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“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”
Let’s try to imagine what that long-ago Sabbath day was like for the followers of Jesus. He has just died in agony on the cross. Most of the disciples have fled into hiding, although John witnesses the crucifixion and agrees to care for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but John does not follow the body to the tomb. Several other women also witness the crucifixion, including Mary Magdalene, who has been a follower of Jesus since nearly the beginning of His ministry. It is up to a secret wealthy disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a member of the Sanhedrin, to take the body and lay it in a tomb he owns nearby. Another member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, is also a follower and he brings myrrh and spices to anoint the body but the Sabbath is fast approaching at sunset (Nicodemus and his role is mentioned in the Gospel of John). This hasty laying of Jesus in the tomb before sunset is witnessed by two of the Marys so they will know where to return to on the day after the Sabbath to truly prepare the body.
A heavy stone is rolled over the front of the tomb, the stone is sealed and a guard is posted so that the dead stay buried. And the world turns on its axis and the people of Jerusalem and Judea take their Sabbath rest after a week of festivities for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The disciples have been told over and over again by Jesus that he would rise again on the third day, but none of them are watching the tomb. It would appear the short ministry of a Nazarene named Jesus has ended with a miserable and horrid death on a cross, with two criminals crucified on either side, mocked and scorned by passers-by.
Be still and wait on the Lord…