Symbols in Scripture

Churches are neat buildings

Churches are neat buildings

Sorry, this was supposed to come out on Sunday, but I was delayed, so here it is today. My technically third but really second “Sunday” Scriptural analysis lies before you. This is actually quite heavily based on the sermon I had at Church yesterday. I hope you guys glean something from it.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous cases of symbolism and internal references that serve to tie the whole book together. We see examples of prophesies being prophesied in one place and fulfilled in another. Rules and regulations, signs and wonders, all of them have some sort of significance that can be explained once the right context is found. Perhaps one of the places in the Bible most chock full of this symbolism is in the four gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books tell the story of Jesus, his birth, life, death, resurrection, and his ascension to his Father in heaven. Specifically I wish to focus on Jesus’ move to the tomb after his death. Believe it or not, there is remarkable symbolism to be found here.

We find the four parallel accounts in Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:31-42. Just looking over the references I have picked out, without even reading them, you can see there is a sharp incongruity between them. Matthew’s account has four verses to it, Mark’s has five, Luke’s has six, and then John’s has eleven. Why the sudden jump in the detail to John’s account? Was he more wordy? Of course not. It is because John was actually present at the crucifixion. In fact, if you look over John’s account, you will see he is the only person to mention the piercing of Jesus’ side and the fact that Nicodemus, the Pharisee was also present.

Looking at the four stories, we see Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who was a secret follower of Jesus, and a member of the council, ask Pilate courageously for the body of Jesus to bury in his own newly hewn tomb. From this we can infer Joseph himself was preparing to pass, but generously decided to give his own tomb for Jesus’ use. Not only this, we see he was a secret follower of Jesus, but courageously asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. What does this tell us? This means he’d decided to stand up for his faith.

In fact, we see Joseph was a member of the council, but as it is shown, had not been invited to Jesus’ trial. This automatically made the trial illegal. In Jewish tradition, the entire council had to be present before a death sentence could be be passed. Not only that, but in the trial itself, only one witness was present when the law decreed that there should be two. This could very well mean that when Joseph learnt of Jesus’ death, he was infuriated and filled with great sorrow.

Now the above stated are all interesting facts, but I mentioned symbolism. Don’t feel cheated, I’ll get to it. Before that however, I would like to briefly discuss Nicodemus and the seventy-five pounds of spice he bought for the burial of Jesus. During that time, only one pound of spice was bought with which to bury people. Spice was expensive, and you didn’t really need much more than that, but Joseph bought seventy-five pounds of it. That’s seventy-five times the required amount, some sources even put it at a hundred. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, spent seventy-five times the money he needed to spend to bury the body of Jesus. Talk about respect.

And finally we arrive at the symbolism that should inspire Christians all around the world. Looking at John’s account, we see that after Jesus’ death, soldiers were ordered to come and break the legs of the crucified men so that they would die before the High Sabbath (it was the day of Preparation). While the soldiers broke the legs of the two men with Jesus, they did not give him the same treatment as he was already dead. Now what is the significance of this? Well, in John, it tells us explicitly that this is fulfilling scripture. In fact, we get another clue from the fact that it was approaching a High Sabbath, which was a Sabbath that fell on the Passover.

If we move to Exodus 12:46, we see it says (in regards to the Passover lamb), “It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh out side the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. [ESV. Emphasis added]” The Passover lamb is symbolic of Jesus, whose bones were not broken, but what does this mean? It means that we Christians are one Church, united under Christ, as one body, and we will not be broken. Just as the lamb was not broken, just as Christ was not broken, the Church will. Not. Be. Broken.

Tours yruly

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2 thoughts on “Symbols in Scripture

  1. This is a fascinating look at the burial account (among other things) in all four gospel books. I found the part about the council and the significance of Jesus’ unbroken body very neat 🙂
    Anna B.

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