Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn't believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus' body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joseph, saw where Jesus' body was laid (Mark 15:43-47 NLT).
Joseph of Arimathea honored the broken body of Jesus by placing it in his family tomb. As tombs go, it was probably quite nice, for Joseph was a man of means. However, families could not be intermingled in tombs, therefore he was sacrificing his family’s burial place for Jesus. The opening of a Jewish tomb was small—usually 4-6 feet to allow for the passage of the body to the inside and for a person to fit through the doorway. The stone sealing the tomb probably weighed 1-2 tons, so it could not easily be dislodged or pushed off to the side.
Once inside, the body of Jesus lay still and cold and dead on a burial bed made from a cut of limestone. It was spring, and temperatures were cool in Israel then, so the chill of cold, hard limestone enveloped the body of our Savior with the harsh sting of death. Darkness had fallen on the world during the Crucifixion, and it seemed as if the lights were turned off everywhere as the Lord was laid to rest. Scripture refers to one who has died as being asleep, as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NKJV) references, But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. So Jesus slept the sleep of death, but we all know things were far from over.
The limestone slab was stone-cold. The body of Jesus was stone-cold. The silence was stone-cold. The walls and floor of the tomb were stone-cold. But were they really? No one talks about Saturday on Resurrection weekend because it seems so…well, stone-cold dead. Where’s the hope and joy when a loved one’s coffin is sealed and lowered into the ground? And yet, if loved ones are “those who sleep in Jesus,” we know that things are far from over!
There are sounds of Heaven we cannot hear right now—hosts of angelic beings worshipping God on levels we cannot imagine. Ezekiel 10:2-5 (MSG) recorded it as the cherubim were standing on the south side of the Temple when the man entered. A cloud filled the inside courtyard. Then the Glory of God ascended from the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the Temple. The cloud filled the Temple. Court and Temple were both filled with the blazing presence of the Glory of God. And the sound! The wings of the cherubim were audible all the way to the outer court — the sound of the voice was like The Strong God in thunder. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.
Did a dead man’s hearing loss limit the Son of God? Medical experts say that hearing is the last sense to leave us as we watch a loved one slip into a coma. “Keep talking to him--he can hear!” While in the tomb, scripture tells us that when He [Jesus] ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." (Now this, "He ascended" — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things,) Ephesians 4:8-10 NKJV.
Clearly, a LOT was going on in the tomb, but human eyes and ears could not see, hear, or comprehend the supernatural explosion of life and resurrection that was consuming the slain body of Jesus. Consider the sound of heaven heard in Acts 2:1-2 (NLT) in a small room filled with believers: On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. That was just a little home group, and BANG! a sound of heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm!
What about the Resurrection of the Son of God? What were the sounds of Heaven then? If myriads of angels praising God filled the night sky at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13-14), how much more jubilant exultance filled His Father’s world as God’s resurrection power jolted His Beloved Son from death to life? Oh, to have been present in that tomb with Jesus! It’s hard to imagine that the angel who later announced to onlookers that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb because He had risen from the dead would have just sat there twiddling his thumbs as it happened. Could you? I, for one, hope we get to see a playback of Saturday’s tomb activity someday!
Stone-cold, silent, and dead? Hardly! Mark 16:1-7 (NLT) gives this glorious account…Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus' body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way, they were asking each other, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, "Don't be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died."
Stone-cold? Never! Here are Jesus Christ’s words to us this Resurrection weekend: “I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies” (John 11:25 NASB). As the beloved hymn resounds,
Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
© 2022, Chris Werre