Doors of the Bible, Part Seven, The Door to Jesus’ Tomb

Even though he knew his death was coming and had spoken about it with his disciples, there is no indication that Jesus made any preparations for his burial.

He had prepared for his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. According to Matthew 21, Jesus sent two disciples into the village to find a donkey tied with a colt. They were to untie them and bring them to Jesus. Jesus even told them what to say if anyone questioned them. They were to say, “The Lord needs them.”

He had made preparations for celebrating the Passover with his disciples on Maundy Thursday. According to Mark 13, Jesus again sent two disciples, this time into the city, they would encounter a man carrying a jar of water and were to follow time to the place where they would celebrate the Passover.

But Jesus made no apparent preparations for his burial.

That’s where Joseph of Arimathea comes in.

[57] When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. [58] He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. [59] And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud [60] and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. [61] Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

[62] The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate [63] and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ [64] Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” [65] Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” [66] So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:57-66, ESV)

As it says, Joseph didn’t have to dig a grave quickly. He had already dug a grave, out of stone, probably for himself. He knew someday he would need it. Unlike so many people still today, he was not in denial about his own death.

Since Jesus was executed as a common criminal, if Joseph had not done what he did, the soldiers probably would have come and taken Jesus down from the cross and buried him in a common, unmarked grave.

So Jesus’ tomb was a borrowed tomb. The only indication of his burial comes from Isaiah 53:9 “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death.”

As we continue with our series, Doors of the Bible, our focus in this post is the door to Jesus’ tomb. It says in the text, the door was a great stone. The women who came to the tomb early on Easter morning wondered how they would roll it away since it was so large. No doubt it was a great stone to keep just anyone from getting inside and causing mischief.

The day after Joseph had buried Jesus, Jesus’ enemies came and asked Pilate to secure the tomb lest Jesus’ disciples come and steal his body and pretend he had risen from the dead. Pilate’s instructions were, “Go, make it as secure as you can.” They applied some kind of seal and set a guard.

The door to Jesus’ tomb was as secure as it could possibly be from a human standpoint. Today, of course, there would be ways to make it more secure and, no doubt, security cameras would be in place.

One could wonder, why would a tomb have a door? Most of our graves today do not have doors. The body is buried in the ground and a tombstone is place at the grave to indicate where the person is buried.

There are a couple of door theories. Since we have not actually found the tomb it could have been a burial chamber in which there were several tombs. There was a door to the outside so that when other people died they could go in and bury them in the other chambers.

If Jesus had stayed in that chamber with several other tombs, I could just hear the conversation when they went to bury others in there. They would bring the person in and bury him or her and then inevitably someone would point to Jesus’ grave and say, “Yeah, over there’s where Jesus is buried. He was a pretty terrific preacher for a while. Then he made the authorities mad and they crucified him. It’s so sad.”

Another theory is that they expected Jesus’ body would only stay in there for a few years and, once his body had decayed and returned to dust they would come in and clean out his remains and bury someone else in there. That is a common practice in some places around the world.

One thing we do know is that the door was not there because Joseph wanted to make it easier for Jesus to get out of the tomb on Easter morning. Neither Joseph nor the women who came to the tomb early Easter morning nor any of his disciples believed that on Easter morning the door of Jesus’ tomb would be burst open and Jesus would rise from the dead.

But that is exactly what happened. Nothing and no one could keep Jesus from rising from the dead. The massive stone was rolled away so that the disciples could go in and see that Jesus’ grave was indeed empty. This is very foundation of our Christian faith.

And because Jesus rose from the dead we also will rise. No matter what happens to our bodies. No matter who wants to prevent it from happening, we will rise from the dead to eternal life.

As I said earlier, Joseph of Arimathea was not in denial about death. He knew it was coming and had prepared for it.

When the topic of death and burial comes up there are two kinds of  people. Among both believers and unbelievers there are those who have things all planned out and those who are in denial. I recently attended the funeral of a pastor friend who had actually drawn up two complete funerals services before he died. The family just picked the one they liked best.

Death and burial is not a topic that we typically bring up out of the blue, like, “Yeah the weather has sure been nice lately, have you thought about where you are going to be buried?

But when the topic does come up, even if you don’t have all your funeral plans made, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can speak confidently about what will happen when we die. We will be buried and then someday we will rise to eternal life.

 

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