The Day After the Day of Days

Matthew 27:57-66

Jesus has just died a horrible death

And 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 over 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, which is the one after the preparation, the chief of 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, lest the disciples 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.

The day of days is coming to a close with Joseph and Nicodemus burying the body of Jesus, which of course, fulfilled prophecy even though Matthew doesn’t point it out. Consider the context of Matthew and Isaiah. “And 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 over to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb.” And in Isaiah, “Yet He was with a rich man in His death.”  The thing that is so compelling about Isaiah’s prophecy is that of the randomness of it. Yet that is precisely why we believe. Because in this day of days, which has all but come to a close, all of the seemingly random things that Isaiah wrote, have been fulfilled.

Notice also John’s account: “And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” John tells us that the two secret disciples of Jesus, prepare and bury his body. While all four gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea, only John mentions Nicodemus. I bring this up to demonstrate how no one author can include all the details of the life and death of Jesus. But it behooves us to see every angle, taking our vitamin E, and seeing each author’s aspiration to his audience. Also to reassure you that their witnesses are true. Scholars claim Matthew and Luke either copy Mark or they all copy the hypothetical “Q-source.” And while the synoptic Gospels do have much in common, they also differ from each other based upon the author’s inspired aspirations. Nevertheless, John is written very differently and yet says many of the same things, especially concerning today’s text. In fact, John, while being in agreement 100 percent concerning Joseph of Arimathea, gives us more information than the synoptics. I once delivered a message on John’s account of the burial of Jesus, focusing on Nicodemus and his faith, overcoming his fear. But we’re in the context of Matthew, therefore we must consider this context.

We have seen that as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was with a seemingly random, rich man in his death. Several hundred years prior, Isaiah penned some very random, yet true, things concerning the Messiah. Today’s text is one of them–“he was with a rich man in his death.” Out of nowhere appears Joseph, a secret follower of Jesus who just-so-happens to have the courage to ask Pilate for the body, is rich, and has a brand-spanking-new tomb, nearby, where he can lay the body of Jesus–this is neither a coincidence nor something one can make up. Jesus crying, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” could possibly be Jesus simply quoting David to look like he is the Messiah. But considering all the context of fulfillment of prophecy and add in today’s text of Joseph–we are left with only one conclusion, of which, the Roman centurion came to before Joseph arrived on the scene; “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Joseph prepared Jesus’ body for burial and lays his dead body, which was quite dead and wrapped tightly with linen and 100 pounds of spices, in his own tomb. Joseph then closes off the tomb with a “large stone.” Exactly how large the stone was is fairly irrelevant, as we will soon see. Nevertheless, it was described by Matthew as large. And then, according to the context, Joseph “went away.” And at least two, of the four or five Marys, stayed near the tomb. Notice the context; “And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.” And this ends all that Matthew recorded about this day of days. We are not told where the disciples are or where Jesus’ family is. The entire city must be exhausted from the festival and the two trials and the crucifixion. And as the sun set on this day of days, the city enters into the Sabbath and Jesus lies dead, having fulfilled dozens of prophesies. But none of this seems to matter much, on either side.

“Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief of 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, lest the disciples 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.”

I don’t know why Matthew writes, “Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation,” rather than, “on the next day, which is the Sabbath.” The two ways of writing mean the same thing–I wonder but I certainly don’t lose sleep or joy over it. I am sure Matthew had his reasons but what he ultimately tried to convey, we see–it is now the Sabbath day, during the end of Passover. And that’s probably Matthew’s aspiration to his audience, to remind them that this was the end of this Passover, a very holy day. Perhaps Matthew is presenting and highlighting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and chief priests. Notice that the “holy men” of Jerusalem, who should be at home, or in the temple, are meeting with Pilate. It’s bad enough for these holy men to be with the uncircumcised dog, Pilate, on this holy day but look closely at the context and see the holy hypocrisy.

But first, let’s take our Vitamin E and consult our Old Testament tutor. Because here, we use a hermeneutical tool called the CAGED method, where Context is king, Author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels preconceived notions and presuppositions. We will examine the example of the Passover, put forth in Deuteronomy.

“For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning. You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the LORD your God is giving you; but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. And you shall cook and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses. And in the morning you are to return to your tents. Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it.” 

The irony is only building with the religious leaders. The first trial of Jesus was against their Law, yet the charges were that Jesus broke their Law. Which of course, he didn’t, and it wasn’t their Law but the Law which Jesus gave them. We simply don’t have time for even half of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and chief priests, or to consider each way in which they broke the Law to condemn Jesus with the Law–exactly the opposite has happened. But while what the Pharisees and chief priests do next is certainly not the worst, it is the absolute icing on the cake. Notice; “Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief of 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, lest the disciples 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.”

And on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it.” “And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”

All I can think about this scene is that while the dead, lifeless body of the Lord, Jesus Christ, lay in that tomb as they sealed it, is, God was watching. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, which is good, they hurled accusations at him. They accosted the disciples for rubbing grain-heads and eating them on the Sabbath. Did they think that God didn’t see their hypocrisy?

We cannot let the irony escape us, we have to see the sublime string. It was not Jesus who was on trial. God was watching. It was not Jesus who broke the Law, God was watching. It was not Jesus who will be permanently put to death. God was watching. The only one to ever life a righteous life was put to death by the self-righteous, by hypocrisy of hypocrisies, in an irony of ironies that continued after the day of days.

And yet God is graceful to them, and most pastors and preachers theologians, and teachers miss this. Though many see a future salvation for the far-future Israel, who were not present on this day of days, nor were their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents,  great-great-grandparents to 22 generations, through the restoration of the Temple, Law and sacrifice. But God offered grace to that generation.

Notice the context; “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, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.” What was Pilate’s response? Notice; “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” Pilate told the Pharisees and chief priests to make it secure and guard it themselves. And that is exactly what they did. Notice; “And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”

Now, as always, I am getting way ahead of myself. I should really stop doing this.  I assume facts not yet in evidence but they have been written for almost 2000 years. Nevertheless I should not make assumptions. But I will have a hypothesis and see if it fits in our next examination of the context. God offers grace to the Pharisees and chief priests because they themselves sealed the grave and had it guarded. Pilate didn’t do it, they did. They put in the work, ironically on a high, holy day, to ensure that no one, not even those pesky people called the disciples, could get into the grave. And yet, the stone was rolled away. For some, like Joseph and Nicodemus, it resulted in grace. But for many others, God mocked back.

Why do we deny what happened this day of days like the Pharisees and chief priests. Why do we look for a future Temple restoration? The True temple was restored. Why do we look for animal sacrifice? The True Sacrifice is complete. Why do we look for a future Law? The True Law was nailed to the cross. And he came out of the grave with great grace. But I am getting ahead of myself again. At the moment, in our content, Jesus is dead and at least two of the Sanhedrin are believing in him. But the rest unlawfully seal off his grave. Nevertheless God offers grace, Jesus told them that they would see the sign of Jonah. They know he intends to rise again, it’s in the context. Jesus promised them this sign, and all they wanted was a sign. They themselves secured his grave to ensure that no false resurrection will take place, surely when they see the true resurrection which couldn’t be faked, because they sealed up the grave, they will believe. Just as it will be after the rapture. After seeing all the christians disappear, they will have to believe. Sorry for the sarcasm.

I can’t wait until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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