The Least They Could Do
Text: Matthew 27 : 32 - 66
Joseph of Arimathea was called a secret disciple. He was afraid of the Jews and thus hid his faith in Jesus. He probably did not follow Jesus publicly.
Nicodemus came to Jesus on one occasion and had a long talk with Jesus (Cf. John 3). He too was probably afraid of being fully identified as a disciple of Jesus.
The death of Jesus changed everything! Whatever fears they had were now flung aside. Perhaps they were stung by a great sense of shame for their cowardice. Perhaps their conscience troubled them that they had done little or nothing for the Teacher they had embraced in their hearts. They must have felt that they had had enough of being secret disciples! They found a new sense of strength in their hearts that day, and drawing encouragement from each other, they approached Pilate for the body of Jesus.
Lovingly, they took the body of Jesus and did what they could to wrap Him up in linen grave clothes. Costly myrrh and aloes were used to fight off the smell of death. Nothing was spared to give Jesus a burial they felt He deserved. Seeing to the details of the burial of Jesus was the least they could do!
They must have felt glad that they could at last do something for Jesus. It was evident that none of the many disciples He had could have attempted what they did. They had wealth, position and influence. These were now employed to serve Jesus. If they could not serve Him when He was alive, they must at least do what they could for Him in death. It was the very least that they could do.
THE FAITHFUL WOMEN DISCIPLES
How terrible the women must have felt as they watched helplessly the crucifixion of their beloved Master. For hours they stood by gazing at Jesus with hearts that were shattered. How could they do this to their beloved Teacher? They could and they did. They saw everything. They saw how the soldier pierced the side of Jesus too. They also saw how His body was taken down by the soldiers and given to two men.
They probably did not know the two men personally, or they might have asked to help them prepare Jesus for His burial. Silently but faithfully they followed the two men as they put Jesus into the garden tomb.
“And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary,
sitting opposite the tomb.”
They had followed Jesus faithfully, ever since they believed in Him. They had sought always to do their part. They supported Jesus with their substance. They must have looked into all the practical daily details like the washing of clothes etc. They must have felt helpless that they could do little or nothing at His burial. Silently they watched and marked the tomb where Jesus was laid. The Sabbath drew near and they could do nothing at the moment. In their hearts they planned to come back as soon as the Sabbath was over! Faithfully they watched every detail. It was the least that they could do!
THE ENEMIES OF JESUS
Not satisfied with putting Jesus to death, the enemies approached Pilate for permission for the next set of plans they conceived over the Sabbath.
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation,
the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying,
‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said
“After three days, I will rise.”
Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until
the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away
and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead.'”
So the last deception will be worse than the first.’
Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way,
make it as secure as you know how.’
So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone
and setting the guard.”
The enemies were taking nothing for granted. They recalled one particular statement that Jesus had made – that He would be resurrected on the third day. Personally, they did not believe a word that Jesus had spoken. They were just afraid that the angry and desperate disciples might just come and steal the body of Jesus in the dead of night and then go on to proclaim that He had risen.
They had thought of everything. They had plotted His death, and they must now ensure that their well-laid plans did not backfire! They felt that every security measure must be taken. As if the great stone that sealed the tomb was not enough they asked that the tomb be sealed. The sealing of the tomb by order of the governor would be a stern warning to any would-be intruder that if they broke the seal, they would be in serious trouble with the Romans!
Pilate complied with their request and gave them Roman soldiers to guard the tomb. Surely the presence of armed soldiers would cause anyone to think twice about stealing the body of Jesus! Everything that could be done was now done! Surely what Jesus had said about His resurrection could not take place now!
THE SIGN OF JONAH
What did the chief priests and Pharisees remember about Jesus’ teaching concerning His resurrection. Perhaps it was this word that stuck in their minds.
“No sign will be givenâ?¦except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly
of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days
and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Only time would tell whether this word of Jesus would be fulfilled!