The Two Death Burials Not Mentioned in the Bible That You Should Know
By Jamey Escamilla • March 4, 2021
For the first 26 years of my life, I never knew what experiencing the death of a loved one felt like.
Until my mom passed away a few years ago.
Honestly, her death didn’t happen unexpected.
She was battling drugs, alcohol, and cancer for a long time.
I was able to preach her funeral, even though it was hard.
I cried like a baby in front of everyone, and I still shed a few tears today.
Death is never a fun subject to talk about, but you CAN get through it in one piece.
Have you ever experienced the death of someone you really loved?
If you have, did the people around you comfort you? Were they understanding?
I hope they were.
I hope they did everything they could to understand your feelings.
I often think back to that time, and I remember that everyone was really supportive and comforting.
At that time, I had a job in retail, and I remember my boss being very supportive.
He was a nice guy, and he told me that he was sorry for my loss.
Of course, he allowed me to take a couple of days off to do her funeral and mourn a bit.
But think about this:
What if I told my boss that I needed off to attend my mother’s funeral, and instead, he said:
“No. Your job is more important, and we need you here.”
I probably would have quit that job immediately!
Did you know that Jesus said something along these lines to someone who lost his father?
Check it out:
“Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
When some people read this passage, they kind of ignore it, because it sounds like Jesus was being mean.
It’s one of those “that-was-kind-of-weird” scriptures that we avoid talking about.
But other people tackle this scripture head on and say what they think it means.
What many people believe about this scripture is that Jesus is simply giving the man a blunt, but honest truth.
That truth is that nothing – absolutely nothing – is more important than following Christ.
Our children, our spouse, our family, our job – NOTHING.
And you know what? That’s the truth!
I think that one of the main problems in the church is that we really do put some things above God.
Why is that we can spend hours at the mall, but not even five minutes with Jesus?
Why is it that we’d die for our children, but we’ll only walk with Christ as long as it’s comfortable to do it?
Really, our actions and words will show us where our heart is at when it comes to God.
But although I think this interpretation of this scripture is true, there’s actually more to it.
Jesus wasn’t just being blunt.
Let’s think about it a little deeper.
When we do, you’re going to see an even more meaningful interpretation.
First, let me ask this question:
Doesn’t it seem weird that this man was just out and about, hanging out with Jesus and the rest of the disciples, while his father was lying dead back at home?
Usually, when our loved ones die, we drop everything we’re doing.
We make all the arrangements, we have the funeral, we call the family.
We tend to that matter completely until they’re resting in peace in some location.
So, it just seems kind of odd to me that this man would even be there and tell Jesus this.
Oh sure, it could have just been that he was taking a break in those few days of funeral preparation.
Maybe his father’s funeral was later that day, and he was out and about when he heard that Jesus was coming through.
Maybe he listened to Jesus talk a bit, then approached him and said,
“I want to follow you, but it’s almost time for my father’s funeral. Let me go bury him really quick, and then I’ll be back.”
Then Jesus said, “Nope. That’s not more important than following me.”
Is this how it all played out, though?
It could be.
But this is also a perfect example of plugging our present-day culture and mindset into their ancient, middle eastern culture.
I think we often do this with the Bible.
We think that people in the Bible thought, acted, and did things the same we do here in America in 2021.
Just like with this scripture.
We just assume that OUR funerals, deaths, and burials are exactly like theirs!
But did you know that there were TWO burials for the people in Jesus’ day?
This isn’t something that you’ll learn in the Bible, but ancient historians talk about this.
When a Jewish person would die, they would bury their body the same day.
This was the first burial.
See Deuteronomy 21:22-23, John 19:31, and Acts 5:6-10.
After the body was buried or put in some type of chamber or cave, they would immediately go into a 7-day period of mourning, called shivah.
During this 7-day period, they were NOT allowed to leave the house, because they were supposed to be mourning.
After the body was put into this first burial place, it was left to decompose until there was nothing but bones left.
When a long enough time had passed, the oldest son would go back and gather the bones.
He would then place them in small chests called “ossuaries”.
This was known as the “second burial”.
Then, the chests were taken to Jerusalem or some other burial cave and placed near the bones of their ancestors.
Before we move on, I want to make a side note:
This was a very popular practice in the time of Jesus.
You have to remember that the way we do things changes all the time.
And usually, things change only in the span of a few years.
Burial practices also change from time to time, and of course, from culture to culture.
Think about our culture and burial practices for a second.
I’ve heard that just a few years ago, funerals were conducted in the house of the deceased one’s family.
I’ve also heard that the body was usually kept in the house for a few days until they buried it.
Also, when a loved one would die, some people would dress the body up, prop it up in a sitting stance, and the family would pose with it for one last, loving family photo.
Now, the old cameras they used did not take pictures with a fast frame rate.
This means that people had to hold very still for a long time in their pictures, otherwise, the subjects would come out blurry in the photos.
So, in these “memorial” photos, the body would always come out crystal clear, while all the other subjects around it would be blurry.
Because the body didn’t move at all, of course.
That’s why the pictures look a little creepy… black and white, ghostly, sadness and death…
But the point is this: this all just happened in America about a century ago.
Now, we don’t do anything like these old practices, and some people would even find them offensive.
Can you imagine how different the Bible’s burial practices were?
We’re talking practices from thousands of years ago (not a few years) in a foreign land with a different religion than ours!
So, just leave room in your mind for the possibility of things not being as they seem in the Bible.
You might have to dig deeper sometimes.
But back to the story!
The reason why they buried the body the first time was so the flesh can come off the bones.
Then, like I said, they would gather the bones and bury them for a second burial.
But why did they first have to let the flesh come off the bones?
Because they believed that the flesh was sinful, and the sinful flesh needed to be atoned for.
Only when the sinful flesh had come off the bones was the person’s sins really atoned for.
So, when the son would gather and bury the bones a second time, the family would rejoice, and the mourning could finally end.
This was an unscriptural practice that found its way into the culture of Judaism.
I wonder if this belief came into Judaism because of the Hellenistic culture they were influenced by.
Many Greeks were involved in something called Gnosticism.
One of the beliefs that stemmed from Gnosticism was that the body was evil and sinful.
The flesh was bad, but the spirit of a person was good.
The belief could have come from there.
But one thing is sure:
It’s more likely that the man was asking Jesus to do the second burial of his father by going to gather his bones and lay them to rest.
So, his father probably died many months before his encounter with Jesus.
We know this because people were buried immediately after death – the first burial.
And because the man would not have been out and about during the 7-day mourning period.
Otherwise, he would be breaking their Jewish law.
So, another interpretation of this scripture could be this:
Jesus was suggesting that the man skip out on “burying” his father and follow him, because he had a strong disagreement with that second burial.
Maybe Jesus wasn’t simply being blunt and honest with the man.
Maybe He really didn’t care if whether or not the man wanted to bury his father and pay his respects.
But what Jesus was actually against was the belief that something else could atone for sin besides Him.
It’s definitely true that Jesus wouldn’t have thought highly of this silly belief.
Because he knew that HE was the only one that could bring true atonement for sins.
To me, this interpretation makes more sense, and it explains why the man was out with Jesus while his father was waiting to be “buried” back home.
But I also think this interpretation gives us a deeper application to our personal lives as well.
You see, Jesus knows that we have many important things we need to tend to in our life.
Things that we would die for.
Tending to these things is not wrong, in and of itself.
Of course, it’s not wrong to spend time with your kids or take care of your health.
Heck, to you, tending to your garden might be a spiritual and religious thing.
Making sure every leaf is perfectly sitting, and every blade of grass is plucked from the dirt.
It’s something you can’t live without. It’s important to you. It’s religious.
One of the root meanings of the word “religion” comes from the Latin word religare, which means “to bind”.
So, things could be religious to you… it’s something you bind yourself to. You “religiously” do it.
Maybe our kids are our religion. Our schooling, our sports, our jobs… our garden.
Doing these things aren’t wrong in God’s eyes.
But when you make them a religion, that’s a different story.
Again, it’s more than likely that Jesus was opposed to the idea of the man believing in completion, fulfilment, and atonement in that second burial.
And I think that’s what He’s opposed to in our lives, as well.
When we think that these things bring us completion – if we get “atonement” by doing these things…
… then He’s a jealous God.
Today, be reminded that God knows that we have all these things we need to tend to.
But don’t find your atonement in them.