Matthew 27:57-66


And just in case we might think that later events were a hoax, Matthew relates that the Jerusalem authorities take steps to guard the tomb.

Year A, B, C
Holy Saturday, Alternative Reading A

Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Matthew 27:57-66, The Message   or   Matthew 27:57-66, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

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It is important not to shy away from the brutality and humiliation of Jesus' death.

Mocking, flogging, stripping completely naked, and nailing to a cross lifted high for public viewing and exposure to the elements and carnivorous birds and animals was a deliberate, well-thought out form of execution used by the Romans for a very specific reason.

It was designed to cause the maximum amount of pain for the maximum amount of time. (Usually the crucified person suffered for 2 or 3 days before dying. Their body would be left for birds and animals to eat at before finally being taken down and cast into a mass grave.)

And it was designed to cause the maximum amount of shame and humiliation.

Because the Romans were not just trying to kill the person.

They were killing what the person stood for. They were killing any reputation the person may have had. They were killing any movement the person may have started. They were killing any possibility that anyone would remain loyal. They were killing any possible future. They were killing hope.

But of course we now know the end of the story.

Jesus was killed.

But his loyalty to God; his hope; what he stood for; God's loyalty to him; God's hope; what God stands for - these were not killed.

The Jesus who died on Good Friday was still dead on Easter Sunday.

But the embodied passion of Jesus that did not hesitate in the face of humiliating, torturous death did not die on Good Friday, and was seen to be actually, factually, really alive on Easter Sunday.

So with this background in mind, let's turn to this passage.

Matthew 27:55-56, The Death of Jesus

Matthew notes that many of the women followers of Jesus were there.

The Lectionary omits these two verses for the Holy Saturday reading, but they are an important testimony to the eye-witness continuity from Friday to Saturday to Easter Sunday.

Matthew 27:57-61, The Burial Of Jesus

Obviously only a rich man would have the access to Pilate that Joseph of Arimathea has.

Although it is not stated in the text, very likely Pilate would only take the unusual action of releasing Jesus' body in exchange for some kind of wealth or favour from Joseph.

The whole point of the brutal crucifixion process was to reduce the person to a nobody by having their final end be an unmarked mass grave.

Releasing Jesus' body to Joseph violates this degradation ritual because it returns Jesus' body into the realm of real bodies. Bodies that have a place within the web of kin and close friends. Bodies that can be properly prepared, and buried in marked and known locations. Bodies that can be remembered, mourned, and attended to.

Pilate let his greed get the better of him.

This is the second sign that the degradation of Jesus is not going to work out the way the Jerusalem authorities had hoped.

Once again, Matthew notes that two of the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, note where Jesus has been buried.

Among other things, the witnessing of these things by these two women provides evidence continuity:

Evidence management is the administration and control of evidence related to an event so that it can be used to prove the circumstances of the event, and so that this proof can be tested by independent parties with confidence that the evidence provided is the evidence collected related to the event.

Matthew 27:62-66, The Guard At The Tomb The Next Day

And just in case we might think that later events were a hoax, Matthew relates that the Jerusalem authorities take steps to guard the tomb.

So come first light on Easter Sunday morning, we can be sure about:

  • That it was Jesus who was crucified on Friday.
  • That Jesus truly died - breathed his last - and was not in a coma.
  • That his dead body was sealed in a guarded tomb.
  • That this is not a hoax.

David Ewart,,
Short, easy to use, faith inspiring explanations of the meaning of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for your sermon, homily, bible study, or reflection.

Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 128-139; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al.

Matthew 27:57-66 (NRSV)

         The Burial of Jesus
   57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

         The Guard at the Tomb
   62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Matthew 27:57-66 (The Message)

         The Tomb
   57 Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate granted his request. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, 60 put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off. 61 But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stayed, sitting in plain view of the tomb. 

   62 After sundown, the high priests and Pharisees arranged a meeting with Pilate. 63 They said, "Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, 'After three days I will be raised.' 64 We've got to get that tomb sealed until the third day. There's a good chance his disciples will come and steal the corpse and then go around saying, 'He's risen from the dead.' Then we'll be worse off than before, the final deceit surpassing the first." 

   65 Pilate told them, "You will have a guard. Go ahead and secure it the best you can." 66 So they went out and secured the tomb, sealing the stone and posting guards.

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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