The Ultimate Grave Robber: Fearing the Actions of Men & Ignoring the Power of God

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifty-seven through sixty-six of the twenty-seventh chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the work of the cross having been completed within the life of Jesus the Christ. At the end of the previous verse you will find Jesus yielding up the ghost and giving Himself up to death as His physical body hung there lifeless on the cross. When we come to this particular portion of scripture we find the lifeless body of Jesus Christ hanging there upon the cross until Joseph of Arimathea coming unto Pilate to beg and entreat him concerning the body of Jesus the Christ. Unwilling to allow the body of Jesus to hang there upon the cross and be subject to whatever the Roman soldiers would and could have done to the physical body of Jesus the Christ, this man named Joseph decided he would entreat Pilate to remove the body of Jesus from the cross and to bury it within his own new tomb. I have to admit that I can’t help but find within Joseph’s actions a wonderful and powerful picture of the preservation and protection of the body of Jesus. There is not a doubt in my mind that Joseph’s actions removing the body of Jesus the Christ from the cross was the divine will and plan of God in motion, as even in death the living God was not willing to allow the physical body of Jesus the Christ to be subject to the whims and will of men. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that Joseph’s actions were used by and within the divine will and plan of God to preserve the body in death as it lie there in a new linen cloth. There in the borrowed tomb of a man named Joseph lie the physical body of Jesus the Christ who was the messiah which was long foretold and promised by the ancient Hebrew prophets and within the Law of Moses. We dare not miss and lose sight of the wonderful and tremendous reality that Joseph’s actions were divinely used by Almighty God to preserve and protect the body of Jesus Christ. Even in death the living God was watching over and protecting the physical body of Jesus Christ and preserving it until the third day when it would be raised from death to life.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely confounded and captivated with and by the fact that after and upon the death of Jesus the Christ we find His physical body being taken off and removed from the cross by one of His followers. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what would and what could have happened to the physical body of Jesus Christ if Joseph did not and had not come unto Pilate and entreated him concerning the body of Jesus Christ. Is it possible that the Roman soldiers would and could have despitefully used and mistreated the body of Christ? Is it possible that they could have discarded and disposed of the body of Jesus Christ, thus removing it from the knowledge of the disciples, from the women, and even from those who walked with and followed Him? I am utterly and absolutely convinced that Joseph’s actions were divinely used by the living God of heaven and earth to preserve and protect the physical body of Jesus for the resurrection which would take place. PRESERVED FOR RESURRECTION! PRESERVED FOR THE THIRD DAY! Joseph’s actions in coming unto Pilate and entreating him concerning the body of Jesus the Christ was an act that was divinely ordained and orchestrated by the true and living God in order that man would and could not desecrate the physical body of Jesus Christ. What marks and what makes this so incredibly unique and interesting is that when Joseph entreated Pilate for the body of Jesus Christ in order to provide for Jesus a proper burial, there is not a doubt in my mind that he did not expect Jesus to rise from the grave. When Joseph entreated Pilate concerning and regarding the body of Jesus Christ, there is not a doubt in my mind that he fully expected Jesus to remain in the grave, and simply wanted Him to have a proper burial. When Joseph entreated Pilate for the body of Jesus Christ, He provided for Christ His own new tomb in order that the body of Christ might have a proper burial. Oh, we dare not, we cannot, we must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and wonderful reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the absolutely wonder and beauty of Joseph’s actions. In all reality, I am convinced that Joseph’s actions were some of the most beautiful actions performed concerning, performed regarding, and performed upon the body of Jesus the Christ.

Consider how the previous passage draws to a close and concludes before we find a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph coming unto the site of the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. IF you begin reading with and from the fifty-first verse of this same chapter you will find a truly wonderful and powerful account of the death of Jesus Christ, and the events which took place as a direct result of His death upon the cross. In verse fifty of this chapter we find that when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He yielded up the ghost and died upon the cross. As verse fifty draws to a close and verse fifty-one opens we find Jesus having just died upon the cross, and events beginning to unfold surrounding His death there upon that cross. If you begin reading with and from the fifty-first verse of the twenty-seventh chapter you will find the following words concerning and regarding the death of Jesus Christ and the events which immediately transpired as soon as He yielded up the ghost and allowed Himself to die upon that cross. Bear with me if you will and read the following words which were written by the apostle Matthew concerning the death of Jesus Christ and the events which His death immediately triggered:

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in Twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, minister unto Him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:51-56).

When we read the account of Jesus’ death as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew we find that immediately after Jesus yielded up the ghost and died upon the cross, the veil of the Temple was rent in Twain from the top to the bottom. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the significance of this event, for prior to the death of Jesus, and prior to the rending of the veil that was present in the Temple of the Lord in the city of Jerusalem, that veil existed to separate the Holy of Holies from the outside world. If you have spent any amount of time reading, studying and considering both the Tabernacle, as well as the Temple, you will find that there were three distinct parts to both the Tabernacle. There was the outer court where the altar of burnt offering and the bronze basin was; there was the inner court, or the Holy Place in which was the Table of Shewbread, the Golden Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense; and finally, there was the Holy of Holies in which was the Ark of the Covenant. Behind and beyond the veil was the Holy of Holies—that place where the high priest of Israel could go only once a year to make atonement. There within the veil was the Ark of the Covenant which also had the Mercy Seat and the articles found within it. Beyond the veil that was present in the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant and that place where the living God would commune from the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day. There beyond the veil and there behind the veil was that place which was so sacred and holy that access could only be granted once a year, and only with an offering and presentation of blood. The high priest would and could not dare enter into the Holy of Holies without and apart from the presence of blood, as blood was the price of admission into the Holy of Holies. What’s more, is that the altar of incense which was before the veil would not only present a fragrant aroma within the Tabernacle and Temple, but it would also cause the Holy of Holies of be filled with smoke, thus concealing the living God beyond and behind the veil. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this concept concerning the veil, for so long as the veil stood within the Temple of the living God, it signified that access to the living God and into His presence was limited. So long as the veil was present within the Tabernacle and Temple it res presented something that was incredibly unique in that man was limited in their access before and unto the living God, for man could not enter into the Holy of Holies and stand before the Ark of the Covenant and before the Mercy Seat. There was only one man who could enter into the Holy of Holies, and even that only once a year, and that man was the high priest of the nation and people of Israel.

When Jesus died upon the cross—not only was there an earthquake, and not only were the rocks rent, but so also was the veil of the temple torn in two from top to bottom. I have long believed that this act of rending the veil served a two-fold purpose in the divine plan and will of God. As we read and consider the concept of the veil being torn in two from top to bottom, we must first recognize and it being rent from top to bottom almost suggests and signifies that it was an action that was performed by the hand of the living God alone. In fact, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how long the living God waited for that veil to be torn away and removed from the Holy of Holies. I can’t help but wonder how many times the living God thought within Himself concerning the veil and couldn’t wait for it to be torn in two and no longer standing within the Tabernacle and Temple. On this particular occasion I can’t help but wonder if the living God had finally received and obtained that which He had been planning and that which He had been longing for since the plan for the Tabernacle was first given unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness of Sinai. I find myself considering very strongly that when the veil was torn in two from top to bottom, it was a divine act of the living God, as He was performing an action he had been longing for and waiting for for centuries and millennia. There is not a doubt in my mind that the living God had within his heart a wonderful and powerful longing for the veil which was in the Tabernacle and Temple to be torn and to be completely removed in order that access might finally be granted unto men. The fact that the veil was torn in two from top to bottom suggests the fact that man was granted access to the glory and presence of the living God, and that man could now enter into and come boldly before the throne of grace as the author of the Hebrews wrote. What’s more, is that when the veil was torn in two from top to bottom it suggested the fact that the glory of the living God was no longer confined to being present beyond and behind the veil. No longer would the glory of the living God have to be confined to the Holy of Holies, and no longer was the high priest alone granted access into the Holy of Holies, and even that only once a year. With the veil being torn in two from top to bottom we find the glory of the living God getting out from beyond the veil, as well as access being granted unto men—access to the glory and presence of the living God which was previously restricted and limited because of the Temple, as well as the veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place and form the Outer Court.

What I happen to find absolutely and incredibly interesting is the fact that not only do we find and read of the physical body of Jesus the Christ being destroyed upon the cross of Calvary at the place of the skull, but less than forty years later we find the actual physical Temple of the living God being destroyed by the Romans when they entered into and invaded the land of Judaea and Jerusalem. I find it absolutely wonderful and absolutely amazing that not only was the physical body of Jesus destroyed upon the cross, which brought about the rending of the veil from top to bottom within the Temple, but the destruction of His physical body and the rending of the veil was a portent and a sign of that which was to come. There is not a doubt in my mind that the rending of the veil in two from top to bottom was a divine act of the living God to allow the glory and presence to get out and to move among men, as well as to grant men access into His glory and presence. What’s more, is that the rending of the veil from top to bottom effectively rendered the Temple utterly and completely useless, for no longer would men and women need to come and appear before the living God with their sacrifices of bulls and goats and lambs. No longer would men and women have to bring their sacrifices and offerings to the Temple to be offered upon the altar of burnt offering in the outer court. The work which Jesus the Christ did and performed upon the cross of Calvary accomplished everything that had not been done in all the years, all the centuries, all the millennia of offering the blood of bulls and goats upon the altar of burnt offering. The actions which Jesus performed and completed upon the cross of Calvary completely abolished and did away with the need for men to come and appear before the throne of the living God with their offerings of bulls and goats and the blood of such animals. With the veil being torn in two from top to bottom, there was no longer a need for the Temple of God which stood upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In fact, for nearly forty years there existed within and upon the earth two distinct temples of the living God—one made without human hands, and one that was made with human hands and took approximately forty years to build and construct. For nearly forty years there stood a temple of the Holy Spirit within and upon the earth, as well as the Temple which stood upon the Temple Mount. For nearly forty years these two temples were present at the same time within and upon the earth until the Roman army entered into and invaded the land of Judaea and the city of Jerusalem and utterly and completely destroyed the Jewish Temple which stood upon the Temple Mount there in the city of Jerusalem. I firmly believe with all my heart that the rending of the veil from the top to bottom was a powerful portent and sign of that which was to come, for the Temple which stood within the land was no longer needed as it had been used in previous centuries and generations. The Temple of God which stood on the Temple Mount in the city of Jerusalem would no longer have any purpose or function, for man no longer needed to come and appear before the living God with the blood of bulls, goats and lambs in order to gain access and entrance to the living God. Consider if you will that which is written and recorded in the ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews beginning with the first verse of the chapter:

“Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the Tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first Tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holies of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first Tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your son since from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:1-14).

The author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews brings us face to face with the incredibly wonderful and awesome reality that Christ made atonement once and for all by and through His blood, and there was no longer the need for the sacrifice of bulls, and of goats, and of lambs, and there was no longer the need for the blood of such animals to be presented in the Tabernacle or Temple. Christ’s blood was sufficient once and for all to accomplish everything the justice of God demanded, and when the veil was torn in two from top to bottom, it was an act that only God Himself could have done, for it signified that the way into the Holy of Holies had been made, and the price had been paid once and for all. No longer was there a need for the outer court, nor the Holy Place, nor even the Holy of Holies, for now the glory and presence of the living God had been released and removed from the Temple, and men were now granted access and entrance into the very glory and presence of the living God. Oh that we would recognize and understand this absolutely remarkable reality, for through Jesus’ death the veil which was present within the Temple—that veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies—was torn in two from top to bottom. Oh, I can’t help but believe with everything inside me that the rending of the veil as a direct result of the destruction of the physical body of Jesus Christ upon the cross was a wonderful and powerful portent of that which was to come—namely, the destruction of the Jewish Temple which stood upon the Temple Mount. It would have been very easy to mourn and to grieve the destruction of the Jewish Temple when the Romans entered into and invaded the land of Judaea and entered into the city of Jerusalem, however, I am convinced that to do so would be to miss out on the tremendous fact that the Temple was in fact no longer needed within and upon the earth, for the altar of burnt offering was no longer needed. No longer was the bronze basin need, nor the golden lampstand, nor even the table of shewbread. When Jesus died upon the cross two-thousand years ago, it brought about the destruction of His physical body which would rise again on the third day, but it also brought about the destruction of the physical Temple which stood in Jerusalem. For nearly forty years there would be two temples which would exist upon the earth—one that was made with human hands and was essentially obsolete, and one that was made without human hands and was the very Temple of the Holy Spirit. The veil being torn in two from top to bottom was a powerful portent and wonderful sign of that which was to come—namely, the destruction of the Jewish Temple which stood upon the Temple Mount. Please don’t miss, and please don’t lose sight of this wonderful and awesome reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the awesome wonder and majesty of the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross two thousand years ago.

When we come to the fifty-seventh verse of the twenty-seventh chapter found within the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find two distinct events taking place. On the one hand we find a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph—one who was also one of Jesus’ disciples—coming unto Pilate and entreating him for the physical body of Jesus Christ. At the approval and permission of Pilate, access to the physical body of Jesus Christ was granted to this rich man who was one of Jesus’ disciples. Upon receiving the physical body of Jesus the Christ, Joseph wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, laid it in his own tomb, and rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb. As you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find that after Joseph had laid the physical body of Jesus in the tomb which he himself had hewn out of the stone, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered themselves together unto Pilate concerned about the placement of the physical body of Jesus Christ. The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with the fact that Jesus had declared that on the third day He would rise from death to life, and as a result of their fear concerning Jesus’ statements, they entreated that a watch and guard be set upon the tomb. The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with the fact that the disciples could have come by stealth at night and removed the body of Jesus Christ from the tomb, and could have gone about declaring that Jesus had risen from the grave. Having granted the request of Joseph of Arimathaea we now find the chief priests and Pharisees themselves coming unto Pilate to request a watch be placed at the tomb to guarantee that no one could come to the tomb by night, roll away the stone, remove the body, and then go about professing that Jesus the Christ had risen from the grave. Essentially, Joseph requested the body of Jesus the Christ to place it in his own new tomb to preserve and protect the body—perhaps because He believed Jesus would rise on the third day as He said He would, or perhaps because He simply wasn’t willing to allow the physical body of his Lord and Master to be subject to the whims and will of men. Regardless of the intention and mindset of Joseph of Arimathaea, we know that he was granted the body of Jesus, and upon being granted the body of Jesus, he covered it with a clean linen, and laid it within the tomb. The chief priests and Pharisees came unto Pilate concerned about and concerned over the physical body of Jesus, yet for a completely different reason. The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with the physical body of Jesus, for they remembered that He had declared He would rise on the third day. It is clear that the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with the declaration and statements which Jesus Himself had made, and wanted to do anything and everything they could to guarantee the physical body of Jesus would and could not be removed from the grave.

What I so love about this particular passage of Scripture is that the chief priests and the Pharisees sought a guard and watch be placed at the tomb of Jesus Christ to prevent men from rolling away the stone, and to prevent men from removing the physical body of Jesus Christ, however, there was one thing they did not consider. As you read this passage of Scripture you will get the sense that the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with the declarations which Jesus Himself made concerning His rising again on the third day, and they were concerned with this claim being substantiated by the disciples coming by night, rolling away the stone, removing the body, and then declaring that Jesus had been raised from the grave. The one thing about this particular fact was that it doesn’t account for one crucial piece of evidence that would ultimately be needed to substantiate this claim—namely, the physical body of Jesus Christ would need to be produced. If you were going to make a claim that Jesus Christ had indeed risen form the grave, there would need to be a witness that would confirm this particular claim within the earth. There would need to be a wonderful witness of His resurrection—namely, His physical body being produced, and His showing Himself alive after having been dead for three days. The chief priests and the Pharisees were worried about and concerned with the fact that the disciples could have come by night and stolen the body of Jesus Christ by night and declared that He had been raised from death to life, yet there was one thing they didn’t account for. While they were so incredibly concerned with the actions of man, they weren’t at all concerned with the power of God, nor that which the living God was capable of doing within and upon the earth. SO CONCERNED WITH THE ACTIONS OF MEN THAT WE COMPLETELY NEGLECT THE POWER OF GOD! Did you know that we can be so utterly and completely consumed with and concerned with the actions of man that we completely neglect and ignore the power of God and that which He Himself is capable of? The chief priests and Pharisees were worried about the disciples rolling away the stone, and the disciples removing the physical body of Jesus the Christ, and yet they didn’t even consider an angel rolling away the stone from the tomb, and the Holy Spirit raising the physical body of Jesus Christ from death to life. So concerned with the actions of men were the chief priests and Pharisees that they set a guard and watch at the entrance of the tomb thinking that such actions would safeguard and guarantee the body of Jesus Christ remain within the tomb. Little did they know that an angel would roll away the stone, the appearance of an angel would cause the guards which stood at the entrance of the tomb to be frightened and fall to the ground as dead, and the Holy Spirit raising the physical body of Jesus Christ from death to life.

Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this concept of being so concerned with the actions of men that we completely neglect and ignore the power of God, for it clearly defines that which we find in this passage of Scripture. The chief priests and Pharisees were worried about that which the disciples could potentially do that they didn’t even think about and consider the fact that the power of God could be demonstrated, manifested and displayed within the earth. The chief priests and Pharisees weren’t at all concerned, nor did it even cross their mind that the claim which Jesus made concerning His rising from the grave on the third day would be brought about by the power of God. The same power of God which raised Lazarus from death to life would be the same power that would raise Jesus Himself from death to life and cause Him to come forth from the grave. Oh, it is absolutely wonderful and incredible to think about and consider the fact that the chief priests and Pharisees desired a watch and guard be set at the tomb where Jesus’ physical body lie behind a large stone, and yet they thought that such a watch would guarantee the physical body of Jesus remain within the tomb. The chief priests and Pharisees had absolutely no clue, nor did they have any idea that the divine power and glory of God could and would be manifested at and within the tomb in order for Jesus to be raised from death to life. It didn’t even cross their minds that the Holy Spirit of the living God would Himself raise Jesus from death to life, and angels would be responsible for rolling away the stone. Oh, how many times do we concern ourselves with the actions of men that we completely neglect and ignore the fact that the divine glory and power of God is of greater worth and a greater threat than the actions of any man. Imagine what the chief priests and Pharisees would have done, or would have attempted to do if they had considered for a moment that the divine power of the living God would be responsible for raising Jesus up from death to life. Imagine for one moment how they would have responded had they considered for a single moment that the glory and presence of the living God would invade the tomb, and would not only rob the tomb of its prisoner, but also death of its hostage. The chief priests and Pharisees were worried about the disciples themselves being grave robbers, and they didn’t even consider the fact that the ultimate grave robber was the Holy Spirit Himself, for it would be the Holy Spirit that would raise Jesus from death to life. It would be angels who were responsible for rolling away and removing the stone from the entrance of the tomb, yet it would be the Holy Spirit Himself who would raise Jesus Christ from death to life. Oh how absolutely wonderful and powerful this concept is when you truly take the time to think about and consider it, for it brings us face to face with the misguided notions and ideas of the Pharisees and chief priests thinking that the disciples were to be feared, and their actions to be feared rather than the divine power, presence, and glory of the living God. If there is one thing this passage brings us face to face with, it’s how much we have a desperate need to recognize and consider the divine glory, the divine presence, and the divine power of God, and its ability to do that which is impossible, and even that which certain men seek to prevent from taking place and happening. Oh that we would read this particular passage and see in the actions of the chief priests and Pharisees a wonderful and powerful picture of the divine glory and presence of the living God as directly set against the actions of men, and how vastly superior the divine power and glory of the living God truly is within our lives and upon the earth.

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