The Tomb

Journey through Scripture

The burial of Jesus

After the Roman centurion’s proclamation, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’, Jesus’ followers made plans to remove Him from the cross. The Roman practice was to leave the corpses of crucified victims rotting on their crosses for days as a warning to the public. The Jewish practice was to bury the dead as soon as possible, hence the request of Joseph of Arimathea to Pilate for the body of Jesus.

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Matthew 27:57-61 NIVUK

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about thirty-five kilograms. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was near by, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:38-42 NIVUK

The guard at the tomb

Ironically, Christs enemies feared that, in some way, the resurrection predictions may just prove true, so they took the extra precaution of placing a guard at the tomb. But His followers who had received promises of the resurrection at least three times from Jesus, did not yet believe him!

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’

‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Matthew 27:62-66 NIVUK

InBlog_SoC_5 - The tomb

A deeper look at Scripture

Let us look in-depth at Jesus’ burial and the meaning of these details.

  • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were ‘secret’ disciples of Jesus, and both were members of the Sanhedrin. We do not know how they conducted themselves at Jesus’ mock trial, although Joseph did not consent to Jesus’ death. However, after his death, they both sought to honour Him.
  • Joseph gave his new tomb, expensively chiselled from the rock, for Jesus’ burial; Nicodemus provided an extraordinary amount of costly embalming spices, more than what was used at a royal burial. The men also provided linen binding cloths in keeping with Jewish practice.
  • The women watched the activities from a distance before departing, intending to purchase more embalming spices they planned to use on the third day. (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47).
  • These followers tried to preserve Jesus’ body following the normal, natural practices of their time. But God was the One who truly preserved Jesus’ body and raised Him gloriously on the third day! David prophesied this in Psalm 16.

    Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
Psalm 16:9-10 NIVUK

How does this apply to me?

Continuing to follow Jesus probably did not make much sense to the disciples at this point. They might have wondered if it was all over. Yet God was still working. His plan was unfolding. Resurrection Sunday was coming!

  • Can you identify with the disciples: confused, doubtful, afraid, wondering if it was worth it all? Has it ever seemed to you that all God’s promises have failed? Has it ever seemed to you that God’s purpose for your life is buried in failure?
  • Ask for forgiveness for your wavering faith if necessary. Consider that God is always working. He can breathe new life into that which seems dead. Mourning may endure for a time, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Spend some time reflecting on this truth: Even when God appears silent, He is always at work.

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