Matthew 27:61-66; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55-56
So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. – Matthew 27:66 NLT
The two women watched as the body of Jesus was placed in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They silently viewed the rolling of the stone over the mouth of the entrance. Then they returned home to prepare spices and ointments to anoint His body. But they were prevented from returning to the tomb due to the coming of the Sabbath, which would have prevented them from doing any kind of work. But it's painfully clear that these women were not expecting any kind of resurrection from the dead. Their hopes had died when Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross earlier that day. Their dreams were shattered. Their long-awaited Messiah was dead.
Interestingly enough, it was the Jewish religious leaders that had resurrection on their minds. They recalled that Jesus had once claimed that He would rise from the dead. "Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead" (Matthew 16:21 NLT). While this information had been shared by Jesus with His own disciples, news of His claim had obviously made it to the ears of these religious leaders. And the thought of it was like a nightmare to them. That was the last thing they wanted or needed. So they went to Pilate and appealed to him to place armed guards at the tomb in order to prevent the disciples from stealing the body and claiming Jesus had risen from the dead. Even the rumor of resurrection filled them with fear. So Pilate gave in to their request and placed guards at the tomb and sealed the entrance. They were going to do whatever they had to do to keep Jesus dead and buried.
But while the women were preparing the spices to anoint Jesus' body and the guards were preparing to prevent the disciples from stealing it, God was preparing something altogether remarkable and earth-shattering. This was far from the end. Jesus was dead and buried, but far from finished. Something else had to take place to complete God's grand plan. A martyred Messiah was not how this thing was going to end. A dead Savior was part of the plan, but not the culmination. There was more to come, and with the rising sun the next morning, something truly remarkable was going to happen that would shock the guards and the women.
Father, I love this part of the story. Just when things look their bleakest, You are at work behind the scenes planning something so incredible it's hard for us to fathom it. While the religious leaders are worrying about body-snatching disciples, and the women are preparing body-anointing spices, You are planning the resurrection of Your dead Son to new life. What a surprise the morning was going to bring. Amen.