Christ in the Grave (Matthew 27:50-66) After Christ died, He was laid in a tomb. What a dark day for the world! Even the sun failed to shine (Luke 23:45). The stars and soil alike mourned the death of Jesus, the centurion was astounded, and the disciples were scattered. By all accounts, it was over. Maybe some hoped that Christ would come down from that cross in another miraculous display, but such a thing was not to happen. It turns out that all those times that Jesus predicted that He would die were to come true despite Peter’s assurances that it wouldn’t happen (Matt. 16:21-23).
They wrapped His lifeless body in a shroud and placed it in a tomb. They didn’t even have time to fully prepare the body with the customary spices and ointments as the Sabbath day was about to begin (days are counted as sundown to sundown). The women who followed Jesus only had time to prepare the spices and ointments with the plan to go and prepare the body properly once the sun came up on Sunday (Luke 23:55-56). Oh, that they could have gone up Saturday night, but it would be too dark and dangerous. They would just have to wait. What a hard wait that must have been! Every time one of them passed the basket with the necessary supplies inside, they were reminded of the horrible truth that the One they called Lord and Savior was gone.
This must have been such a numb Sabbath for everyone. Not but a week ago, the entire city of Jerusalem was ablaze in praise for this King riding a donkey. Now, He lies dead in a tomb sent there by that same city. Perhaps they spent the day remembering what Jesus taught and did. The servant Malchus (John 18:10), whose freshly cut-off ear Jesus healed (Luke 22:51) might have spent the day reflecting. Could it be possible that he experienced the last healing that Jesus would ever have done? Could it be true that someone with as much grace, authority, and teaching truly be dead forever?
The disciples were likely anything but truly resting. The man that they had followed for the last three years performing miracles of soul and body, preaching in a way that even the scribes and Pharisees had no answer, the One who had every answer to every question and who knew their very thoughts, was gone. Their thoughts must have pivoted from grief from their loss to fear of what this might mean for them. That’s why when they would meet, they locked the doors (John 20:19). There were about a dozen other Messianic movements around this time that they would have heard of, and perhaps they were thinking that they had gotten duped by yet another one. All those other movements ended in the death of the supposed Messiah. All they could do was try to rest and wait. Nothing was going to happen that day. But there was at least one group of people who were, rather unusually, quite busy on this Sabbath day (Matthew 27:62-66). The priests and Pharisees were able to put their Sabbath laws aside for a moment in pursuit of the goal of making sure that Jesus stayed in that tomb. They appealed to Pilate to ask for guards for the tomb. They didn’t believe that Christ would rise again, but they were afraid that those disciples might try to steal the body and claim resurrection. Soldiers were granted, a stone was placed in the mouth of the tomb and sealed. If those disciples were going to steal the body, they would have to come through Rome’s finest. These soldiers must have thought that they had the easiest job to date. Fishermen would be no match for them. Only after that tomb was sealed could the Pharisees and the priests rest themselves. What a relief! Imagine if they had forgotten to put all of this in place! Why, people the world over might have thought Jesus rose when it was just deceptive fishermen. How kind of them to relieve the world of that lie. Their work was more important than they thought. Thoughts for prayer: Christians are no stranger to dark and uncertain times, but even when it seems the enemies of God are busiest, He is still in control. Thank Him for this providence, and trust Him in your own dark times of waiting.