Jesus was dead.
Physically, His body was lifeless. Even as the other malefactors were struggling to live, He hung their limp. Because of the time of the day, and the fact that in a few short hours, the Passover Sabbath would be taking place, the hypocritically religious Jewish leaders petitioned that Pilate expedite the executions so the city of Jerusalem would not have this disgusting spectacle watching over it through this holy time.
As the Roman soldiers smashed the shins of the first two criminals, resulting in eventual asphyxiation, they realized that Jesus was already dead. He wasn’t fighting for breath anymore like the others. But, to ensure that He was dead, they took the extra step of stabbing His heart with a spear, causing immense amounts of blood and water to flow out of His chest.
After the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders were convinced that Jesus was dead, His body was lowered off of the cross by some of His friends, Nicodemus and Joseph. Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night, and had heard the great truth from the very lips of Jesus, “Even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” Now, Nicodemus handled the lifeless body of Jesus, and hurried with Joseph his friend to carry the body of Jesus to a nearby tomb.
There in the cold, chiseled, stone tomb these two men laid the lifeless body of Jesus. Without a doubt, as they wound the spices and linen clothes around the dead body of Jesus, they anointed Him with their tears too. This was the one who selflessly had healed thousands. This was the One who had stopped to feed a starving mob, who had raised Lazarus, who had calmed the troubled sea. Now, here He lay, helpless, lifeless, and dead.
This is an important point that must be understood as we see the gospel account according to John. The Roman executioners were convinced that He was dead. They were professional killers, there was no one more qualified to determine whether or not Jesus had died. Furthermore, after being ordered to execute a man, if they failed to carry out perfectly that order, they themselves would receive the punishment of death. These Romans knew that Jesus was dead.
Furthermore, the Jewish leaders, the enemies of Jesus, looked on at Jesus and saw very clearly that He had died. There was no doubt in their minds that they had finally killed Him. They had sought to kill Him for years now. They were finally rid of Him. Despite the grotesque nature of His death, they would certainly ensure that this foe of theirs was completely dead before allowing Him to come down from the cross. They hated Him, and their hatred would see this through to the end. They must have been disgustingly overjoyed when the blood flowed from His heart. He was done. He was dead.
Finally, the disciples of Jesus received His body from the cross. They did not carry Him back to their houses and try to resuscitate Him. There was no use. They could see clearly that He had died. Rather, they wrapped His body and buried Him. In their minds, there was no doubt that He was dead. Every character in the story was convinced that Jesus was dead. This leaves only one possible conclusion when we read this account. Jesus was dead. He had given Himself to die on the cross. There was no life left in Him when He was placed in the ground.
Food For Thought: How do we know that Jesus was dead when He was placed in the ground?