The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
Joseph laid Jesus in his own tomb which he had hewn in the rock


Gospel reading: Matthew 27:57-66

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathe'a, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 Mary Mag'dalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre. 62 Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.' 64 Therefore order the sepulchre to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." 66 So they went and made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Meditation: Jesus not only died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3); he also, by the grace of God, tasted death for every one (Heb. 2:9).  It was a real death that put an end to his earthly human existence. Jesus died in mid afternoon and the Sabbath began at sunset.  Since the Jewish law permitted no work on the Sabbath, the body had to be buried quickly. Someone brave enough would have to get permission from the Roman authorities to take the body and bury it.  The bodies of executed criminals were usually left unburied as carion for the vultures and dogs.  Jesus was spared this indignity through the gracious intervention of Joseph of Arimethea.  Who was this admirer and secret disciple of Jesus?  Luke tells us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council that condemned Jesus.  We are told that he did not agree with their verdict.  He was either absent from their meeting or silent when they tried Jesus.  What kind of man was Joseph?  Luke tells us that he was "good and righteous" and "looking for the kingdom of God".  Although he did not stand up for Jesus at his trial, he nonetheless, sought to honor him in his death by giving him a proper burial.  This was to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had foretold: "He was cut off out of the land of the living ..and they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:8-9).

 Jesus' enemies did what they could to prevent his resurrection. Whe  see how desperate the chief priests and Pharisees were by approaching Pilate on the Sabbath, the day of rest, with a request to have the tomb of Jesus guarded.  They were willing to break their own Sabbath law to defeat Jesus' predictions of his own rising.  They came to Pilate saying that Jesus predicted he would rise from the dead on the third day. Pilate's answer, "make the tomb as secure as you can" could be rephrased,  "Keep the Messiah in the tomb, if you can!"   To guard the sepulchre against the weak disciples was needless; but to think to guard it against the power of God was sheer folly and to no purpose.  There is no tomb in the world that can keep the Son of God and Lord of the Sabbath imprisoned. Jesus Christ defeated death that we might have new life in him. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter let us leave behind our old way of life and put on the new life Christ has won for us through his victory over the grave.  Are you ready to celebrate the feast of Easter with joyful gratitude and praise for Christ's work of redemption in your life?

In the Book of Revelations, the Lord Jesus speaks:  "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one: I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades" (Rev. 1:17-18).  No tomb in the world could contain the Lord Jesus for long. His death on the cross purchased our redemption and his triumph over the grave on Easter morning defeated death. What preserved the Lord Jesus from corruption?  He was kept from decay and he rose from the dead by divine power.  "My flesh will dwell in hope.  For you will not let your Holy One see corruption" (Psalm 16:9-10) .  The mystery of Christ's lying in the tomb on the sabbath reveals the great sabbath rest of God after the fulfillment of our salvation which brings peace to the whole world  (Col. 1:18-20). Is your hope in this life only, or is it well founded in the resurrection of Christ and his promise that those who believe in him will live forever?

"Lord Jesus, you died that I might have life-- everlasting life in your kingdom of peace and righteousness.  Strengthen my faith that I may I know the power of your resurrection and live each day in the hope of seeing you face to face for ever."


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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager