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Who moved the great stone?

When it was evening (Jerusalem, Passover day, AD 30), there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 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. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the grave. Matthew 27: 57-61
A few weeks ago, a very dear friend of mine passed away. She had just turned 80 years old and finally succumbed to bone cancer. For over a year she knew that she was moving on and had organised her assets, her last will and testament and her funeral service so as to make it as simple as possible for others after her death.

But there was one thing which she left totally undone. The place where her body would be buried.

What good reason could there be why Joyce, knowing for a long time that she was terminally ill, had not given a moment’s thought to a grave for her body?

That reminded me about the grave of Jesus. Did he arrange a grave for his body? After all, he definitely knew that he was going to die. And he had many followers whom he could ask to make the necessary arrangements. Who wouldn’t?

‘To me there is nothing more fatuous about mankind than the statement that to think about death is morbid. The one who refuses to face facts is a fool.’ (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, speaker and writer, 1899-1981) 
Matthew, Jesus’ eye-witness biographer, recorded these simple facts. As evening approached, a rich man came from the town of Arimathea. His name was Joseph. He had become a follower of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. Then he went away. 

That’s interesting, isn’t it, from another point of view. Even though Jesus was dead, Joseph of Arimathea, who had become a disciple of Jesus, still did what he could for Jesus. Despite being wealthy he cared for the body of this convicted and executed criminal. Somehow, he knew the truth.
Another interesting thing in Matthew’s biography is that, as soon as Jesus’ body was in the tomb and the great stone rolled over the entrance, Matthew then uses the word “grave” instead of tomb. He wrote. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there across from the grave.

What’s the difference between a tomb (Greek mnemeion from the verb “to remember”) and a grave (Greek taphos from the verb “to bury”)? Well, the word Matthew used for tomb describes an empty memorial space prepared for a dead body. When the body’s there in that space, the space becomes a grave.

Jesus made no arrangements for his own memorial place or for his burial place. Joseph had made arrangements for his own memorial dead body but, instead of using it for himself, placed the dead body of Jesus there. Jesus took Joseph’s place in Joseph’s tomb. 

I wonder: did Jesus also – in addition - take Joseph’s place in death, in the grave, so that Joseph would not see death but only, one later day, see his own resurrection with Jesus?

I mentioned my friend Joyce. She also had made no arrangements for her own tomb or for her own grave. Why? Because she didn’t expect to be there in a grave.  She knew that Jesus had taken her place in death and had risen from death. She knew that she would live for ever with him. 

‘It is difficult for me to understand how an intelligent person can spend all of the time building for this world and have no time for the future world.’ (Billy Graham, evangelist, 1918-2018) 
What went into any grave of hers would not be her. That would be merely the husk and not the grain of corn that was – and is - she herself as a living being.

Matthew recorded that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, back there in AD 30 Jerusalem, were the two ladies who were watching Joseph of Arimathea make secure the grave of Jesus with a large stone. They would return as soon as the Passover and the Sabbaths were over. On the first Easter Sunday.

Jesus needed a grave – but only for three days. Death couldn’t hold him. He moved the stone.

Sinner Syvret

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