Today we focus on the Gospel of the day, which describes Jesus’ burial and the setting of a guard outside His tomb. Our devotion comes from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 21:1–28:20.
1 Peter 4:1–8
Without any real warning, Matthew tells how a rich person named Joseph, from Arimathea, requested from Pilate the body of Jesus so that he could bury his Master in his own tomb. Matthew reveals nothing about Joseph other than that he was rich (27:57). How he had become one of Jesus’ disciples we do not know. Other than his wealth, how he came to have this sort of access to the prefect is also not told to us. In spare prose that does not give any detail about the important matter of preparing a body for burial, Matthew tells what Joseph did out of devotion for his dead Master. The tomb was new and probably fairly large since Joseph was wealthy. Joseph put Jesus’ body there, blocked its entrance with a large stone, and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw it happen (27:61).
Even if Joseph of Arimathea is introduced in the narrative because his identity will be known to Matthew’s audience, still his chief impact lies in who he is not. This rich man procured the Master’s corpse and buried him in his own grave. The Twelve, who, in contrast to the rich man in 19:16–26, were following Jesus and were promised twelve thrones of judgment (19:27–28), have all abandoned Jesus. The religious authorities want to cover all of their bases in relation to the disciples of Jesus. They need not have bothered; to extend the metaphor, all the bases were empty.
The religious leaders’ fear was that human agents would remove the stone, steal the corpse, and spread a lie. The reality is that God’s plan for His Son and for the world cannot be stopped. No human agent will remove the stone; an angel will come, reducing the Roman guards to utter incapacity and rolling away the stone to show that there is no need to take a body away, no need to spread a lie (28:1–4). Even as the religious leaders reveal their thinking, it will be shown to be completely ineffective. They fear what may come from outside of the tomb. The world will be changed by what happens inside it.
Pilate agrees with their plan, grants them a guard, and authorizes the sealing of the tomb. Jesus is dead. No disciples are around. The authority of Rome and the plans of the prominent leaders of Israel are in place. The stage is set for God to act.
Lord Jesus, at this season of the year we meditate upon Your bitter suffering for our sins. Let this holy time be a season of rich blessings for us. Grant us grace to grieve over our sins, which made necessary Your great labor for us, and our iniquities, which wearied You. Open to us the rich living well of comfort issuing forth from Your wounds, and assure us that we are redeemed children of God because reconciliation between Him and us has been made possible by You. Finally, help us to take up our cross and follow You, so that, having suffered with You here, we may also reign with You in the realms of glory. Amen.
Devotional reading is adapted from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 21:1–28:20, pages 1592–95 © 2018 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Prayer is from For the Life of the Church, page 10 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.