Vs. 66, “So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” It’s Easter Morning and Jesus is no longer in the tomb! All the devious plotting by Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate failed. In the beginning of our chapter, we see the tragic demise of Judas Iscariot (vs. 3-10). While Judas showed remorse for his actions, he did not repent and believe. We now come to the trial of Jesus (vs. 11-26) before the Romans. The Jews needed to find a way to convince Pilate to have Jesus crucified. They spun it to make it look like Jesus was leading a revolt against the Romans. It’s important to note the politics involved with Pilate and the Jews. He wasn’t exactly a beloved figure for the Jews and though the Romans were in charge, his position needed to appease the Jews from rioting and also the Roman leaders who entrusted in Pilate’s ability to be the governor for them. He personally felt no reason for the Jesus to be sentenced to death. But the politics were pressuring him. Pilate ingeniously used the tradition of releasing one prisoner and chose Barabbas to be next to Jesus. He figured the crowds would surely not want Barabbas released and call for Jesus. But, seeing the rioting crowds and the threat the Sanhedrin made to Pilate (John 19:12), He relents and sentences Jesus to crucifixion (vs. 26). The Roman floggings (very brutal) is excruciating to read and one of the reasons why Jesus died so early on the cross (crucifixion deaths could last days). When it came to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, we are not given much detail from any of the Gospels since everyone at that time knew what crucifixion entailed.
Regarding application…Christ is Risen. Vs. 54, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Not only did he prove that He was the Son of God, but that He was the true Christ (Anointed One). Jesus overcame the sting of death and paved the way for all to believe. This Roman centurion had the eyes of his heart open to realize the truth. Jesus after His resurrection revealed himself to over 500 disciples and it their testimony that gives us the additional sources we need to shed light on our faith. I pray that this coming week, that you too would testify of our risen Lord!
Vs. 2, “She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.” Sarah (princess) the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac is one of the heroines of our faith (Hebrews 11:11). The Apostle Peter also used Sarah as an example of a Godly woman and wife. Abraham’s weeping and mourning is the first recorded in the Bible. And Sarah is the only recorded age of woman who passed away. Bearing a child at the age of 90 years old is also quite a miracle! I think it’s important to note how the Hittites respected Abraham. Technically, the land was Abraham’s because it was given by God. But Abraham was a good citizen and neighbor and gives a lesson in being tactful (vs. 3-16) and honest. The negotiations for this tomb would eventually have six people buried there (Genesis 49:31-32).
Regarding application…Mourning Death. In 2007, Harris Interactive conducted a research of the last three previous years. They found that 55% of Americans did not have a will. Death is something that is fearful for many. But, there was hope for those in the Old Testament times of life with the Lord (Psalm 73:24). And certainly, for believers today, we have this hope through Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:16). Abraham gives us a model in how we should mourn death. It is absolutely appropriate to express our emotions and cry. When my first cousin committed suicide as a incoming Junior in high school, I didn’t cry at the funeral. But, I went to visit his grave a week later and wept. Sometimes, we hold in our emotions when we shouldn’t. Nobel prize winner in literature, Rabindranath Tagore, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
Vs. 1, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It is early Sunday morning and some women with Mary Magdalene (healed of seven evil spirits) come to the tomb. Question: What were they doing that morning? The women came to honor Jesus by finishing anointing the body more completely. It must have been quite alarming and disturbing to find the stone rolled away to the entrance of the tomb. She and the women run and tell Peter and John (vs. 2). We then see Jesus appear at different times to encourage the disciples who were living in fear of the wrath of the Jews. First, we see Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene (vs. 10-18) to encourage her in her grief and to instruct her to tell the others! Second, Jesus appears to the disciples (vs. 19-23) and breathes the Holy Spirit on them (vs. 22). And lastly, we see the love and patience of Jesus with doubting Thomas (vs. 24-31).
Regarding application…Dealing with Doubt. Vs. 25, “So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Notice how Thomas had missed the first meeting when Jesus appeared to the others (vs. 24). It is not a sin to question our faith. God gave us minds to be able to have the reason and ability to think about why we believe in Him. It’s important to be mindful of Jesus’ loving response to Thomas. Jesus knows we will have times of doubt, but I love how we are reminded we are very blessed for believing all the more (vs. 29). Question: Are you dealing with doubt? Don’t despair, some of us just need more time to connect the dots of this life. I had a student year’s ago ask many numerous questions for two years about Christianity. He grew up in the church and was quite knowledgeable about the Bible. One night, he called me with a slew of questions and I was surprised when he asked me to pray with him. That night over the phone, he accepted the Lord Jesus!