Summary of passages: At the moment Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. The earth shook, rocks split, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They appeared to many people. The centurion and guards guarding Jesus were terrified at the earthquake and exclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons were at Jesus’ tomb.
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and was granted it. He wrapped it in linen and placed it in his own tomb where the women stood.
The next day, the Pharisees and chief priests asked Pilate if they could post more guards because they remembered Jesus’ prophecy to rise again and they didn’t want the disciples stealing Jesus’ body and telling people Jesus had risen. Pilate granted their request and more guards were posted.
Hebrews 9: In the tabernacle was a place with two rooms called the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and then only with blood to atone for the people’s sins. All priests could enter the Holy Place and they did frequently for worship.
Jesus Christ through his blood entered the Most Holy Place, cleansing us in the process so that we may serve the living God. He created a New Covenant where we may receive eternal inheritance and life. The Old Covenant had required everything be cleansed in blood repeatedly. Now, Jesus made one sacrifice for us all and will come again to bring salvation to those waiting for him.
9a) Only the high priest and only once a year.
b) Blood as a sacrifice for God to cleanse himself and the people of their sins they had committed in ignorance (and on purpose).
c) It was torn by God to signify that by Jesus’ death all people now had immediate access to God. All people could enter into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ and be made righteous to stand in His presence.
10a) Scholars believe witnessing the crucifixion and the death of Jesus may have converted some of the soldiers, including this centurion. But he seems not to have understood as he uses the past tense, saying Jesus was the Son of God. We all know He is the Son of God and is alive today. However, we shouldn’t fault him too much for this mistake as most people didn’t realize the full significance of Jesus’ death, not even his disciples until much later when God breathed the knowledge into them and allowed them to see the Truth.
b) Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. John 19:25-26 says the mother of Jesus is there as well [See End Notes for more explanation.]
11a) Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Council of the Sanhedrin and risked “being fired” or even death as he could be charged with blasphemy as well for his belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. He had not consented to Jesus’ death sentence. He gave up his own tomb for Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin as well (John 3:1-21). He faced the same risks as Joseph did as a believer.
b) Personal Question. My answer: The care taken with Jesus’ body. He was buried as a king would have been buried. He was wrapped in fine linen and placed in a tomb cut of rock, which only the wealthy could afford. I liked how it was mainly women who stayed vigilant by the tomb. How they were the first to see Jesus arise. How God had once again chosen those discarded by society to bear the most important message of all time: He is risen!
c) The Pharisees and the chief priests were afraid Jesus would rise again on third day like he had proclaimed so they asked Pilate if they could take extra precautions against this or against the disciples stealing Christ’s body and saying he had risen. They sealed the stone in front of the tomb and posted an extra guard.
Conclusions: I liked the conciseness of Hebrews 9, which boiled down the Old Testament laws and how Jesus broke them. I loved the prominence of women–the forgotten ones who never leave Jesus’ side. I like how John says Jesus’ mother is there. I’m not for sure I could be there to witness one of my kids crucified, but she is by his side till the end and is blessed when he speaks to her (John 19:26). What strength and courage!
I loved seeing God at work as well, continually using the Pharisees to strengthen the truth of who Jesus is. I loved seeing God use Joseph and Nicodemus as examples to others of the risks worth taking for your beliefs and the care worth giving even when one is powerless in the face of events, small acts can make a big impact.
End Notes: The rocks take note of Jesus’ death even if the people are ambivalent.
Scholars quibble that there should be a break between Matthew 27 verses 51 and 52 because the earthquake happened on the day Jesus died and the resurrection of the holy people came only after Jesus’ resurrection 3 days later. This is unclear though as you read it together.
Matthew is the only gospel that records that holy people rose with Jesus. With very little detail given, scholars are unsure the purpose except to accompany Christ to heaven.
Normally, victims of crucifixion are left on the cross to serve as signs to others not to disobey Rome. Their bodies rot or are eaten by animals. However, during this Passover season, the Romans did not want such a display. Furthermore, in the past, the Romans gave the bodies of Jewish victims to relatives for burial to keep the peace in Judea and pacify the Jews.
It is important that this tomb was never used. This would eliminate any doubt that the body that arose was Jesus and not some other body.
Only the rich could afford such a tomb. This was a huge sacrifice for Joseph to make for Jesus. A stone in front of it was the customary way to seal off a tomb to prevent it from being disturbed.
The process followed by wrapping Jesus and putting spices on his body was the Jewish custom. They would let the bodies sit until only bones remained. Then they would put the bones in an ossuary which is a small stone box and place that in the tomb for eternity. The Orthodox church still practices this custom today.
“The next day” would have been the Sabbath. The Pharisees are so afraid of Jesus they are breaking all the laws. Ironically, they knew Jesus’ prophecy better than the disciples who had run away for fear of their lives. The disciples were an excuse: the Pharisees were afraid Jesus would rise again. It is this security that validates Jesus’ resurrection for men. Again, Jesus wins in the end!
The guard normally consisted of 4 soldiers but could have been more in this case. The seal on the tomb was a Roman seal and if broken, would have resulted in the soldiers being fired or executed as it would violate Roman authority. They didn’t care a lick who Jesus was–which only makes Jesus’ resurrection the more powerful.
Women at the cross: Anyone else confused by who is at the cross? I am! The only one mentioned by all 4 Gospels is Mary Magdalene. Mary, mother of James and Joses, is mentioned twice. The others only once. Here’s a good break down of it all and a wonderful chart showing with women are mentioned in which Gospel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_at_the_crucifixion
Nicodemus? Anyone else need a refresher on him? I did. He’s a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin as well. Here’s another great breakdown on where he appears in the Bible, mainly in the book of John:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicodemus
Map of Arimathea: http://bibleatlas.org/full/arimathea.htm