For Pray the Word on this Saturday of Holy Week, when we think about this time in between Jesus’s death and, spoiler alert, his resurrection that’s coming, Matthew 27:57-66, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus, and 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 tomb, which he had cut in the rock. He rolled a great stone to the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of preparation, the chief priest and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said while he was still alive after three days I will rise. Therefore, order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal away and tell the people he’s risen from the dead. The last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go make it as secure as you can.” So, they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Even amid uncertain circumstances, we know that God is faithful to deliver on all His promises.
Just a side note, I think Matthew 27:65 is one of the more humorous verses in all of scripture. Pilate’s saying, “go make the tomb as secure as you can.” Like you can stop God in any way from doing what he wants to do. But, come back to the whole passage. Scripture is giving us some details here about what happened after the crucifixion of Christ. We know that when Jesus breathed his last breath on Friday, a man named Joseph from Arimathaea went to Pilate, asked for Jesus’ body. John’s gospel tells us that Nicodemus was also involved in the burial. These two prominent Jews put Jesus in the tomb before the Sabbath, in accordance with the law.
Another thing we know about that Saturday is that the chief priest of the Pharisees went to Pilate and reminded him of this message that Jesus had proclaimed … about how he had spoke of coming back from the dead. They were worried about his disciples stealing the body. So, Pilate told them, “Make that tomb as secure as possible.”
I put myself in Jesus’ disciples shoes during this scripture. They must have been confused. They were there when Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. They were there when Jesus confronted a woman in her sin, and told her that he was the Christ in John 4. They were there when Jesus declared to the Pharisees that he existed before Jesus was even born in John 8. So, he’d done all these things, they’d put their hope in him, yet there’s the Messiah lying in a tomb. How could that be? I just think … I just pause there and think about my life, your life, our lives … how often do we face circumstances where we look around and just think, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Why is this happening? Why are things going on around me? Often times, difficult things, like trials we face. Why is this happening to this person or that person in my life that I love? Why is this happening in my life?
We don’t understand why things are going the way they’re going. We’ve put our hope even in certain people or certain things, and that starts to come crashing down, and this is where, I think, Matthew 27 is a reminder. There will always be in this world of sin and suffering … there will always be broken hearts and unmet expectations and questions. Why is this happening around me? Obviously, we know. We know where this story is going. We know that on the end of the story Jesus is going to be risen from the dead. But, they didn’t know that in that moment for sure.
I’m guessing some of you even right now are listening, you’re going through things in your life, you don’t know when this trial’s going to end or if it’s going to end, especially if it’s going to end any time soon. But, I just want to remind you that there is a God who loves you, and he knows where all of this is headed. And, you can trust in him, even when things look really dark and bleak around you. You can trust in God and his love.
So, we pray. God, I pray especially right now … I think about one family I know who’s experienced tragedy this week in a way they never could have imagined. And, I’m sure they’re just asking, “Why? Why, God? Why is this happening?” And, they’re in the middle of pain and hurt, despair. And, God, I imagine there’s people listening to us right now who are walking through dark days, challenges, valleys, so to speak, in different ways, in life, in family, in work, and health, relationships. God, we find ourselves just so often in places where we don’t understand why. We don’t understand why.
And, yet, God, we know, we believe we can look to you during those times and know. You promised in your word you’re working all things together for the good of those who love you. You take even the worst circumstances, and you can turn them into good. So, God, we pray for that. I pray for that in all kinds of people’s lives who are walking through trials right now, that you would help them to know your goodness, your love for them in the middle of this. You would help them to trust you, especially on days when faith is hard to come by. I pray you help them to trust in you when they can’t see any light, God, in the midst of darkness. God, help them. Help them to know that you are with them, they’re not alone, and you will lead them in a way that will ultimately bring about good. God, please, may it be so, I pray.
You promised that in your word. We pray for your faithfulness to your promises. And, just like these disciples … thinking about that tomb on that day … we pray that there would come a day soon where we look back and realize, yes, that you were in control all along, and in your love you were working together for our good in ways we never could have seen in the moment. But, we see you now. May it be so, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.