The Burial of Christ

Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.  And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Josesh saw where he was laid. And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; —it was very large. And    entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going     before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.   (Mark 15:43-16:8)

The death of Christ, as is the death of every human being, is related according to Genesis to mortality becoming part of the human condition due to human sin.  Death has spread to all humans, since all humans sin (Romans 5:12).   Death, the separation from God, led to the physical decomposition of the human body – the return of the vivified matter back to the dust of the ground.

We read in Genesis 3:17-19: “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it’, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

“The ground becomes cursed as a result of Adam’s sin. St. Cyril of Jerusalem saw Christ’s burial in the ground as undoing the curse. ‘[…] Jesus was buried in the earth to reverse the curse on the ground and he cursed the fig tree for the sake of the fig leave, which acted as types.’” (St. Cyril in Beginnings-Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives by Peter C.Bouteneff, pg.122)

Christ was understood by the early church Fathers as having undone all of the effects of the Fall.  This understanding of salvation also assumes the narrative of Adam and Eve is not merely a historical account, but is also a typology.  Adam comes to represent all of humanity, and his Fall is the Fall of humanity.   So too Christ typologically represents all of humanity, and His death and resurrection is on behalf of all and for all.