Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; And in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
— John 19:41,42
John’s Gospel tells us that near the crucifixion site, there was a garden. The Greek word for “garden” is kepos, and it refers to any garden with trees and spices. It can also be translated as an orchard. The same word is used in John 18:1 to describe the Garden of Gethsemane, which was an olive tree orchard.
All four Gospels suggest that this tomb was near the place where Jesus was crucified, but John 19:42 says, “…The sepulchre was nigh at hand.” The word “nigh” is the Greek word aggus, meaning nearby. Most crucifixions were performed along a roadside. Evidently this garden was located in an orchard-like place, just down the road from where Jesus was crucified.
John 19:41 tells us that in the garden was “…a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.” The word “new” is the Greek word kainos, meaning fresh or unused. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tomb had recently been made but that it was a tomb that had never been used — thus, the reason John writes, “…Wherein was never man yet laid.”
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that this tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, suggesting that it was the tomb he had prepared for his own burial. The fact that it was a tomb “hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53) confirms the personal wealth of Joseph of Arimathea. Only royalty or wealthy individuals could afford to have their tombs carved out of a wall of stone or in the side of a mountain. Poorer men were buried in simple graves.
The word “hewn” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke comes from the Greek word laxeuo, meaning not only to cut out, but to polish. It implies that it was a special tomb, a highly developed tomb, a refined tomb, or a tomb that was splendid and expensive. Isaiah 53:9 had prophesied that the Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and the word laxeuo strongly suggests that this was indeed the expensive tomb of a very rich man.
John 19:42 says, “There laid they Jesus….” The word “laid” comes from the word tithimi, which means to set, to lay, to place, to deposit, or to set in place. As used here, it portrays the careful and thoughtful placing of Jesus’ body in its resting place inside the tomb. Luke 23:55 tells us that after Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, the women who came with Him from Galilee, “…beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.” The word “beheld” in Greek is theaomai, from which we get the word theater. The word theaomai means to gaze upon, to fully see, or to look at intently. This is very important, for it proves the women inspected the tomb, gazing upon the dead body of Jesus to see that it had been honorably laid in place.
Mark 15:47 identifies these women as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and says that these women “…beheld where he was laid” at the tomb. The imperfect tense is used in Mark’s account, alerting us to the fact that these women took their time in making sure Jesus was properly laid there. It could be translated, “they carefully contemplated where he was laid.” If Jesus had still been alive, those who buried Him would have known it, for they spent substantial time preparing His body for burial. Then after His dead body was deposited into the tomb, they lingered there, checking once again to see that the body was treated with the greatest love and attention.
Once they were certain everything was done correctly, Joseph of Arimathea “…rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed” (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46). It was rare to find a stone entrance to a Jewish tomb in biblical times; most Jewish tombs had doors with certain types of hinges. A large stone rolled before the tomb would be much more difficult to move, making the burial site more permanent.
However, the chief priests and Pharisees weren’t so sure that the site was secure. Fearing that Jesus’ disciples would come to steal the body and claim that Jesus had been resurrected, the Jewish leaders came to Pilate and said, “…Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63,64).
When the chief priests and Pharisees asked that “…the sepulchre be made sure…,” the Greek word sphragidzo is used. This word described a legal seal that was placed on documents, letters, possessions, or, in this case, a tomb. Its purpose was to authenticate that the sealed item had been properly inspected before sealing and that all the contents were in order. As long as the seal remained unbroken, it guaranteed that the contents inside were safe and sound. In this case, the word sphragidzo is used to signify the sealing of the tomb. In all probability, it was a string that was stretched across the stone at the entrance of the tomb, which was then sealed on both sides by Pilate’s legal authorities.
Before sealing the tomb, however, these authorities were first required to inspect the inside of the tomb to see that the body of Jesus was in its place. After guaranteeing that the corpse was where it was supposed to be, they rolled the stone back in place and then sealed it with the official seal of the governor of Rome.
After hearing the suspicions of the chief priests and Pharisees, “Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can” (Matthew 27:65). The word “watch” is the Greek word coustodia, from which we get the word custodian. This was a group of four Roman soldiers whose shift changed every three hours. The changing shifts assured that the tomb would be guarded twenty-four hours a day by soldiers who were awake, attentive, and fully alert. When Pilate said, “Ye have a watch…,” a better rendering would be, “Here — I’m giving you a set of soldiers; take them and guard the tomb.”
Matthew 27:66 says, “So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” Wasting no time, the chief priests and elders hastened to the tomb with their government-issued soldiers and the special officers assigned to inspect the tomb before placing Pilate’s seal upon it. After a full inspection had been made, the stone was put back in place, and the soldiers stood guard to protect the tomb from anyone who would attempt to touch it or remove its contents. Every three hours, new guards arrived to replace the old ones. These armed soldiers guarded the entrance to Jesus’ tomb so firmly that no one would have been able to come near it.
The purpose of the seal was to authenticate that Jesus was dead; therefore, we can know that His body was thoroughly inspected again for proof of death. There is no doubt that Jesus was dead, for He was examined again and again, even as He lay in the tomb. Some critics have claimed that Jesus’ body was inspected only by His own disciples and that they could have lied about Him being dead. However, the body of Jesus was also examined by an officer from Pilate’s court. We can also be fairly certain that the chief priests and elders who accompanied the soldiers to the burial site demanded the right to view His dead body as well so they could verify that He was truly dead.
When Jesus came out of that grave several days later, it was no hoax or fabricated story. In addition to all the people who saw Him die on the Cross, the following individuals and groups verified that His dead body was in the tomb before the stone was permanently sealed by an officer from the Roman court of law:
- Joseph of Arimathea carefully laid Him inside the tomb.
- Nicodemus provided the embalming solutions, assisted in embalming Him, and helped Joseph of Arimathea lay Him in His place in the tomb.
- Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses lovingly examined His body and carefully contemplated every aspect of the burial site to ensure everything was done properly and respectfully.
- Rome’s official officer ordered the stone rolled back; then he went into the tomb and examined the body of Jesus to verify that it was Jesus and that He was really dead.
- The chief priests and elders entered the tomb with Rome’s official officer so they could look upon Jesus’ dead body and put an end to their worries that He had somehow survived.
- Roman guards checked the contents of the tomb because they wanted to know for sure a body was there. They didn’t want to be guarding an empty tomb that would later be used as a claim of resurrection, while they got blamed for the disappearance of Jesus’ body.
- After all of these inspections were complete, Rome’s official officer ordered the stone rolled back in its place. While the chief priests, elders, and Roman guards watched, he secured the site and sealed it shut with the seal of the governor of Rome.
Regardless of these efforts to secure the site and to keep Jesus inside the grave, it was impossible for death to hold Him. When preaching on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to the people of Jerusalem, “…Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain [Jesus]: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:23,24).
Today the tomb in Jerusalem is empty because Jesus arose on the third day! Now He is seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father on High, where He ever lives to make intercession for you and for me (Hebrews 7:25).
Since He has become your High Priest and lives to make intercession for you, there is no need for you to struggle alone. Jesus is sitting at the Father’s right hand, waiting for you to come boldly to Him for help and assistance. There is no mountain He cannot move, so go to Him today to make your requests known!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I refuse to struggle in my own strength any longer, acting like I can handle every problem and challenge in my life by myself. You were raised from the dead to become my High Priest. I am so sorry for the times You have waited in vain for me to come to You because I lingered, thinking I didn’t need Your help. Starting right now, I am changing this in my life — and when I have a need, I’m going to come straight to You because You are there waiting to help me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I boldly declare that Jesus is my High Priest and that He hears me when I pray. I go to Him and tell Him about my needs and challenges, and He answers me! He gives me strength, power, wisdom, and all the guidance I need to make right decisions and choices. As a result of Jesus’ help, I am strong; I am wise; and I make right decisions and choices in my life today.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. How long has it been since you truly contemplated the fact that Jesus died and was buried in a sealed tomb? What effect does this truth have on your life?
2. Do you really have a revelation in your heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead? Can you imagine what it was like at that burial site the day life came flooding into His dead body and He was physically raised from the bonds of death?
3. Are you struggling with your problems all alone, or do you turn to Jesus, your great High Priest, for help with all your problems or challenges? Do you have any specific needs you should be taking to Him right now?