the tomb was sealed
Saturday — Popular World View
…On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:55b
The Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) begins at nightfall on the day our calendar designates as Friday. But that’s not really as simple as it sounds. The twilight period, from sunset (shkiah) until three stars are visible in the sky (tzeit hakochavim), is an “iffy” time period, known as bein hashmashot. Shabbat and all other Jewish Holidays begin at shkiah, the earliest possible definition of nightfall, and end when three stars appear in the sky the next evening, the latest definition of nightfall.
There’s not much information preserved in Biblical records concerning the hours and days Jesus’ tomb was sealed. We know from Luke’s account that on the Sabbath the women who had come with him from Galilee “rested according to the commandments.” As you’ll recall from reading Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry on earth the Sabbath is a time when no work whatsoever may be done without invoking the wrath of the Pharisees. They berated Christ more than once for healing the sick and lame on their Holy day. That tells me it’s probably safe to assume the disciples also spent Shabbat as was customary “according to the commandments.” Further, we can draw the conclusion from Resurrection Day accounts by Mark and John that they (the disciples) were staying together, consoling each other, weeping and mourning the loss of their teacher and friend–not to mention their dashed hopes for a revolution that would overthrow the Roman government.
The thing I found most interesting in my study of that long ago Saturday–the actions of the religious leaders who demanded Jesus be arrested and ultimately crucified. Apparently they weren’t “resting according to the commandments.” There are a few verses tucked away in the Gospel of Matthew that give me a pretty graphic picture of their actions.
“The next day, that is, the day after the day of Preparation for the Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate and said, Sir, we have just remembered how that vagabond Imposter said while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore give an order to have the tomb made secure and safeguarded until the third day, for fear that His disciples will come and steal Him away and tell the people that He has risen from the dead, and the last deception and fraud will be worse than the first.
Pilate said to them, You have a guard of soldiers; take them and go, make it as secure as you can. So they went off and made the tomb secure by sealing the boulder, a guard of soldiers being with them and remaining to watch.” Matthew 27:62-66 Amplified Bible
He wasn’t there!
Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, quoting Psalm 68,
“This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the depths of the earth? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Ephesians 4:8-10 NIV
John the Revelator quotes Jesus,
“Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, And the Ever-living One I am living in the eternity of the eternities. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore; and I possess the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead).” Revelation 1:17-18 Amplified Bible
While Christ’s followers wept and mourned, he descended to the realm of the dead and took the keys satan stole from Adam in the garden. Jesus reclaimed everything satan took from man, including dominion over death, hell and the grave.
It would take the disciples a few days to recognize what the Lord had done while they were grieving, even though his teaching had been preparing them for months. Without the “power from on high,” the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, their Comforter and Counselor, the disciples were still working in the natural, physical realm.
The enemy apparently figured it out more quickly. In the spiritual realm he was defeated, dethroned and de-fanged. But he wasn’t completely stupid. And he knew who his strongest allies in the natural realm were–the political and religious leaders. So he paid them a little visit, similar to his visit with Eve in the garden and whispered a plan in their ears.
Matthew recorded the outcome of that little satanic visit. Just four verses tucked in toward the end of The Gospel, after the Resurrection account and before the Great Commission. They’re easy to overlook. Most of the world has missed their significance for two thousand years.
“While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about.” The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day. Matthew 28:11-15 GNT
I have a precious Jewish friend who firmly believes this lie, despite every recorded eye-witness account refuting it. Hers is the popular world view of Jesus. “He was a good man and a prophet.”
Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the First and the Last, and the Ever-living One. He is alive in the eternity of the eternities. He died, but see, He is alive forevermore; and HE holds the keys of death, hell and the grave.
Like the disciples…it is time we turn earthly mourning into gladness. It is time to recognize Him for who He is.
Grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.