- Sermon Notes
Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt
Intro: Making the choice clear!
This morning we turn to the end of Matthew 27 where we see two men get “beyond the shadow of a doubt” in their devotion and commitment to Jesus. Up to this point in their lives, each one of them hid their heart toward Jesus. One man is described as a “secret disciple” of Jesus; the other kept His relationship with Christ in the dark and was willing to declare his belief in Jesus in the dark of night (John 3:2), but due to fear, denied Him before man in the daylight.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, however, a new day for each of the men had dawned and we will see that new day dawn for each of them personally as they move beyond the shadow of a doubt in their relationship with Jesus personally, and for all to see!
While the account in Matthew centers on the man whose tomb Jesus would be placed in for burial, from the book of John we are told that he did not act alone, there was another with him named Nicodemus and as we saw in verse 61, Mary Magdalene, and another Mary were sitting opposite the grave as this was all going on.
John 19:38-39, Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.
From verse 57 in Matthew 27, we see that this all took place “when it was evening…” This refers to the time period from 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. This is the time period that in that day would have been considered as the end of the day.
In the night and earlier this same day, Jesus had been betrayed, falsely accused, rejected, mocked, beaten, sentenced to death on a cross though innocent, scourged, led to crucifixion and crucified on the cross.
For Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, we know that they believed in Jesus, but their relationship with Christ up to this point, was kept in secret. They stood by silently and watched the story unfold, but after seeing what happened to Jesus, they can no longer remain silent observers and this morning we will see as they get beyond the shadow of a doubt in their relationship with Jesus and be encouraged to do the same.
Mark 15:43, … He gathered up courage and went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
I. Gather Up Courage for Christ
- We know that it was “about the ninth hour,” which is 3:00 P.M. when spoke His last words on the cross and “Yielded up His spirit” (Mt. 27:46-50).
- It was around that time, the ninth our 3:00 P.M. that Joseph came to Pilate asking for Jesus’ body.
- The timing of it all is important to consider because Joseph and Nicodemus would need to complete their preparations of Jesus’ body before six o’clock.
- At 6 o’clock the new day, the sabbath day would begin.
- There were several reasons that Jesus’ burial would need to be completed before six o’clock. First, it was against Jewish law to do physical work, secondly, it was against the law to travel on the Sabbath day. And as noted it was also against Jewish law to let a dead body remain exposed overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23).
- Additionally, it was important to prophecy because Jesus had said many times that He would rise on the third day. Therefore, being buried on Friday is necessary to his rising on Sunday!
- Joseph of Arimathea would have been aware of all the legal factors and knew he was up against the clock. So, he goes to Pilate the Roman governor to ask that Jesus’ body be given to him, and while Pilate did not know Joseph’s purpose in asking, we know that it was to give Jesus a proper burial.
- Joseph knew what would likely come of Jesus’ body if he did not step in, it would go to the Romans and be dealt with at their discretion.
Isaiah 53:9, His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death…
- This prophecy regarding where they had assigned Jesus, but the difference in where He ends up is where Joseph of Arimathea enters…
- Through the Gospel accounts we are given His description:
- From Matthew 27:57, we know that He is “A rich man from Arimathea, who had become a disciple of Jesus.”
- Joseph had become a disciple of Jesus. To be a disciple means to be a follower or a learner, someone to who takes up the ways of another. He then was a follower of Jesus and had taken up His ways.
Mark 15:43, A prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.
- From Mark 15:43 we learn that he was a “prominent member of the Council,” which is the Sanhedrin.
- Though a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, contrary to the other members, from Luke 23:50, we understand that Joseph of Arimathea was “a good and righteous man,” who “had not consented to their plan of action” to seize, convict, and kill Jesus.
- Though he had not consented to it, it seems that He also did not outwardly oppose it or try to stop it somehow. We are given insight as to why in the book of John.
John 19:38, Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders.
- At some point, Joseph had begun to “follow Jesus” as a disciple. This would make Him a follower of, and learner from Jesus. One who would take up the ways of Jesus.
- But up to this point, his commitment and submission to the way of Christ in His life, was being done in secret.
- To have made His commitment to Christ public would certainly have cost him his prominent position with the Sanhedrin and amongst the religious elite, it would also have severely jeopardized his status in nearly every area of his life.
Philippians 3:8, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 5:24, Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Psalm 73:25, Whom have I in heaven but You? And on earth I desire no one besides You.
- As we understand from Mark 15:43, this situation required that Joseph “gather up the courage,” though previously he was full of fear and hiding out.
- It seems he had likely missed many opportunities previously; he was now willing to take the opportunity to pursue Christ that was before him.
- Courage enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, or peril, without fear.
2 Timothy 1:7, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Deuteronomy 31:6, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
- These are important reminders, and though our situation or degree of difficult is not the same as Joseph of Arimathea, we can relate to him.
- Perhaps there are times when you have remained silent or kept your relationship with Christ secret. Perhaps you have held off on conversations and chosen to remain in hiding.
- But as you see his story, I hope you recognize that the way things have been, do not have to be the way they will be continually. I encourage you to gather up courage for Christ.
Illus. Gather up the courage.
- Assume Your Current Opportunity
- In addition to Joseph of Arimathea, from John 19 we know he is accompanied by another secret disciple I mentioned earlier named Nicodemus.
- We are first told of Nicodemus in John 3, and he is described as a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews.”
- He sought Jesus in John 3 but did not seek Him in the light of day. He spoke with Jesus in the nighttime. He no doubt pursued Jesus in the nighttime specifically, to keep his pursuit of Christ secret, for he too would share similar fears to that of Joseph of Arimathea.
- There is an account later in the book of John chapter 7, when Nicodemus had an opportunity to stand up for Jesus but was unable to declare defense of or allegiance to Jesus.
- But he, like Joseph of Arimathea, as they see and stand at the cross, are both now willing to risk everything.
- They saw the cross and assumed their opportunity to pursue Christ personally, and publicly.
Matthew 27:58, This man 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 cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.
- It is doubtful that Pilate understood the underlying reason that Joseph would come asking for Jesus’ body.
- While we know he and Nicodemus are secret disciples of Christ, Pilate would have not such knowledge.
- Pilate would have recognized Joseph of Arimathea as a member of the Sanhedrin and a powerful Jewish leader. Pilate was in a difficult predicament and did not want to further offend any Jewish leaders as his position was in jeopardy.
- So, his willingness to give Jesus’ body to him may very well have been as a favor to the Sanhedrin, with an assumption he was operating on behalf of Jewish leadership.
- As for this news getting back to Joseph’s Sanhedrin counterparts, this news would put him in a very controversial place, but here we see him assume the opportunity to care for Jesus’ body personally, he was no longer going to remain in fear and hiding.
John 19:38-42, With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
- As Jesus’ body hung on the cross, these two men would take the body of Jesus off the cross, in front of everyone who was watching and there were many onlookers and many religious leaders who, as we have seen, were near the cross and likely watching the scene unfold.
- They approached Jesus Christ on the cross after being crucified, unashamed and without fear. No doubt His blood would stain their clothing and cover them entirely.
- Whatever questions had been, whatever false conclusions they may have led others to believe, whatever secret relationship they had with Christ prior to the moment was now past.
- They were in now covered by the blood of Christ, no longer was their devotion to Christ something they would, or could hide.
Ephesians 2:13, But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
- What a powerful picture for us. These men covered in Jesus’ blood were secret disciples no more. They were far off no more, they were holding onto Christ personally, powerfully, for all to see.
- May we hold onto Christ similarly in our lives, personally, powerfully, and for all to see!
Matthew 27:59-61, And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.
- As Joseph and Nicodemus did their embalming, Mary Magdalene, who Jesus had healed of demon possession, and another Mary look on. It is likely they helped wrap Jesus’ body, and on the day of resurrection, were seen amongst those who came to finish that work.
- After doing the best they could, Jesus was placed in Joseph’s tomb. It was a “new” tomb meaning it was unused.
- The stone was a large heavy stone. A wealthy person’s tomb would typically have a heavy, circular shaped stone run in a groove and settle into a channel in front of the opening. The stone would be set in such a way that it could not be moved, or removed, except by several strong men.
- Joseph and Nicodemus took care of Jesus body as best as they could. Taken down from the cross with care, washing His body, wrapping it in layers with cloth, and placing spices in between.
- Buried in the tomb of a rich man, given the best burial these men could bring.
- It is interesting that historically Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, have often gotten a bad wrap.
- Sermons have been preached about the error of their secrecy. Why didn’t they speak up? Why didn’t these secret disciples have enough strength to stand up for Jesus?
- But clearly, they did. They stood up at just the right time. Despite what may have previously defined their lives.
- These secret disciples put it all on the line, status, position, perhaps even their very lives.
- They are making it clear that they are followers walking in the way of the One their Sanhedrin friends just put to death.
- There is another important question to consider: Where are Jesus’ closest disciples as Joseph asks for Jesus’ body?
- Where is Peter who said he would never deny Jesus? Where are James and John the sons of thunder who declared they could drink the cup Jesus was going to drink? (Mt. 20:22) They are hiding out.
- For Joseph and Nicodemus recognized the opportunity they had to bring light and reveal the truth about the most important relationship in their life that night.
Illus. Not going there!
- It is not about your missed opportunities, but rather, understanding your present opportunity and remaining willing to take it on and assume it!
- I say this because I think our past can often get in the way of what we are being called and asked to do today, currently.
Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- Biblically, we do not know what came of Joseph and Nicodemus as their willingness to “risk it all” for Christ.
- What we do see, however, is what they did with and for Jesus. They let their light shine, they risked it all, and their commitment to Christ shone bright and for all to see, beyond the shadow of a doubt!
Luke 6:40, The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
- Be Led by What He Said
Matthew 27:62-66, Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
- The new day had begun at 6pm, and after Jesus was placed in a known tomb, the religious leaders begin to be concerned about something they remember Jesus had said.
- This is intriguing to me. Because here the skeptics are centering their next steps around what Jesus said. They are being led to have His tomb secured tightly in response to His words about resurrection.
- On the other hand, His disciples, who had been informed numerous times about His coming death, burial, and resurrection, have either completely forgotten His words, or remember what He said and are not seen responding to His words and promise of resurrection.
- Their response to His crucifixion was despondence, “let’s get out of here, let’s head home” …seemingly with their heads down. We do not see any of the closest public disciples looking forward or thinking about what Jesus said many times was going to come!
- Every time Jesus spoke of His death, He also spoke of His resurrection (Mt. 16:21; 17; 20:19).
- Because of their concern that Jesus’ words would in-fact come to pass, or that His disciples may try to retrieve Jesus’ body, they request that Pilate assign soldiers to guard the tomb and are given the green light to go and make the tomb as secure as they possible can.
- Pilate granted a “Roman guard,” which typically meant four Roman soldiers.
- These soldiers were in addition to the heavy stone. There was also a seal set, which was a rope that overlapped the stone covering the entrance of the tomb with wax securing it in place. Anyone who tampered with the Roman seal, stone, or rope would be put to death.
- There was a material obstacle (the stone), an authoritative obstacle (the rope and seal), and an obstacle of force (the guards who could severely injure any who attempted to pursue Jesus’ body.
- But what we will see is that none of these forces could stand in the way come resurrection day. The story is not over, Jesus is not done, Matthew 28 follows Matthew 27. Matthew 28 shows us what happened on resurrection day.
- As we close Matthew 27, prior to the resurrection, all the disciples, Joseph, and Nicodemus knew was the truth of the words Jesus had previously given.
- And I think that is an appropriate conclusion, because in our lives, that is what we are being called to. To live out our faith and life for Christ, beyond the shadow of a doubt and we must live that way before our story is over.
Romans 8:28, We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man 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 cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.