Matthew 27:45-66 Part 7


We were at the point where, in order to fulfill the prophetic Word with regard to Jesus’ burial, Joseph of Arimethea enters the scene.

Jesus has uttered His last Word from the cross:  “Into thy hands I commit My Spirit.”  And He expired.  And there are cataclysmic effects in Heaven and on Earth.

Everyone is terrified. (And, I’m sure, there was some period of time in which there was stunned awe and fear.  What that period of time was, we don’t know.)  And as a result of that fear… among the soldiers (we are told) there are continual murmurings and comments about this Man having truly been the Son of God!

At some point afterward, the crucifixion “details” (the soldiers) proceed to break the legs of those who had been crucified.  These crucifixions had occurred on Friday; and according to the Law they could not remain on the stake into the Sabbath (which began at sundown).  So, in order to hurry the process of death, they broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus.  They could no longer “push up” on the nail by which their feet were affixed to the stake.  And that “accelerated” their deaths considerably.

But when Jesus was approached they found that He had already expired.  And they did not break His legs… fulfilling the prophetic Word that none of His bones were broken.  (Exodus twelve, verse forty-six, and Psalm chapter thirty-four at verse twenty)

Now, it is at this point that a man from Arimethea (named Joseph) proceeds to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah (fifty-three, verse nine) that Jesus would be buried among the wicked… in the tomb of a rich man.  Joseph now takes charge of the dead Jesus.

I mentioned last time that Matthew only reports that Joseph was wealthy, and that he was a disciple of Jesus.  However, Luke states that he was member of the Sanhedrin!  And that his interest in Jesus had been hidden from the rest of the Jewish high court.  His interest, of course, was a religious one.

But in reading all the Gospel accounts we find that there were two of them.  In addition to Joseph, there was another rich, important, powerful man who had an intense interest in Jesus.  And he, too, kept it a secret from the rest.

It’s John who reports that Nicodemus, a “ruler” of the Jews, came to Jesus by night (chapter three).  In other words, he “sneaked” around.  When nobody was looking… when no one could identify him… when it was dark, he searched Jesus out (wherever He was at the time… maybe up on Olivet, where He stayed when He came to Jerusalem).  And he inquired of Jesus with regard to His miracles (remember that the miracles of our Lord were signs of impending judgment on Israel from God’s Messiah).

I don’t want to go into Nicodemus’ question (and Jesus’ answer) at this point – that’s not our purpose.  But it was to the question from Nicodemus that Jesus responds concerning the necessity of rebirth.  Man, because of his depravity, and because of the curse, must be rebirthed into a new humanity.

But these two men (most likely elders of the tribes – “presbuteros”, or “presbyters”) were secret disciples (admirers, learners, etc.) of Jesus.  They kept their interest to themselves and kept their mouths shut… certainly out of fear of recrimination from the priests and pharisees.

Now, there is implied in the Scriptures that, having seen that Jesus had expired, Joseph went to the Roman centurion and told him what he planned to do.  And the centurion, recognizing that this was a member of the Jewish high court, postponed dealing with Jesus’ body.  Usually (according to what I’ve been able to gather) the bodies of convicted and crucified people (if unclaimed by family members) were just “disposed” of… thrown into a pit and covered up.  But the centurion apparently consented to wait… considering the fact that Joseph was a man of high position.

So Jesus, having yielded the Spirit into the hands of the Father, was left on the cross… even though He was already dead.  The centurion must have given the order to the crucifixion detail to leave Him hanging there until this member of the Sanhedrin did whatever he planned to do.

Now, according to God’s Law (Deuteronomy twenty-one, verses twenty-two and twenty-three) any one committing a sin worthy of death, and who is hanged on a tree, is accursed of God (we saw that several weeks ago).  And, in order that the land be not defiled, he is to be buried that day rather than left on the stake.  Add to that the fact that the next day (beginning at six o’clock that afternoon) was the Sabbath….  Therefore there was beginning to be a sense of urgency here.  Things needed to proceed quickly.  Verse fifty-seven of the text says, “As evening approached….”  So it’s “getting on” towards six o’clock.

Now, after he spoke to the centurion… as verse fifty-eight says, Joseph then, hurriedly, I suspect, went directly to Pilate to request the body of Jesus.  He was a man of wealth and authority; and he was recognizable to Pilate and had access to him.  So he got an audience with him.  He probably went right in to the Praetorium to see Pilate… even though the practice was to stay out of Gentile establishments.

At this point Pilate sent for the centurion in order that he might verify for himself that Jesus had died.  And, satisfied that it was all done, he ordered to centurion to “duly give” him to Joseph.  This wasn’t an exceptional favor to Joseph, because it was customary for the governor to turn over bodies to relatives and friends who made the request.

So, satisfied that the body of Jesus would not be “disposed of” like the others might, Joseph then went to the market and bought fine linen with which to wrap the body.  It’s at this point that the apostle John supplies the information that Nicodemus went and bought the “spices” that were used to “embalm” the body (and I use “embalm” in the correct sense for that time).  Apparently Joseph and Nicodemus had gotten together and agreed to split the purchases and hurry the process of preparation.

Then (verse fifty-nine) Joseph returned to Golgotha to take possession of the body.  We aren’t told about how Jesus was removed from the cross; and there’s no information about how Joseph took the body from Golgotha.  Perhaps Nicodemus was with him… I don’t know.  Maybe John too.  It does seem that one man would have had difficulty in moving the body from this “accursed” place… over to where the rich and high and powerful would be entombed.  Although John says that place was “near” Golgotha, it was probably a pretty good distance away – certainly further than one man would wish to carry a body.

The apostle John (who now implies that he was there, for the preparation of the body) says that the body was then wrapped in linen strips (sprinkled with aromatic spices)… the head being left free to be covered with a special linen cloth after being laid in the tomb.

You’ll notice that I said “linen strips”.  In other words, it wasn’t one large piece of cloth – wrapped around the body.  But it was several pieces of linen wrapped around it.  This certainly “debunks” the “shroud of Turin” (which has become such an “icon” in some circles).  That archeological “find” supposedly has a “burned” outline of Jesus’ body (made when He returned to life)… including His head.  But according to the text there is no shroud!  There were several pieces of linen; and there was a separate piece for His head.

So Joseph (with John and, maybe, Nicodemus) prepared Jesus for burial by doing all these things.

This man had completely taken charge of Jesus, and (as verse sixty says) he,


 “laid it in his new sepulcher which he had had hewn in the rock; and having rolled a great stone in the door of the sepulcher, he went away.”


So Joseph had prepared a new sepulcher for himself and whoever else might be in his family.  It would have been hewn out of a rocky hillside.  Workers would have worked many long hours, at some expense to Joseph, in order to chip through solid rock.

Luke and John both mention that no one had yet been buried there, so it was new.  There was no “defilement” from the dead.  Psalm chapter sixteen, verse ten says, “Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.”  So not only was Jesus not to experience corruption in His Own body (being the Second Adam… and sinless) but (as well) the place where He was entombed had never seen the corruption of dead, human flesh.  All of this, of course, perfectly fulfills the prophetic Word.

Now let’s see what this “tomb”, or sepulcher, was like.  In archeological “digs” a number of ancient tombs have been found.  Some right around the old Jerusalem, where parks and hotels and airports and highways have now been built.

And some, it seems, have been those of the wealthy… who had enough money to see to it that it was done right.  Hewn out of perpendicular, solid rock, an entrance large enough for adults to enter would open up into (what might be called) a vestibule.

And from the vestibule there would be an entrance into another chamber… large enough for however many family members might eventually be buried there.  And, in the sides of that inner chamber would be hewn out spaces big enough to lay a full-sized body.  And, at the head of each burial space would be a seat.  All of this was solid rock.  So, family members could actually enter the sepulcher and sit down at the head of a dead loved one… and mourn.  (And, of course, we can see the need, now, for the aromatic spices used in the “entombment” of the dead.)

We might also mention, right here, the fact that Joseph and John, and maybe, Nicodemus… and the women involved, saw the need for the wrapping and the spices with regard to Jesus!  His resurrection from death was not anticipated!  Although there were indications all through the Older Testament Scriptures concerning Messiah’s resurrection and ascension to the Father, their concern was for Jesus’ permanent entombment – as indicated by their actions.

They still had no idea of what Christ’s Kingdom would be.  Great sorrow and melancholy and discouragement would well describe their emotions at this time, for they had certainly (even though the prophets (and Jesus Himself) had prophesied His rising from death) hoped for a political “resurrection” of Israel and Jerusalem… and a return to world-wide prominence for the Lord’s chosen people!  This was still their eschatology; and there was no concept of the “Kingdom” which would soon begin to be established.  So, with all that had been said and done – by Jesus Himself – there was no thought of a Resurrection!

But, back to the tomb itself….  After the inside was completed (and all the spaces cut out in the walls for the dead, there would then come the “finishing touches”… making the sepulcher relatively secure from vandals and passersby.  Nobody wanted the place where they and their loved ones were buried to be entered by the “uninvited” and “unwelcomed”.

At the same time, these places were not “frequented” – even by family members; because there were extensive ceremonial cleansing procedures (established by the Law) which had to be endured after one came in contact with the dead.

But, nonetheless, the tombs would be “closed” (if you will) by hewn rock.  The impression that most receive when reading the Scriptures is that a big “boulder” would somehow be rolled into place in front of the tomb.  But that’s not the case.

The workers would chisel “grooves” in the rock at the foot of the opening; and a very heavy “wheel-like” stone would be cut and placed in the grooves.  And in order to get inside, that stone “wheel” would have to be moved out of its grooves in the rock – and rolled uphill until it was free!  My impression of it is that it would take several, properly-equipped people to move it.

I’m reminded of the demoniac across the Sea of Galilee in the Syrian town of Gadara.  You remember that this “Gentile” city was completely demonized and terrorized by the man… who was very strong and aggressive.  And he lived in the tombs that had been cut into the hillsides around the city.  He was strong enough to get in them, and he lived in them!

And, of course, we know the story… Jesus freed the Gentile city of demons – sending them “under” … all of this indicative of what was to come in the Kingdom of our Lord.

Anyway, as verse sixty says, having done all of this, Joseph went away.  He had accomplished all that he had set forth to do.  And he had done it out in the “open”.  With so many watching, his devotion to Jesus could no longer be kept a secret.  And, as we’ll see shortly, the rest of the Sanhedrin now knew that Joseph had buried Jesus.  And they knew where the tomb was.

Now, as verse sixty-one says, when Joseph went away he left two women just sitting there.  They had been watching to see where Jesus was buried… because after the Sabbath rest they intended to come back early on the first day of the week and anoint Him with some more spices.

Matthew now leaves the scene entirely by mentioning that the women were there.  It was Mary the Magdalene (who could have been of Gentile ancestry, and from whom Jesus cast out the demons), and (as Matthew says) “the other Mary”.  The other Mary would not have been Jesus’ mother….  John makes it clear that this is Jesus’ mother’s sister – the mother of James and Joseph. Apparently she thought it good to find out where Jesus would be buried so that she could lead her sister (Jesus’ mother) back here at a later date if she wished to come.

But now the Lord Jesus Christ has been laid in a new sepulcher, having yielded the Spirit into the Father’s hands and having made blood atonement for sin.  He has entered into the Glory-cloud/Throne-room/Holy of Holies above the firmament and established access to the Father through His flesh.

And He has been laid in a “new” sepulcher, where no decay or odor of death had invaded… a “fitting” place for His body – no corruption, no decomposition….  And although all anticipation and all preparation has been made for His permanent entombment, He will not remain in death and the grave.  But by nightfall He was completely “at rest” for the entire Sabbath day.

I’ll have more to say about the “Sabbath” and about Jesus remaining “at rest” in the grave during the Sabbath when we finish chapter twenty-seven next Lord’s Day and move into chapter twenty-eight.

But let me introduce this last event in the chapter (beginning at verse sixty-two) by saying that only Matthew states it this way.  He says:


“On the morrow, which is after the preparation….”


The “preparation” is, of course, preparation for the Sabbath!  And this particular preparation was a “once-a-year” occurrence, for it was Passover day!  (The One in which the real Paschal Lamb was slaughtered)

On Friday, even Passover Friday, all things had to be completed by the end of the day of preparation, for the Sabbath was to be observed according to the Law!

Matthew probably put it in these terms – first because he was writing primarily to Jews and, secondly to contrast the Sabbath with the vile desecration of the Law which occurred here on Friday… the crucifixion of the Son of God; and thirdly in order to underscore the fact that the Sanhedrin now assembles on the Sabbath to do work, and to do business, on the Sabbath day!  And to require a Roman guard to do work on the Sabbath day!  It’s all against the Law!

And the plain hypocrisy of that continues when (in what looks like sheer anxiety and panic) they forego their own rules concerning Gentile establishments and go, the first thing on the Sabbath morning, into the Praetorium for an audience with Pilate!  They told Pilate that they had remembered that, while yet living, Jesus had said, “after three days He would arise”!

Back in chapter twelve the pharisees had wished to see a sign of Jesus’ Messiahship… a sign from God that they could judge as to whether it was true.  And Jesus had answered them,


“I give you no sign except the sign of Jonah!”


The point being that, as Jonah came out of the belly of the whale (fish?) after three days and three nights, and went to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles of Nineveh; so Jesus Christ would arise from the heart of the earth after three days to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles!

This so angered the pharisees that from that day they began to seek His destruction.

But the Gospel accounts are full of the prophecy of the Resurrection.  Matthew sixteen:


“From then Jesus Christ began to show to His disciples that it behove Him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed and to be raised the third day.”


Matthew seventeen:


“And as they were strolling in Galilee Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised.”


Matthew twenty:


“Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and they will deliver Him to the nations to mock and to scourge and to crucify; and the third day to be raised.”


Mark records it again and again; Luke records it again and again.  His atonement paid the full price for their sin; and now His resurrection guarantees the resurrection and eternal life of mankind from every nation on earth.

Next Lord’s Day we will finish the hypocrites’ plans to contain God’s Messiah in the bowels of the earth, and we will witness their failure as Jesus Christ comes up out of the grave as the Victor over death!