The Burial Garden
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19:41-42 (Holman) There was a garden in the place where He was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it. They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation and since the tomb was nearby.
Gardens have long delighted people. Solomon, to increase his happiness, made gardens with all kinds of fruit trees (EC 2:5). Ahab desired an herb garden near his house (I K 21:2). To secure it for him, Jezebel murdered Naboth.
King Manasseh had a garden in Jerusalem and was buried there (2 K 21:18). Ahasuerus, Monarch of Persia, entertained in the court of his garden (ES 1:5). It was also a place where he walked to release tension and anger (ES 7:7).
God loves gardens. He made a special one, Eden, for our first ancestors. It was a place where the Lord himself walked in the cool of the day (GN 3:8).
The word “garden” became a common metaphor for expressing joy, peace, and contentment. Jeremiah spoke of Israel’s future bliss saying, “Their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all” (31:12).
We could hardly conceive a contrast starker than a garden vs. Jerusalem’s execution site, yet adjacent to the place of skulls was a place of beauty. “Golgotha” and “garden” seemingly do not belong in the same sentence. This may explain why Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not mention the garden.
John, the only Gospel writer to mention the Burial Garden, saw more than only the glaring contrast. His poetic soul was always seeing more than met the eye. To John, it was appropriate that the place of Jesus’ worst suffering was adjoined by a place befitting the first scene of His coming victory. Flowers adorned Jesus’ Sunday morning trek to glory.
For John, this Burial Garden was a sermon in Nature, preaching a message to all three tenses of time. One, the Burial Garden was a message for the past. This Garden undid the first Garden’s failure. Two of the most important events in history took place in a garden: in Eden, sin and death entered our world (GN 3); in the Burial Garden (JN 19:41), Jesus rose from death to defeat sin and death.
Sin won its first victory in a garden; in another garden Jesus gave sin its worst defeat. Adam failed in a garden, Jesus triumphed in one. In a garden, Adam fell; in another garden, Jesus rose. In the Garden of Eden Adam gave death its sting. In the Burial Garden Jesus took away the sting.
Two, the Burial Garden was a message for the present. The resurrection proved our redemption was accomplished. The Burial Garden held a borrowed tomb for Him who died of borrowed sin. He who died for the sins of others was buried in the grave of another. Since our sins crucified Him, it was appropriate that He rested in one of our tombs. He should have been buried in the cemetery of the Kings of Judah; next to King David would have been especially proper.
Had the Sabbath not been drawing nigh, there might have been time to take Him to Bethany. He could have been buried in the tomb of his friend Lazarus, but no grave deserves to witness two resurrections.
The funeral was obscure and private: no pomp, no ceremony. The grave was cold and silent. The opening to His tomb was sealed, as if He were under arrest and being locked in jail for our debts. Jesus deserved better.
Fortunately, Jesus was not completely forsaken. His Father made sure His Son’s body was gently handled. Loving arms placed Jesus in the grave. He died between two thieves, but was borne to the Burial Garden between two kind wealthy men.
The tomb in the Burial Garden was perfectly suited for the Father’s intentions regarding Jesus. Hewn in rock (MT 27:60), no one could dig through it to remove the corpse. No one would ever be able to say the disciples tunneled their way into the sepulcher and stole the body of Jesus.
The tomb was new, never used before. Anyone who came out of this tomb could only be Jesus. The tomb’s newness assured the Father that His Son would not come into contact with corruption. “He that was born from a virgin womb must rise from a virgin tomb” (Henry).
The tomb was borrowed. Jesus did not need a grave for very long. Joseph put Jesus in his own tomb, probably figuring he would someday lie next to his beloved Friend. Joseph soon had to revise his plans. My guess is, he later stipulated that his body was to rest exactly where Christ’s had lain.
Three, the Burial Garden was a message to the future. This Garden will put every believer’s grave in a Garden.
Jesus’ empty tomb in this Burial Garden has caused our graves to be adjoined to the Garden of Paradise. Christ was planted as a seed in a Garden that He might come forth as the first-fruit of a large harvest from death. Due to what happened to Him in His Burial Garden, every believer’s interment is a sowing.
Death is ugly, but Christ’s resurrection causes a garden-like beauty to spring from it. Believers weep not as those who have no hope. From Christ’s Burial Garden we gather flowers of hope to adorn our mourning for the dead.
Flowers picture resurrection. Our custom of sending them to funerals sprang from our belief that death is not the end for a Christian. For all who die in Christ, new life blossoms.
The burial of Jesus buried death. Death viciously clutched Jesus, but He rendered it impotent. Jesus gave death such a shattering that it can never be rebuilt.
His grave reconciles us to our own graves. The believer never enters a grave alone. Jesus has already been there. He inhabited a grave to make our grave different from what it was. His grave knocked out the bottom of our grave. Before Him, the grave was solely a grim reminder of the curse, a prison, but now it is a bed of rest.
All who know the Christ of the Burial Garden share His everlasting life. Come meet Him and say with us, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? . . . Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Cor. 15:54b-55, 57).