by Pastor Mark Jordan
“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” (Matthew 27:62-66, NIV)
Black Sabbath…the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection morning of Easter Sunday. What was Jesus doing? He was dead. Lying in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in strips of cloth that Joseph and Nicodemus prepared. Some traditions teach about the Harrowing of Hell, where Jesus’ spirit went to defeat the devil and rescue the souls of those who perished prior to his mission.
As we read today’s passage from Matthew 27, I am struck by how the chief priests and Pharisees referred to Jesus as “that deceiver.” Did you know that the Gospel writer John referred to Satan as the deceiver (John 8:44 | Revelation 12:9)? Here we see the “religious elite” giving that title to Jesus. The diligence to ensure that Jesus’ dead body remained in that tomb is evidenced by the lengths they went to by going to Pilate and requesting a guard of Roman soldiers to seal the the tomb, and to keep watch. Why? We see that the chief priests and Pharisees felt that the disciples might perpetuate “the last deception” by stealing the body and proclaiming Jesus’ Resurrection. But where were the disciples? They were huddled up in fear that they were next in the religious leaders’ mission to wipe out the Jesus movement.
In the tomb, Jesus was defeating death. As he lay there lifeless, he was in the middle of the process of what God promised to do in Isaiah 25:7, “…[God] will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples; the sheet that covers all nations” (NIV). That sheet…that shroud is death. While Jesus lay enfolded and covered in burial cloths, his death was defeating death to prove it is not the end, but the beginning of eternal life. After all, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) He said that to his friend, Martha, but it is true for you, too.
Jesus died to defeat death. He truly lay dead in the tomb so he could be resurrected and show prove once and for all that death is not the end. He died the death of separation from God so you would not have to. Do you believe this? If so, the power of resurrection is yours.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for conquering sin and death in Jesus. Though that was a Black Sabbath as he lay dead in the tomb, there was a process toward light that now shines perpetually. May that light shine in me as I prepare to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection tomorrow. I pray this in his mighty and victorious name. Amen.
God be with you,