57 That evening a man named Joseph came. He was a rich man from Arimathea who had become a disciple of Jesus. 58 He came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission to take it. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had carved out of the rock. After he rolled a large stone at the door of the tomb, he went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting in front of the tomb.
At this point in the narrative, Matthew seems to take a bit of a tangent. Some might say he goes out chasing rabbits. Jesus has died. What difference could it possibly make if Joseph of Arimathea took possession of Jesus’ body? What is the big deal about the clean cloth? Why is a new tomb important? Why do we need to know a large stone covered the entrance. What is the deal with the two women sitting in front of the tomb? Why is Matthew telling us all this? What is the big deal? Jesus is dead. Shouldn’t we, at this point, just move on?
Matthew has some really good reasons for every one of the pieces of information he places in the story. This isn’t going down a rabbit trail. What Matthew does here sets up the next and most important part of the story.
Joseph of Arimathea taking possession of Jesus’ body shows there were more who followed Jesus faithfully than just the (now eleven) disciples. What is more, some of those who followed Jesus at the end, were people of both means and importance. Joseph and Nicodemus to name but two.
Just as was the case of John the son of Zebedee, Joseph did not fear an association with the crucified Jesus. To do something such as Joseph did, asking for the body of Jesus, a convicted criminal in the eyes of most in Jerusalem, could lead to guilt by association. It is a big part of why Peter would deny Jesus. Joseph made no such denials and was willing to do his part for Jesus.
That Joseph placed Jesus’ body in a new tomb is also important. If the tomb had been used, how would one of that era tell Jesus’ bones from the bones of another? It would have required even greater faith. The eye could see the bones of others. Were the bones the bones of Jesus or bones that were already present? Likewise, if Jesus had been treated as most common criminals he would have been buried in a pauper’s grave. Again, you wouldn’t know one body from another.
The large stone was necessary because it made it close to impossible for the disciples to have stolen the body. The stone would keep honest disciples honest.
And the woman in front of the tomb? Matthew shows the depth of their grief. He also seems to show how these women wanted something to happen. We see how they believed something would happen. They sat there. They waited.
There is one more item of interest in this passage. Jesus’ body was wrapped in a clean cloth. We will save that one for a couple of days. It plays a role in the resurrection story itself.
All these things are important for those wanting proof of the resurrected Christ. Matthew is giving them all he had. The rest must be accepted on faith.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved