Christianity is based on the event of Jesus’ resurrection. For Jesus to rise from the dead, He first needed to die and be buried. The soldiers confirmed Jesus’ death at the crucifixion and pierced His side with a sword.
But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
Joseph of Arimathea, part of the religious council who supported Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, was identified as a disciple of Jesus and the person who asked Pilate for Jesus’ body after Jesus’ death.
This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.
After Jesus’ death, Nicodemus was named as a participant in the burial of Jesus along with Mary Magdalene and other women who were present at Jesus’ burial in the tomb.
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.
Jesus was confirmed dead by the soldiers at the cross. Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by multiple people. The location of Jesus’ tomb, where His body was laid, is known by His followers, the religious leaders, and the Roman authorities.
Years later, Jesus’ followers still discussed His death and burial. One of the earliest records of Jesus’ death and burial was written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul writes that Jesus died and was buried.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
I [Paul] passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He [Jesus] was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
Paul likely wrote this letter (now called 1 Corinthians) about A.D. 55. Interestingly, Paul claims he learned this information about Jesus’ death and burial from others – passed on to me – and from the Scriptures – agreed upon written and oral messages circulated among Jesus’ earliest followers.
In the book of Acts, we learn Paul encountered the resurrected Jesus on the way to Damascus, probably in A.D. 33 (Acts 9:3-9). Paul could have learned from early Christians in Damascus. Paul asserts in Galatians 1:18-20 that he traveled to Jerusalem and met Peter and James (probably around A.D. 36) and spoke with them about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Paul declares to the churches of Galatia that before God what he is writing about – Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – is the truth.
The dates of these events – Paul’s conversion, his stay in Damascus, his period of learning, and then his visit to Jerusalem – indicate that Paul was writing about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection within five years of these events occurring. This timeline of events is significant because most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were still alive and could confirm Paul’s letters to the churches (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and Galatians 1:3, 18-20) that Jesus had died and was buried. But did Jesus actually resurrect from the dead?