“Now there was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.”
~John 19:41 (NRSV).
Does this verse sound simply serene, or is it just my ear that hears that? Indeed, it’s the picture of silent splendour we literally feel as verses thirty-eight through forty-two are read as a symphony to eternal royalty. The achieved will of God is now celebrated in the laying of Jesus in this fresh tomb.
A Tomb, Not a Grave
It is not a grave. I recall my Greek lecturer at seminary, Dr. Richard Moore, stressing that. It was a “rock-hewn tomb” more like a cave (Luke 23:53).
Jesus’ body did not meet the destiny of the common criminal—those crucified characteristically were left to be devoured by the vultures or they were placed in common graves. Not Jesus!
There is perhaps a hidden interplay (one that John doesn’t reveal) here between Joseph of Arimathea and Pilate, and certainly empathy that Jesus didn’t deserve to die a criminal’s death.
Another Sanhedrin Disciple ‘Anoints’ Jesus’ Body
Added to Joseph of Arimathea is Nicodemus—a secret admirer of Jesus’ all along; a fascinating snippet the Fourth Gospel reveals (John 3:1-15; 7:50-51; 12:42).
Both ‘disciples’ make their allegiance public at the declaration of the tomb and adornment of Jesus’ body in spices; a matter of great courage for both men. They risked great shame in doing that and perhaps reveal a counter-intuitive twist—Pharisees that aid Jesus first after the crucifixion when his own disciples were still nowhere to be found.
The process of preparing the body in “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” to the mass of a hundred pounds (John 19:39) is tantamount to royal treatment.
No Old Tomb Suitable for a King
As mentioned, there is a regal feel to the narrative of John 19:38-42—the burial of Jesus.
Since the Sabbath was imminent, Jesus was laid in the tomb without delay—into Joseph’s own new tomb.
It’s distinguishing that Jesus’ body does not see “corruption” (Acts 2:27) after crucifixion by entering a used or common grave.
Can we also picture Jesus both crucified and laid dead within a garden setting?
Here John is linking crucifixion with coming resurrection. Garden imagery is beautifully biblical, calling us back to
‘Gardening’ is also the role of a ‘guard’ tending to the garden—a thing growing as all creation does. God is The Gardener. He guards, prunes and purifies us (John 15:1-11).
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Colin. G. Kruse, John – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (
R.V.G. Tasker, John: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1960), pp. 218-20.
Graphic Credit: Jerusalem: the Via Dolorosa.