Summary: In the death of Jesus we see God’s Directing: God’s: 1) The Rich (Mt. 27:57–60), 2) The Relatives (Mt. 27:61), 3) The Religious (Mt. 27:62–66)
One of the majestic attributes of God is His absolute sovereignty, His supreme rulership and ultimate control over all things in the universe. He has created and He sustains all things that exist, and He ordains and brings to pass all things that happen.
Nowhere in Scripture is God’s incredible and amazing providence more evident than in Jesus’ burial. In the examination of His crucifixion, His burial is often passed over as being simply a necessary event between His death and resurrection. There is a strong tendency to rush immediately from His immediate death to His resurrection, mentioning His burial only in passing Yet the account of His burial as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, conveys several astounding truths that give remarkable testimony to the superintendency of God.
Although a touching and interesting story, the burial of Jesus seems somewhat mundane and ordinary compared to His dramatic and substantive death and resurrection. Yet even His burial provides its own demonstrations of God’s sovereign control. There were no miracles in the trial of Christ, in His crucifixion, or in His burial, but the providence of God controlled every detail.
Especially in Matthew’s account, every detail of Jesus’ burial, including the scheming of His enemies, is a testimony to His Sonship, messiahship, and kingship. There is no human explanation for these events. He is again shown to be none other than the promised Son of God and the sovereign Ruler of God’s kingdom. We can see this in God’s: 1) Directing the Rich: Joseph of Arimethea (Mt. 27:57–60), 2) Directing the Relatives: The Two Marys (Mt. 27:61), 3) Directing the Religious: The Chief Priests and Pharisees (Mt. 27:62–66)
1) Directing the Rich: Joseph of Arimethea (Mt. 27:57–60)
Matthew 27:57-60 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. (ESV)
The purpose of this section is to record the burial of the obviously dead body of Jesus (Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 27:57–Jn 19:42). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.).
When it was evening refers to the period from 3:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M., which period the Jews considered to be the end of the day and the beginning of the evening. It was “about the ninth hour,” or 3:00 P.M., that Jesus spoke His last words from the cross and “yielded up His spirit” (Matt. 27:46–50).
For two reasons it was imperative that Jesus die several hours before the end of the day. First, because the Sabbath began at six o’clock that day, He had to be taken down from the cross before then and prepared for burial in order not to profane the Sabbath. According to Jewish law they could not be left on the crosses overnight (Deut. 21:22–23); ... Josephus tells us that even the bodies of crucified malefactors were taken down and buried before sunset (War 4.317). But burial had to be completed by sunset, for that marked the beginning of the Sabbath, on which no labor should be performed (specifically a corpse might not be moved on the Sabbath, nor even any member of it, Shab. 23:5) (Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (728). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.).
Second, Jesus had to be buried before the end of that day, Friday, in order to be in the earth at least a part of three separate days before His resurrection, as He Himself declared He would be (Matthew 12:40).
By the time Jesus died, even John apparently had left Golgotha and only the few faithful women remained. They were not able to care for the body by themselves, especially in the short time remaining before the end of the day, and, in any case, they had no burial place for Jesus. But at the exact moment necessary, God moved in the heart of a godly man. Therefore, when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also/himself was/had also become a disciple of Jesus. Rich people rarely showed up among Jesus’ disciples, especially when pressure became serious (19:24; 26:18). Yet Joseph here is a disciple of Jesus, a model to be imitated, one of the few rich men who squeezed through a needle’s eye by God’s grace (19:23–24) (Keener, C. S. (1997). Vol. 1: Matthew. The IVP New Testament commentary series (Mt 27:57). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.).