(Reading time: 3 minutes.)
According to Matthew 27, Joseph of Arimethea, along with Nicodemus (another secret disciple positioned among the nation’s most prominent officials), gave Jesus a proper burial in Joseph’s own tomb. Verses 59 says, “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.”
Joseph and Nicodemus had unwittingly been caught up in something much bigger and much older than themselves. Centuries before they were born, the prophet Isaiah had written, “He was assigned a grave with . . . the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Isa. 53:9). Dozens of ancient prophecies were fulfilled on this one day. Men and angels were playing roles in a drama that had been scripted long before.
Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus, rolled the great stone into place at the tomb’s entrance and went home. The women who had followed them to the tomb also went home, forced to end their vigil by the approach of the Sabbath.
But notice Matthew 27:62: “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.’”
How ironic. The day after the Preparation Day was the Sabbath. The women, as we just saw, went home and rested in obedience, as Luke puts it, to the law. The women obeyed the law and kept the Sabbath, while the priests and Pharisees were conducting business at the governor’s office in violation of Sabbath law. Add to irony that Sabbath-breaking was one of the chief accusations The Pharisee leveled against Jesus (Luke 23:56).
The Pharisees especially had been outraged at Jesus for violating the Sabbath. Here they were, one day after his death, violating the Sabbath themselves. Together with the chief priests they slandered Jesus as a deceiver (John 7:12). But if we look ahead to verses 12 and 13 of the next chapter, we find these same men working out an elaborate plan to deceive the people. And, remarkably, they saw nothing hypocritical about their actions. One of sin’s most troubling symptoms is that it blinds its victims to its presence. Ironically, the less control sin exercises over a person, the more aware of its presence he or she becomes.