Buriel to Resurrection

Joseph from the Judean town of Arimathea, which means “heights”, stepped forward courageously and risked everything to give Yeshua an honourable Jewish burial. He went to Pilate to request Yeshua’s body and, with another esteemed member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, immediately began to wrap the body in strips of linen mixed with myrrh and aloe to prepare it for burial. They worked quickly to get everything done before sundown which began the new day of Nissan 15, which was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread and thus a Sabbath, a high holy day in which such work was forbidden. Joseph and Nicodemus hurriedly placed Yeshua‘s body in Joseph’s own tomb, located in a garden near the place of His crucifixion. This was a new tomb, so no other bodies had been buried there, there could be no confusion as to which body had risen on the first day of the week. Thus was fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy written hundreds of years before: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked (killed between two violent criminals), and with the rich in his death (laid in a wealthy man’s tomb), though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). This is another aspect of the Isaiah 53 prophesy which confirmed Yeshua’s identity as the Messiah and Son of God.

Mark and Luke refer to this day on which Yeshua died and was buried as: “the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath” and “Preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin“. The Greek word translated “day of preparation, or preparation day“,  παρασκευή paraskeué is a noun that refers to “the day on which the Jews made the necessary preparation to celebrate a sabbath or a feast” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 16:06. 2). John’s gospel specifies what Sabbath they were preparing for on this day: “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover.” (John 19:14a NASB). It was the day before Nissan 15th began the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first and seventh days of which were special sabbaths.

There are three main views on which day of the week Yeshua was crucified. The most widespread and commonly accepted of these is the traditional view.

The traditional view, expressed in the Good Friday/ Easter Sunday celebration, holds that the holy convocation/sabbath of Nissan 15th also fell on the weekly Sabbath that year (that is, Saturday), which would mean that Yeshua was crucified on Friday. According to this view Yeshua was in the tomb for three days through the ancient’s practice of reckoning part of a day as a full day: He was buried just before sunset that marked the end of Friday (Day 1) and was entombed all night and day Saturday (Day 2) and some of the night which begins Sunday (Day 3).

For verses such as Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22, saying that Yeshua would rise “on the third day” they interpret the ‘first day’ as Friday, ‘second day’ as Saturday/Sabbath and ‘third day’ as Sunday.

Further to this interpretation, the “three days and three nights” prophecy of Matthew 12:40 was fulfilled in that both Yeshua and Jonah were “confined” in difficult situations where they could not move about freely for three periods of darkness (night) and three periods of light (day). The three nights of confinement for Yeshua were His arrest on the night which began Friday (14th), and His time in the tomb on the night which began Saturday (15th) and on the night which began Sunday (16th). To get the three days – all day Friday, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday – it is assumed that Yeshua did not rise from the dead until after the sun had risen on Sunday morning. Another challenge with the Friday theory is that it leaves a ‘silent’ Wednesday where no activity is recorded in the chronology of Yeshua’s final week before His crucifixion.

Some scholars see greater harmony with the scriptures in the theory of a Thursday Nissan 14th crucifixion, the “Preparation Day” being the day that the Passover lamb was killed and prepared for consumption on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath (John 19:14). The high holy day for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was thereby on Friday Nissan 15th, followed by the weekly Sabbath on the Saturday. In this interpretation there is no “silent” Wednesday, every day of Yeshua’s last week is described in the Gospel accounts. This provides the three days and three nights sign Yeshua prophesied in Matthew 12:40: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Further, Matthew 28:1 says that the resurrection occurred “after the Sabbaths” (Berean Literal Bible) – the plural sabbaths (In Greek: sabbatōn) being in the original, confirming there was more than one Sabbath between the crucifixion and the resurrection. So, the “Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread” Sabbath was followed immediately by the “weekly” Sabbath, resulting in the first opportunity for the women to prepare the body for burial being on the first day of the week and walking to the tomb to arrive as the sun began to rise: Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1 LSB) Now after Shabbat, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Miriam of Magdala and the other Miriam came to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 TLV) Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb (Luke 24:1-2 LSB).

Thursday crucifixion advocates also point to several passages that indicate three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. For example, in John 2:19, Yeshua says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” and when Jesus appears to the two men on the road to Emmaus on resurrection Sunday, they state that “it is the third day since all this took place” (Luke 24:21).

Those who argue for a Wednesday crucifixion agree with the Thursday view that there were two Sabbaths that week, but they separate them by a day. The first Sabbath, in this view, was the Passover Sabbath starting Wednesday evening following the crucifixion (Mark 15:42Luke 23:52–54). Then came a non-Sabbath day (Friday) and then the weekly Sabbath starting Friday evening. The women purchased spices after the Sabbath, according to Mark 16:1—meaning the Passover SabbathLuke 23:56 says that, after the women saw where Jesus was buried, “they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” The Wednesday argument states that the women could not purchase the spices after the Sabbath and prepare those spices before the Sabbath unless there were two Sabbaths that week, separated by a day.

A difficulty with the Wednesday view is that the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did so on “the same day” of His resurrection (Luke 24:13) and, referring to the crucifixion, state “today is the third day since these things happened” (verse 21). Wednesday to Sunday is four days. A possible explanation is that they may have started their count on Wednesday evening at Christ’s burial, which begins the Jewish 5th day, and 5th Day to 1st Day could be counted as three days.

While the day of the crucifixion is debated, what’s more important is knowing that Yeshua died for our sins and that He conquered death for us by rising from the dead. He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Putting our trust in Yeshua results in eternal life (John 3:1636)! This great salvation truth remains whether the day of His crucifixion was Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

The first thing we notice here is that Yeshua‘s followers were diligent to rest on the Sabbath in accordance with the Torah, while these Pharisees had more important things to do. The women had departed as soon as they had seen how His body was laid in the tomb so as to be able to buy burial spices and perfumes before the Sabbath began (Luke 23:56). Only Matthew adds the details about the tomb guards. Interestingly, in describing the actions of the chief priests and Pharisees he does not directly refer to this day as a Sabbath, but rather designates it as: “the next day, which is after the preparation“. The emphasis being that it was after the day of Preparation, the day on which the Passover lambs were slain and Yeshua was crucified, had come to an end. As each new day began at sunset, it may have been that they sort this audience with Pilate that very evening, once they found out where Yeshua had been buried. How quickly they went from congratulating themselves at disposing of Him to fear of His declarations that He would be raised after three days. Words they had tried to ignore now kept resonating in their heads.

“You have a guard” The Greek verb may be either imperative “take ye a guard” or indicative “you have a guard“. It could be a command or a statement. The “guard,” was a body of Roman soldiers who could not be set to such a task without Pilate’s permission. Matthew uses the Latin term custodia referring to a detachment of Roman soldiers. It is only used here in v 65-66, and in 28:11. While providing a contingent of Roman soldiers for the task, Pilate leaves the responsibility for ensuring the King of the Jews doesn’t leave His tomb in the hands of those who fear such could happen – the priests and Pharisees petitioning him: Go, make it as secure as you know how. They would not be able to come back and complain to him if the body went missing.

Thus, these men who had denounced Messiah for healing on the sabbath, thought nothing of marching to Joseph’s garden, making the sepulcher secure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch, which were servile works not to be done on a sabbath day.

Since the women were obeying Torah and resting on the Sabbaths they would not have seen, or known about, the Roman guard placed at the entrance to the tomb. Scripture does not specify what time Yeshua was resurrected and His resurrection body was not limited by stones, doors, locks or the like. God in His mercy sent an earthquaking angel at dawn to both scare the soldiers away and roll the huge stone from the tomb’s entrance to enable the women to safely approach and look inside to see that Yeshua’s body was gone – He was no longer residing in the place of the dead.

The Sabbath finished at sunset on Saturday. Any further purchases and preparation of spices and perfumes could then be completed in readiness for the women to approach the tomb as the sun began to rise Sunday morning. Matthew tells us these women included Miriam (Mary) of Magdala and the other Miriam (Mary), whom Mark and Luke describe as “the mother of James“; Mark also adds Salome; and Luke adds Joannaand the rest of the women with them“; while John just focuses on Miriam (Mary) of Magdala. All four gospels record that when the women arrived the very large stone had already been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb and that Yeshua’s body was no longer laying there. Matthew tells us that this removal of the stone had been performed by an angel of Adonai and accompanied by a great earthquake, something everyone in Jerusalem would have trembled at.

Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the angel(s) announcement to the women with Matthew and Mark including the instruction to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to meet their risen Lord, even as Yeshua had told them on the way to the Mount of Olives the night He was betrayed: “after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” None of the disciples believed the women or travelled to Galilee at this time.

Luke and John tell us that Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself, with the disciple that Yeshua loved adding that he also went to the tomb with Peter. Mark and John both record that the first person Yeshua appeared to was Mary Magdalene.

There are two different opinions on when the wave offering, tenufat HaOmer, was presented in the Temple, depending on whether people think the Sabbath in this verse refers to the first weekly Saturday Sabbath after Passover began, or the high Sabbath of the first day of Unleavened Bread. The first has both Firstfruits and the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) falling on a Sunday – the day Yeshua rose from the grave. The second has Firstfruits falling on Nisan 16 (regardless of which day of the week this is – two days after Yeshua was crucified) and the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) falling on that same day of the week, seven weeks later. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.   For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Cor. 15:23 LSB). Just as the Firstfruits offering was not a single stalk of grain but a sheaf (bundle of grain stalks), so also Yeshua did not resurrect alone but rather: And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the kedoshim (holy ones) who were sleeping were raised to life. And coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:52-53 TLV).

After His resurrection, Yeshua (as our ultimate High Priest) would shortly be ministering in the heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 9:11) of which the Temple in Jerusalem was meant to be a representation. Even as the Firstfruits offering was being waved before God in the earthly Temple, so Yeshua presented Himself as the firstfruits of the resurrection before God in the heavenly tabernacle as He had said to Mary when she clung onto Him that morning:  “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” .

Yeshua‘s role as prophet was carried out during His earthly ministry. His role as High Priest was fulfilled as He offered His own life as our Passover lamb and presented His own blood in the heavenly tabernacle inaugurating the New Covenant by which we are cleansed from all sin. After that He was crowned as king and given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Yeshua is our great prophet, priest and king!

Matthew, who as a tax collector had a long history of working with the Romans, included this detail in response to a tradition history of assertion and counter-assertion:
Follower of the Way: ‘The tomb is empty – the Lord is risen!’
Jewish leader: ‘No, his disciples stole away his body.’
Follower of the Way: ‘The guard at the tomb would have prevented any such theft.’
Jewish leader: ‘No, his disciples stole away his body while the guard slept.’
Follower of the Way: ‘The chief priests bribed the guard to say this – the truth is Yeshua is risen!’

Reference List

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In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* What are ‘burial’ the customs in your culture – how do your people deal with dead human bodies?
* Why do you think it was important to the women to take spices and perfumes to Jesus’ tomb when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had already wrapped Jesus body in “hundred litras weight“, about 33kg, of myrrh and aloes?
* All our references to Nicodemus are in John’s gospel (John 3:1–2, John 7:51 and John 19:38) – what do we learn about Nicodemus and why do you think John is the only one to mention him?
* How did the Jewish festivals of Passover, Unleavened Bread and the Firstfruits wave offering show the people what God would do through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His Son?
* What did Jesus accomplish through His death and resurrection?
* What evidence do we have that Jesus rose from the dead?