20 Apr. Matthew 27:62-66

20 Apr. Jesus enters the world of the dead

"That evening [Good Friday] a rich man named Joseph, a follower of Jesus from the town of Arimathea, came to Jerusalem. Joseph went to Pilate [the Roman governor] and asked to have Jesus's body. So Pilate gave orders for the soldiers to give it to Joseph."

"Then Joseph took the body [of Jesus] and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. He put Jesus's body in a new tomb that he had cut out of a wall of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb."

"Then Joseph went away. Mary Magdalene and the other woman named Mary were sitting near the tomb."

"The next day [the Sabbath Day and the first day of Passover], the day after Preparation [for Passover] Day, the leading priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. They said, 'Sir, we remember that while that liar was still alive he said, "After three days I will rise from the dead."'"

"'So give the order for the tomb to be guarded closely till the third day. Otherwise his followers might come and steal the body and tell people that he has risen from the dead. That lie would be even worse than the first one.'"

"Pilate said, 'Take some [Roman] soldiers and go and guard the tomb the best way you know'. So they all went to the tomb and made it safe from thieves by sealing the stone in the entrance and putting soldiers there to guard it."

          (Matthew 27:62-66)



Before the Friday evening approached, Jesus’s body was removed from the cross and his corpse was buried nearby in a new tomb belonging to Joseph from Arimathea, a wealthy man who was a member of the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin) and also a follower of Jesus. He lived in Arimathea (meaning ‘city of the Jews’), a town 20 miles / 32km north west of Jerusalem.

Joseph, with the help of Nicodemus (another member of the Jewish council who was a secret follower of Jesus – see John 19:39), took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in a linen cloth – even though this activity would have made both of them ritually ‘unclean’ for seven days (see Numbers 19:11) and they would not have been able to join in the Jewish Passover celebrations. They then placed Jesus's body on a stone ledge (a ‘loculus’) inside a new tomb that Joseph had previously asked his servants to cut out of the soft limestone rock face (see the photo).

It was normal Jewish practice to take down the bodies of Jews who had been crucified by the Romans and to bury them before sunset (see Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus’s dead body was placed in a tomb cut into solid rock with a stone rolled across the entrance to prevent jackals and thieves getting in. The stone was 'sealed' (probably with sealing wax) to enable the chief priests to be absolutely certain that nobody had entered the tomb.

As the Sabbath day (and the start of the Jewish Passover festival) approached at sunset on the Friday evening, the chief priests and the Pharisees asked Pilate to mount a guard on Jesus’s tomb, as they were afraid that Jesus’s followers might steal the body and claim that he had risen from the dead. They remembered that, when he was alive, Jesus taught his disciples that he would rise again after three days (see Matthew 16:21).

Meanwhile, when Jesus died, he entered the 'world of the dead'. The Jewish Hebrew scriptures call this 'Sheol', while the contemporary Greek philosophers of Jesus's day called it 'Hades'. This Greek religious term is often translated into English as 'hell' (to distinguish it from 'heaven'), and an early Christian creed stated that Jesus "descended into hell" when he died.

Unfortunately, this is an unhelpful mistranslation. Jesus did NOT 'go to hell' after he died; rather he entered the 'world of the dead' (Sheol) where he 'slept' in death (as all Christians will also do) until he 'rose from the dead' three days later.

The photo shows the 'loculus', the stone ledge on which a corpse was laid, inside a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem.

You can find out more about the location of Jesus's tomb @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/jesus-is-executed-by-cru…/.  And you can discover more about the exact day and time of Jesus's crucifixion @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/the-pharisees-mount-a-gu…/

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