The Sealed Tomb

Included in the synoptic gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion are references to a sudden noon-time darkness, the veil in the Temple’s Holy of Holies being rent asunder, and the earth trembling at the moment of our Lord’s death.

Were these unnatural occurrences caused by the wrath of God because of the execution of His son? Wouldn’t this be unlikely inasmuch as Jesus was carrying out the will of his Father? Were they the reaction of nature whose fundamental law of justice was so heinously violated that “these very stones would cry out?” Surely were it able to do so, creation would decry man’s abuse of its Creator with such violent reaction.

A third interpretation of these strange events is a more sinister one. Perhaps these phenomena that occurred at the hour of our Lord’s death were a triumphant manifestation of despair. The power of evil had won. He who had identified himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life was no more. Hope was vanquished and despair – the absence of hope – was with shameless hubris flexing its muscle.

In the course of his remarkable ministry Jesus’ followers had come not just to love him, but also to invest in him their hope for a better life. Peter, their leader, had said to him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” So intense was their hope, that they had given up everything to follow him. But, with their master’s crucifixion, their hope was forever destroyed and now, like his body, lay lifeless in a sealed tomb. Imagine the deep despondency. Imagine the dark despair.

But, on the third day despair was vanquished, relegated to a tomb forever and irreversibly sealed by the invincible love of God. Noon-day darkness succumbed to morning light.

On behalf of the trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation and of all the donors who form our community, I would like to wish everyone a joyous Easter and an Eastertide vibrant with unconquerable hope.

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1 Comment

  1. 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.

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