Matthew 27:62-66 Jesus in the Tomb (Holy Week- Holy Saturday)

30 03 2013

jesus in the tomb

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead,” and the last deception would be worse than the first.”  Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’  So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”  Matthew 27:62-66 (NRSV)

The last thing the Pharisees wanted was a risen Christ.  They were convinced that Jesus’ disciples would raid the tomb, claim Jesus had risen from the dead, and cause even more uprising among the people.

So Jesus was sealed in His tomb and guarded by soldiers- ostensibly to assure the Romans that the disciples could not stage a phony resurrection, which was a logical step, given the Pharisees’ assumption that Jesus was just another false prophet and fake.

The disciples could not move the stone, but all things are possible with God.

The disciples were having enough problems with believing Jesus.  Although Jesus had hinted at the necessity of His death and had given the promise of His resurrection, they were confronted with what they could see.  Jesus was dead.  People don’t just come back from the dead.

Maybe they were wrong about Jesus.  Maybe He was just another snake-oil salesman, a charlatan, and a fake.  He was their beloved Teacher, but had they been naïve and been deceived?

Today we as Christians know the rest of the story, so in our liturgical traditions  Holy Saturday generally doesn’t invoke the same maelstrom of emotion that it would have held for Jesus’ followers that first Holy Saturday.  They were afraid- both of the Pharisees and of the Romans.  They had deep and lingering doubt between what Jesus said and what they were seeing unfold before them.  They mourned the loss of their Friend and Teacher.


The irony is that we as Christians today don’t really say much about the tension and anguish and doubt of Holy Saturday, even though we live in a Holy Saturday kind of world.

We know Who Jesus is.  We know what He said- but all around us we see plenty of evil that would seem to contradict the Good News that Jesus has risen.  His Kingdom is all around us, but it’s pretty hard sometimes to see it.


It’s easier than we think to imagine the anguish of Jesus’ friends and followers when they viewed His dead and broken body lying in a cold, dead tomb.

It’s the same disappointment we feel when tragedy happens to us, or when events unfold that we didn’t expect and can’t comprehend.  We are left to wonder, as Jesus’ friends and disciples were, “Is God really with us, or are we just following a false god and deceiving ourselves?”

Tomorrow Jesus’ friends and disciples get to see that He is real, that His promises are good, and that He is Who He claims to be.

I pray that in the moments we feel abandoned or betrayed by God that the Holy Spirit will help us remember, yes, Jesus is Who He says He is, and that yes,

He is Risen, He is Risen, indeed.

not in the tomb