Burial of the King

Posted: June 23, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 27:57-66, “Burial of the King”

We can have a tendency to rush through the events of Jesus’ burial and His time in the grave.  It’s understandable.  After the horror of Jesus dying upon the cross, it’s only natural that we want to hear the account of Jesus’ resurrection as soon as possible.  Yet we need to remember that God Himself did not rush the process.  Jesus did not go directly from the cross to the resurrection.  He was dead three days.  For three terrible days, the disciples of Jesus were left in unthinkable darkness.  Jesus was not simply gone for a moment – He was truly dead.  And by the time Sunday rolled around, the reality of the whole situation would have sunk in.  In their minds, they had settled into what would have been their “new normal,” as sad as it was.  That’s what three days did.  That’s what the burial did.  It made what was tragic and shocking for a moment to be completely finalized in their minds. 

No doubt at least some of the Jesus’ followers had held out hope for a miracle.  Even to the point when the Romans pierced Jesus’ side, there was still the glimmer of a possibility that Jesus could have shown His miraculous power.  But not anymore.  Not after the burial.  When Jesus was buried, it was all over – at least so they thought.  When Jesus was buried, there was no more possibility of turning around.  Hope was nowhere to be found – everything had ended.

Yet not everyone gave up faith.  We don’t hear from the 11 disciples during those days.  The Scripture goes completely silent regarding them.  But not all of the followers of Jesus are so quiet.  Some maintain their devotion and worship beyond the point of hope.  Others demonstrate their faith publicly for the first time.  In the worst of circumstances when it would seem like faith was futile, these maintained their faith, not even understanding what was going on.

Their faith was well-placed – better than they realized.  Jesus would overcome death, and no amount of resistance from the Pharisees, priests, or Romans would stop the news and physical reality of Jesus’ resurrection.  Of course, that was all still many hours in the future.  Hope would not be rekindled again until daylight on Sunday morning.

For the time being, it was Friday and Saturday.  Jesus was dead.  Hope was gone.  And that was when faith was most needed.  What does faith look like in our darkest hours?  Let’s find out.

Matthew 27:57–66

  • A leader risks his reputation for Jesus…

57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.

  • As the text introduces Joseph of Arimathea, it automatically leaves us with two obvious questions.  Question #1: Where was Arimathea? The location is uncertain, though many scholars believe it was a town near Joppa (on the coast). What makes this interesting is (1) Joseph would be a council member of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, and (2) that he would own a burial plot so far away from the city for which he was associated. All sort of speculation abounds about it, but ultimately the Bible is silent on the matter.  Considering how common of a name Joseph was, it’s no wonder that the people used some sort of language to distinguish one Joseph from another.  That may be the only reason for the mention of Arimathea, and no more.  Ultimately it’s not the city that is important, but the person & events that follow.
  • Question #2: Who was Joseph?  Apart from the mention of Joseph during Jesus’ burial, the Scripture says little to nothing about him.  Apparently he was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin ruling council, but had not consented to the council’s treatment or verdict against Jesus (Lk 23:50-51).  Whatever his role on the Sanhedrin, Joseph apparently had enough influence among the council that he could get a personal, private audience with Pilate regarding a Man who had just been executed as an enemy of the state of Rome.
  • He was a follower of Jesus, but had been a disciple in secret, not wanting to raise the suspicions of the council (Jn 19:38).  The Jewish leadership had earlier threatened to excommunicate anyone who was a follower of Jesus (Jn 12:42), and Joseph of Armimathea wasn’t willing to take the risk. 
  • The fact that Joseph wasn’t willing to risk his reputation earlier should not cause us to think Joseph was cowardly.  The Bible shows us just the opposite!  Just look at what he did…

58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.

  • The secret disciple, secret no longer.  Joseph could hardly have revealed his faith in Jesus in a more public way in more defiance of the council.  Whether he had been present the night of Jesus’ kangaroo trial is uncertain – all the Bible tells us is that Joseph did not consent to their actions.  But he was present the day of Jesus’ death, and he aligns himself with Jesus in an extraordinarily public way.  With all of the back & forth between the priests and Pilate, there was zero chance that Joseph’s request would have gone unreported.  Not only did Pilate directly know Joseph’s allegiance to Jesus, but the rest of the Sanhedrin council would learn very soon.  Joseph was putting his entire reputation on the line by asking for Jesus’ body, and burying it in his personal tomb.  His name would end up being forever associated with his kindness towards Jesus in regards to the burial, and Joseph would naturally be expelled from the Sanhedrin, likely excommunicated from the synagogue, and otherwise disgraced among his former colleagues due to his affiliation with Jesus.  And it would all be worth it.
    • There comes a time that true faith cannot be secret.  If we follow Christ, we will be identified with Him.  Even within countries that Christianity is heavily persecuted, Christians cannot stay totally secret forever – which is why so many Christians are beaten, jailed, killed, have their buildings burned, and more.  To have believed in Jesus as the Son of God crucified for our sins, and risen from the dead – to have turned away from sin, personally received Jesus as our Lord & Savior, and been born of the Holy Spirit – this is to bear the name of Christ.  We have been transformed by the Living God & been changed.  There’s no way to keep that transformation secret for long.
    • Perhaps the bigger question is: what does it say about our faith in Christ if it CAN be totally kept secret?  Some people might claim to be a Christian, but there’s no evidence that they’ve ever surrendered their life to Christ.  Is there evidence in ours? 
  • Pilate was apparently surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon (Mk 15:44). Although Jesus had hung in agony for 6 excruciating hours upon the cross, it was still a relatively quick death for execution-by-crucifixion.  Of course, all of those crucified that day had died in a similar timeframe, but most of the deaths had been hurried along by the Romans, as the guards broke the legs of everyone but Jesus.  This would hasten their death, since they would no longer be able to push themselves up to breathe.  The Jews had asked for a quicker execution due to the approaching Sabbath (and especially because it was a Passover Sabbath), and it had been granted.  Yet when the guards came to break Jesus’ legs, they observed that He had already died, and that is when they pierced His side and heart to verify His death (Jn 19:33-34).  Once Pilate received this confirmation of Jesus’ death, he allowed Joseph to take the body (Mk 15:45).
  • What makes this unusual is that this sort of thing normally didn’t happen at all.  When someone was killed via crucifixion, they were not allowed a normal burial.  They had been recipients of the worst sanctioned and humiliating death that Rome had to offer, and the victim’s body was normally disposed in more humiliation.  Typically the body was left up on the cross for days or even weeks, as animals would eat at the corpse & it would publicly begin to decompose.  It was a very visual reminder of what Rome would do to anyone who dared oppose its iron rule and command.  When the body was finally taken down, whatever was left of the corpse would be thrown into a common grave, buried completely without honor or fanfare.
  • With all that in mind, now consider what Joseph was asking to do.  He would be providing a dignified burial for the King who suffered every indignity.  As member of the Sanhedrin council who humiliated Jesus, here is a member who was trying to make amends as best he could, demonstrating that he believed that Jesus was worthy of dignity.
    • If Joseph’s first public act of faith was to be associated with Jesus, his 2nd public act of faith was to be reverent towards Jesus.  This was an act of devotion and kindness.  This goes beyond just having Jesus’ body taken down to avoid further defilement – Joseph does the type of work for Jesus that would normally be reserved for family members.  Joseph would serve Jesus in the humblest of ways by caring for His burial.

59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.

  • Here’s the actual burial account.  Everything listed here is according to custom.  The body of Jesus was packed with spices (about 100 lbs worth, Jn 19:39), was wrapped, and was placed within the tomb.  The amount of spices (myrrh and aloe) that were used was far more than enough for several burials, much less one.  The amount of spice that was used sometimes varied depending on the honor of the person being buried…the spices for Jesus was enough to befit a true King of kings!  Otherwise, everything was normal.  Jesus was placed within this new tomb (i.e. one without any other previously buried bodies – which is important regarding a resurrection.  There’s no bait & switch!), and the door was sealed with a stone.  Archaeology has confirmed tombs like this that date back to the days of Jesus.  Typically they have an anteroom in the front where the bodies are given time to decompose, and then the bones are collected, boxed, and placed towards the back.  Large circular stones were placed on a grooved track to roll in front of the entrance.  They would be relatively easy to roll shut (being helped by gravity), but rather difficult to remove.  To remove a tomb-entrance stone would require several men to roll the stone backwards.
  • All of this tells us a few things.
    • Prophecy was fulfilled.  Scholars debate whether or not Joseph realized he was fulfilling prophecy, having faith in a potential future resurrection – ultimately we cannot make such an assumption because the Scripture is silent.  Whether he realized it or not, there’s no doubt that this WAS fulfillment of prophecy.  Isaiah 53:9, "And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth." []  Jesus died hanging between two robbers on crosses next to Him.  He was treated as any other criminal against the state of Rome, yet wealthy men were the last to attend to His body and give Him a royal burial (though rushed).  When we stop to think about it, this would be a most unlikely situation regarding almost any death.  If a king were to die the death of a criminal (perhaps after being deposed, or captured in a foreign land), he would not receive a state burial – he would be discarded.  Yet this is exactly what was prophesied about the Messiah of Israel – and it is exactly what happened with Jesus.
    • Room was left for more prophecy to be fulfilled. Psalm 16:10, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." []  Ultimately, the psalm prophesies of the resurrection of the Messiah.  The Messiah would have to be truly dead to be placed in Sheol (the place of the dead), but would be brought out of that place by God in such a short period of time that His body would not face corruption.  But there’s a hint of hope of this with Joseph’s actions.  All of the packing of the myrrh and aloe would slow down the corruption process.  Is it possible that Joseph wanted to help give as much time as possible for a miracle?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  What is certain is that Scripture WAS fulfilled.  Jesus’ body did not decay one iota, though He was dead three days.  When Lazarus was dead for four days, his sisters feared rolling back the stone to his tomb because he would have already started to stink and decay.  None of that happened with Jesus.
  • Regarding the burial itself, Joseph’s actions affirm Jesus’ physical death.  There have been some who theorized that Jesus simply passed out on the cross, and was laid in the tomb still alive, though in a coma-like state.  They think that Jesus awoke in the tomb, rolled back the stone, and walked out alive.  They say Jesus was a man just like anyone else – He just happened to swoon on the cross, and His wounds are what left Him unrecognizable to everyone else after He walked out of the tomb.  Joseph’s actions prove the theory is ludicrous.  (1) Jesus, like others, barely survived the Roman scourging, left so weak that He couldn’t even carry His cross all the way to Golgotha.  The loss of blood and trauma He experienced during that would have been devastating all by itself.  (2) He was left crucified for 6 hours, unable to breathe without immense pain and physical effort.  (3) His heart ruptured, which was proven after a Roman spear stabbed His side – and that wound alone would have killed anyone.  (4) His body was packed with 100 pounds of spice, which were tightly wrapped in place – He wouldn’t have been able to breathe or move.  (5) The massive stone was rolled in front of the tomb.
    • Now with all that in mind, we’re supposed to believe that a Man who had endured all of that somehow overcame a coma & had the physical strength to unbind Himself & roll back the stone, and have done it all under normal human power without proving Himself to be God?!  Any one of these things could have/should have killed Jesus, and He went through it all.  Jesus was dead when He went into that tomb.  (And He was alive when He came out!)
  • The synoptic gospels all mention Joseph’s actions here, but they are all silent regarding another Jewish leader who was present at the time: Nicodemus. … John is the only gospel writer that mentions Nicodemus. Why don’t Matthew, Mark, and Luke write of him?  Good question.  Ultimately, we can’t know.  Matthew’s account focuses on Joseph of Arimathea, and the finality of the tomb.  Jesus’ own 11 disciples who had formerly been very publicly associated with Jesus are nowhere to be found, and the one disciple who is shown is someone who had been secret.  Beyond that – he was a member of the very council that rejected Jesus and had Him killed.  There is an irony here that is almost tangible.  Everything that was expected to surround Jesus has been turned upside-down (again), and God was going to use all of this for His glory.
  • The women maintain their devotion to Jesus…

61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

  • Matthew had made a point to mention Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James & Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons as being among those present at the very moment of Jesus’ death.  They (and other women who had followed Jesus from Galilee) were steadfastly devoted to their King, though His torturous execution, through the burial, and up till the coming resurrection.  Unlike the 11 male disciples, these women never seemed to leave Jesus’ side, no matter what was happening to Him.  They had witnessed Jesus’ death, and now they were witnessing His burial.  It’s unclear if they saw all of the details with Joseph & Nicodemus, but there’s no doubt that they witnessed the location of the tomb (Mk 15:47).  They had spices of their own to prepare, and they needed to know where to return after the Sabbath in order to complete their duties.
  • The obvious question is: why were the women so devoted to a dead Jesus?  After all, their hope in Jesus was based in the idea that He is the Messiah – the King of Israel & the Son of God.  They had witnessed many obvious displays of His power, and had heard the authority with which He taught.  They were convinced that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and the Hope of Israel (and the world).  And yet, Jesus was dead.  They not only witnessed His victories, but they witnessed His rejection, torture, and death.  They were personally convinced of His physical death, to the point that they thought His body still to be in need of anointing three days after His crucifixion.  How can a dead Messiah be the true Messiah?  It wouldn’t have made any sense.  God obviously had a plan in motion, but there was no way that Mary & Mary understood all of it – their actions make that much plain.  Yet they trusted.  And that’s the heroic aspect about the faith of these wonderful women: they had faith in God, no matter what.  They didn’t understand His plan – they didn’t have any idea of what was going to happen in a few days’ time.  They would have heard Jesus’ own prophecies about His resurrection, but all of that would have seemed so very far away.  And despite it all, they still had faith.  They still trusted God, and demonstrated their worship and devotion to the Lord Jesus.  Whatever was happening around them, God was still God, and that was enough.  They witnessed enough of God’s sovereign power to understand that God could be trusted, no matter what the circumstances appeared to be.  That’s faith.
    • Sometimes God doesn’t act in the way that we expect Him to act.  Oftentimes He doesn’t act when we want Him to act.  It was certainly that way with these women – yet they didn’t give up faith.  Neither should we.  When God seems silent – when God doesn’t move according to our expectations, that is not reason to give up faith…that might be when faith is most necessary.  Faith in Jesus trusts Jesus, no matter what.  When we have questions about what God is doing, we can look back to what God has already done, and affirm that God does not change.  Even though we might not understand, we can know that God does understand – and that is enough.
  • Joseph and the women were not the only ones still paying attention to Jesus.  The Jewish leadership did as well…
  • The Jewish leaders show their fear of Jesus…

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,

  • A few things are of interest as the plot of the priests and Pharisees is introduced here.  First, we get a definite timeframe of Saturday.  The burial of Jesus had taken place on the evening of Jesus’ crucifixion, done quickly in order to head off the approaching Sabbath.  Some have theorized that this may have been on a Thursday, seeing that during Passover week there would have been a special high Sabbath.  However, the mention of “the Day of Preparation” makes that highly unlikely.  John tells us explicitly that the crucifixion took place on the Preparation Day (Jn 19:31), and Matthew confirms this by saying that the priests & Pharisees approached Pilate on the day that followed Preparation Day.  “Preparation Day” was so associated with Friday that it later became the modern technical word for Friday in Greek.  Why Matthew doesn’t specifically call Saturday the Sabbath is unknown, but he seems to have left little doubt that Jesus was crucified & buried on Friday, and the Jewish plot was conceived on Saturday.  Scholars will continue to debate the timeline of the events, but the traditional timing of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday seems to be the most likely.  Perhaps Matthew doesn’t call it the Sabbath because the priests and Pharisees were not treating it as the Sabbath.  They were breaking the law (yet again) in their opposition to Jesus.
  • Second, the Pharisees make their last appearance in the gospel of Matthew, and their first appearance since Ch. 23.  They had received the brunt of Jesus’ criticism for most of His ministry in Jerusalem, and yet they didn’t seem to even be present during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.  No doubt several Pharisees served on the Sanhedrin council, but the main players in the last several chapters were the chief priests, who were primarily Sadducees.  The Pharisees and Sadducees famously did not get along, each considering the other to follow wrong teaching.  The Sadducees were the more politically connected among the Romans, but held to extremely liberal theology – denying most accounts of the supernatural and discounting much of the OT entirely.  The Pharisees were no doubt legalists, but they were far more orthodox in their theology and faithfulness to the OT Scriptures.  They were popular among the people, but politically weak among the Romans.  It was rare that the two groups joined forces, yet when it came to Jesus, their opposition to Him seemed to unite them.
  • So why do the Pharisees make an appearance again in the book?  Likely due to the fact they had been the ones who remembered Jesus’ prophecies regarding His resurrection.  Jesus spoke of the sign of the prophet of Jonah twice – the first being to the scribes and Pharisees apart from the Sadducees, and that time being in the most detail.  The Pharisees had remembered the prophecy, and the priests had the political access to Pilate.  Thus they needed each other in their opposition to Christ.

63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’

  • Jesus had prophesied often about His death and resurrection.  Early in His ministry, using the Jerusalem temple as an analogy, He said that if the Jews destroyed the temple of His body, He would raise it up again in three days (Jn 2:46).  This was one of the statements that got twisted out of context during Jesus’ initial trials among the Jews.  As Jesus’ ministry progressed, He spoke of the sign of the prophet Jonah, giving some of His most detailed description of His coming resurrection.  Matthew 12:39–40, "(39) But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." []  Just as Jonah was buried for three days, so would the Messiah be truly dead and buried for three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  But that was only the beginning.  He gave the sign of the prophet Jonah again to both the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:4) – after Peter’s famous confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, Jesus went on to speak of His suffering, death, and resurrection (16:21) – He spoke of His resurrection to the disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration (17:9) – He said so again to all His disciples while staying in Galilee (17:23)…and that’s only counting the times that Jesus’ words were recorded in the Scriptures.  If it was recorded for us this many times, no doubt Jesus spoke of it often, and the Pharisees would have been well-acquainted with the prophecy.
  • Question: does it matter that Jesus prophesied of His resurrection so often once He was dead and buried?  After all, what difference would it make?  Absolutely, yes – it does matter!  How many other times had Jesus lied?  Been wrong?  Never.  Everything that Jesus said was 100% accurate, and He had already proven Himself to have absolute power over death considering how many people He had personally raised from the dead (and that He gave His disciples the power to raise the dead).  If Jesus was going to rise from the dead, by definition that means that Jesus had to die.  Someone can’t rise from the dead who has never entered death.  Jesus had to endure it all if He was going to prove Himself to be true and victorious as the Messiah.
  • Of course the priests and Pharisees didn’t believe Jesus’ predictions – they dismissively called Him “that deceiver.”  Their fear was that the masses might be led to believe something that they knew better to fall for.  Of course what they didn’t realize is that they were the ones who had been deceived by the devil!  They deceived themselves when they didn’t listen to Jesus, and their deception would be their ruin.
  • Interestingly enough, the priests and Pharisees paid more attention to the words of Jesus than His own disciples.  They remembered Jesus’ words (even in unbelief), whereas the disciples who had personally heard many more prophecies from Jesus about His resurrection did not seem to place any faith in them at all.  The enemies of Jesus understood the import of Jesus’ words more than His own disciples.
    • Even so, this is a key to maintaining faith in dark times: remembering the words of God.  Again, Jesus had never lied.  God has never once been mistaken about anything.  When things begin to happen that we don’t understand, we can remember the things that we DO understand, and the things that have already been revealed to us in the Bible.  We remember the promises of God given in the Scripture, and we can hold fast to those words, even while our world seems to be in chaos.
    • BTW – to know the Bible and to hold fast to its promises means we need to read it.

64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

  • The Pharisees did not fear an actual resurrection from Jesus per se, but rather the appearance of a resurrection.  They feared that some of Jesus’ 11 disciples would come to the tomb, rob the grave, and try to deceive the masses into the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Their fear was completely illogical for a couple of reasons:
    • The disciples didn’t have the presence of mind to be able to maintain their loyalty to Jesus during His trial and crucifixion.  To be able to plot out a massive deception would seem beyond their ability at the moment.
    • Out of the various things the disciples could have done, pulling of the deceit of a resurrection would be an incredibly difficult feat.  After all, many within Jerusalem had called out for Jesus’ crucifixion, and they had witnessed His scourging and crucifixion.  His gruesome death would have been well-known, and witnesses to it would be extraordinarily skeptical to any claims of resurrection.  The fact that 3000 people in Jerusalem were converted to faith on Pentecost is an extremely convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection.  After all, if anyone knew He was dead, the people of Jerusalem did!  Yet they wouldn’t believe just any claim.  They would have to see visible proof of Jesus’ resurrection – something that the everyday fishermen disciples would not have been able to do.
  • One thing this does demonstrate is that the chief priests and Pharisees understood the importance of a resurrected Jesus. They did not believe in Jesus, but they understood that if Jesus was thought to be risen from the dead, people would follow Him by the droves.  If people believed Jesus was alive again, they would have definitive proof that Jesus was indeed the Son of God with infinite power over death.  People would see Him as the Messiah that Jesus claimed to be, and follow His teachings about God.  Without a resurrection, the priests and Pharisees could argue against Jesus much easier.  Sure Jesus did all sorts of miracles in life and taught the Scriptures better and more accurately than any teacher before or since – but if Jesus was still in a tomb past the three days He said He would be there, then it would show that He was just another man.  A resurrection, however changes everything.  A resurrection takes all of the possibilities that were shown about Jesus during His ministry, and cements it all as positive proof beyond doubt that He is the Messiah.  It’s no longer, “This might be the Messiah, the hope of Israel,” – now it is, “This IS the Messiah, the hope of Israel & Son of God!”
  • In response to this fear, the priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to get Rome involved once again.  In order to prevent a grave robbery, what they needed was a contingency of Roman soldiers.  If the tomb could be guarded through Sunday (“the third day”), then Jesus’ words would have been proven untrue, and it wouldn’t matter what the disciples might try to do in deception.  Jesus would have been proven to be a false prophet, and by no means the Messiah.  Yet to guard a private tomb would require the permission of the governor, and that’s what they sought.

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

  • Pilate granted them the permission they sought.  Technically, the Greek here could be interpreted a couple of ways.  The first would be as an imperative command, as in “Go ahead, take/have the guard you requested.  The second would be as a refusal to get involved, as in “You have a temple guard of your own, you go and do the work.”  That said, there seems to be no doubt that the guard at the tomb was Roman.  In the follow-up to this in Ch. 28, the priests bribe the guards and promise them that they would personally speak to the governor on their behalf.  Pilate wouldn’t be interested in the failure of the temple guard; only the Roman soldiers.  In addition, the language used reflects the Romans as Matthew uses a transliterated Latin word in the Greek to refer to the guard (κουστωδία = “custodian”).  This would not be a reference to the temple police.
  • Knowing this was a Roman guard sets a whole new dramatic tone in the narrative of Matthew.  As Ch 27 closes, it does so with a dead Messiah, buried in a tomb, guarded by fully-trained Roman soldiers, and sealed across the front of the rock with the seal of Rome.  There would be no overpowering the guard, and there would be no way of opening the tomb unnoticed.  Stealing the body of Jesus would be absolutely impossible.  The only way for the body of Jesus to come out of the tomb would be via a miracle from God…which is exactly what happened!  What the priests and Pharisees meant to use against Jesus ends up becoming a powerful proof of His resurrection.

Conclusion:
For those in Jerusalem, the resurrection is only hours away – even if none of them realize it.  For the time being, things were dark on Friday & impossible on Saturday.  Sunday is indeed coming, though they have no idea what to expect.  The disciples that had followed Jesus for three years are silent, but there are other people who have come into view.

There was the secret disciple who no longer kept his faith secret.  Eventually Joseph’s faith came bursting out, and he did it in the most humble & loving way by giving a dignified burial to his King who had suffered every indignity.  Joseph knew that he was giving up his reputation that day, but he was willing to risk it all for Jesus – and God used him in a glorious way to fulfill prophecy.

There were the women who remained rock-solid in their faith.  They did not understand what was going on – they did not understand how their King could be dead – but they did not stop believing, despite their lack of understanding.  It’s not that they were blindly following Jesus as robots unable to think for themselves, but they knew enough about Jesus’ actions in life and God’s hand upon Him that they weren’t going to stop trusting God in the middle of it.  The wisest thing they could do was to continue to trust God, even if all circumstances appeared to the contrary.

Then there were the priests and Pharisees who had no faith of their own, but they put more stock into the words of Jesus than His own disciples did.  They remembered the prophecies of Jesus that He would rise from the dead, and they acted in accordance with those prophecies (in their own way).  They wanted to stop a rumor of Jesus’ resurrection before it could get started because a resurrected Jesus changes everything.

All of this takes us back to our original question: what does faith look like in our darkest hours?  What does faith look like when hope seems futile?

  • Like Joseph of Arimathea, we need to be prepared to risk it all for Jesus.
  • Like the women, we need to determine to trust the Lord, even in His silence.
  • Like the priests and Pharisees (but better!) we need to remember the words of God in the Bible.

Although it was dark from the perspective of Friday & Saturday, we need to remember something extraordinarily important: faith was rewarded on Sunday.  The faith of Joseph & the women was not in vain!  The words of Jesus’ prophecies came absolutely true!  IOW, Jesus is worthy of our faith.  God is worthy of our trust.  To determine to trust Him, to believe the Bible, and to risk all for the sake of our Lord Jesus is a faith that will be proven true.  The proof?  The same as it was on that same Sunday morning: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christian, never stop trusting your Savior! 

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