Burial and Resurrection
Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Jewish ruling Council known as the Sanhedrin. He had been opposed to the Council’s decision to crucify Jesus. However, since he was afraid of what the Jews would do to him if they discovered that he was a follower of Jesus, he had kept his beliefs secret. But now he boldly approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He wanted to honor his Messiah and bury him that day (Friday) before the sun went down, and the Passover Sabbath began. Pilate gave orders for the body to be given to Joseph. Nicodemus, who had met with Jesus earlier in his ministry (see #220 - August 8), accompanied Joseph. Apparently, he had become a disciple as well. Nicodemus brought a mixture of spices. Together they wrapped Jesus’ body according to Jewish burial customs using the spices and strips of linen. Then they carried the body to a garden near Golgotha—the place where Jesus had been crucified. In that garden was a brand-new tomb that Joseph had recently carved into the rocks for his own use. The two men placed Jesus’ body in that tomb and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Some of the women from Galilee followed along so they could see where the tomb was. They planned to return after the Sabbath Day with more spices to finish the burial process begun by Joseph and Nicodemus. The next day was the Sabbath (Saturday). However, the religious leaders were willing to violate their own Sabbath Laws to meet with Pilate. They went to him and explained, “This deceiver boasted that three days after his death he would rise again. We are afraid that his disciples will come and steal the body and then try to convince people he has risen. So, we are asking you to secure the tomb until those days are up.” Pilate granted their request. He posted a guard and placed his seal across the tomb. The penalty for breaking the Governor’s seal was death. Very early the next morning (Sunday—the third day that Jesus was in the tomb), there was another violent earthquake (see #281 - October 8). An angel of God came down from heaven. He rolled back the stone that was safeguarding the tomb and sat on it. His appearance was bright like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were so terrified that they fainted and laid on the ground as if they were dead. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome prepared spices so they could finish embalming Jesus’ body. As the sun came up, they walked to the garden. On the way they asked each other, “Who do you think we can get to roll the stone away?” But as they approached the tomb, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back! They entered and found that the tomb was empty—Jesus’ body was not there! They looked around confused and were startled by two angels. “Don’t be afraid,” one of them said. “I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has risen just as he said he would!” Trembling and bewildered, the women fled from the tomb.
“He has risen!” These are the three most significant words in the Bible. Without them, there would be no hope of eternal life. Without them, all faith in God would be useless. Without them, our existence would be futile. Don’t run away from them—as the women did when they were first spoken. Ponder them! Embrace them! Let them bring you peace, joy, and a reason to share the Good News!