 thru 61.  Please listen to the Word of God.  

     “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”  This is the Word of God.  May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

      Memorial Day in America is a patriotic holiday to honor Americans, soldiers, sailors and airmen, who have sacrificed their lives for the values and freedoms we treasure.  This holiday now honors those who died in any war while serving our nation.  It’s believed that this Memorial Day was first observed after our American Civil War in 1866.

     At ‘The Tomb of the Unknowns’ of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War a wreath is placed on every Memorial Day.  This ceremony is held at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.  The idea of this began after World War I, Officials of the Allied countries found that the bodies of many soldiers killed in battle could not be identified.  The governments of Belgium, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and our United States decided to honor these unknown soldier’s memory.  The ‘unknown soldier’ of the United States was one taken from an American cemetery in France.  This ‘unknown soldier’ killed in World War I, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921.  The Tomb, completed in 1931 bears the inscription, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

     The U. S. Congress, after this original burial of the ‘Unknown Soldier,’ directed that an ‘Unknown American’ from each of three wars – World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War be buried beside the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ now called the ‘Tomb of the Unknowns’.

     So, regarding these men who sacrificed their lives, their identities are unknown.  Yet their resting place is known at the ‘Tomb of the Unknowns.’  An honor guard from the 1st Battalion, 3rd U S Infantry Regiment, Fort Myers, VA, keeps a sentry on duty at all times.  The sentry is changed every hour during the day from October 1st to March 31st and changed every half hour from April 1st to September 30th.  The sentry is changed every two hours at night.

     Now let’s make a monumental comparison from our text: Matthew 27:57-61.  In verse 57 it says in part “there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.”  Joseph according to the parallel passages of Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50-51 indicate he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that is the Jewish ruling council.  The Evangelist Luke also states of Joseph that he was “a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.”  That is did not agree to have turned Jesus of Nazareth over to the Romans to be crucified for treason against Rome.  Joseph was from the town of Arimathea which was about 18 miles northwest of Jerusalem in the region of Judea.  And Joseph was a wealthy man.

     Verse 58 “Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.”  We should understand that it was dangerous for a Jew to ask for the body of a crucified criminal executed for treason against Caesar and Rome.  Nevertheless, Joseph courageously asked for and received the body of Jesus in order to entomb it.  It’s noteworthy that Jesus’ disciples who had publicly followed him fled into hiding.  Yet Joseph of Arimathea who was a private follower of Jesus came forward to do what was right.  An example to all of us today not to hide our allegiance to Christ in the face of possible persecution.

     Verses 59-60 “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.”  “His own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock,” was presumably prepared in advance, for himself and his family members.  It was “new” therefore no one had, as of yet, been laid there.  It was not a natural cave, but being rich, it had been especially cut out of a rock outcropping as a suitable tomb site.  It was initially guarded by a big stone rolled over the entrance to the tomb.

     This was to fulfill exactly the prophecy written about 700 years beforehand by the prophet in Isaiah 53:9 that says in part “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.”  Because of Jesus of Nazareth’s execution for treason – death on a cross – the Roman’s undoubtedly intended his grave to be with the guilty, wicked thieves who were also crucified.  Instead he was buried “with the rich” in an honorable way in a newly cut tomb for the rich.

     So, what’s the monumental comparison?  Unknown soldiers sacrificed themselves for their nation.  Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for every nation and people and tribe and language of mankind.  Each unknown soldier sacrificed himself in a past war in which he died.  Jesus Christ died on behalf of mankind for the ongoing ‘war against God’ that continues until Christ comes.

     Furthermore, the personal identity of an ‘Unknown Soldier’ is lost.  However, we do know where the physical remains of an unknown soldier are entombed and buried.  We honor, we memorialize this once a year on the last Monday in May, on Memorial Day.

     In stark contrast, the personal identity of Jesus the Christ is not lost but is well known in every country, on every continent today.  And it is by knowing and receiving Jesus Christ through obedient faith that we are saved. 

     No one knows accurately the place of the tomb in which Jesus was laid.  Most probably due to all the topographical changes outside Old Jerusalem his tomb site no longer even exists.  Yet the location of the tomb of Jesus is a moot point anyway, because, he is not there, he has been raised out physically from amongst the dead.  Jesus Christ is alive in heaven in his physical, glorified body at the right hand of God interceding for the saints.  And we honor, memorialize his sacrifice formally every first day of every week every month, every year until Jesus returns for his church!  The original Greek word translated “tomb” means ‘a remembrance’ of the dead.  Which can include the ‘unknown dead.’

     Today as Christians, we proclaim only a temporarily used tomb parts of three days in which Jesus was placed.  Our continued ‘remembrance’ is to memorialize the gospel that Jesus Christ is known as the Son of God, Savior of the world, who died, was buried, and was raised out from amongst the dead!

     This is the heart, the central core of the gospel, the Good News, the Glad Tidings regarding Jesus Christ.

No secured tomb, no sentries, neither Satan nor death itself could hold him.  Jesus Christ is our ‘Known Savior, he is our soldier who defeated the forces of evil, who defeated death itself!  Who is coming again.

     Dear listener, do you know not just about Jesus do you know him personally, as your personal Savior and Lord?  Have you received him by obedient faith?  Which includes repentance of sin, confessing him as your personal Savior and Lord and being baptized, immersed into him and persevering in your faith in Christ Jesus as the Son of God, as your Savior knowing that he is coming again.  That we may persevere in saving faith until he comes.


      David Johnson is Minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.