143: Tending Jesus' grave
Mary of Magdala and other women who had followed the procession to the burial ground watched as the body of their beloved Master was laid in His grave. The men needed all their strength to roll the heavy stone in front of the opening.
The women were still sobbing as they headed back to Jerusalem. They did not have much time left to do something for their Master, for the sabbath was at hand. Hastily they prepared some more spices and oils. They promised each other that on Sunday morning, when the sabbath was over, they would go to the grave again. They would do more for the body of Jesus than they could do now, in this short time. They could preserve the body for a long time, perhaps even for years. They would go to the grave often to weep there and think back to the days when Jesus was alive and among them on earth.
That was their only comfort. It was such a small comfort that it did nothing to lessen their pain and sorrow. In their despair they forgot—just as the disciples forgot—that Jesus was to rise again from the grave. He had told them this often.
The chief priests and Pharisees had not forgotten those statements of Jesus. They remembered that they had asked Jesus for a sign that He really was the Son of God. Jesus had answered that He would give them no other sign than the sign of the prophet Jonah. Just as Jonah was three days in the belly of the fish, so the Son of man would be three days in the heart of the earth.
If the rabbis had had their way, Jesus' body would have been burned with the bodies of the robbers. But Jesus was buried instead. Could it be that His prediction would somehow be fulfilled after all? Could it be that they were not rid of their enemy for good?
They had gathered on the sabbath to discuss this difficult question. They did not dare tell each other about their secret fear. Instead they said that the disciples might sneak over to the grave, steal the body of Jesus, and hide it somewhere. Then they would proclaim that Jesus had arisen from the grave, and the people might be foolish enough to start worshiping Him all over again.
Together they went to Pilate to ask him to seal the grave and place a watch there for the first three days.
The governor was in no mood to do any more than was absolutely necessary for them. They got soldiers to stand guard by the grave, but if they wanted a seal, they would have to look after that themselves.
Although it was the sabbath, they went to the garden at once with the soldiers. They stretched a cord in front of the stone, sealing the grave, and attached the official seal of their high council to it. Now the grave could not be opened without breaking the seal. If anyone dared to break the seal, he would be severely punished.
The rabbis breathed a sigh of relief. They went back to the city to say their long prayers, read the Scriptures, and give alms to the poor.
In the quiet garden of Joseph of Arimathea, the soldiers stood guard by the sealed grave. But how could anyone ever stand in the way when the Prince of life decided to rise from the dead?