Via Dolorosa – Marking Time
We left Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph perched outside the tomb and taking in two sets of busy men. The first ones were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Although these two were hip deep with the group that had engineered the crucifixion, they had become surreptitious followers of Christ. The ladies wanted to offer help, to attend to Jesus, but the importance and unfamiliarity of these two men fostered an understandable shyness. So they waited and watched.
The two religious leaders finished up their labors and left the small, picturesque area. It grew quiet and it grew late. Yet the ladies waited. All of a sudden a second group of men arrived. Mary and Mary heard the sickeningly familiar sound of rough men, soldiers, interrupting their grieving and vigilance. What was this? It seemed the reach of the authorities knew no end. They had already humiliated and murdered Jesus. Now what? What was this latest outrage? They waited and watched.
These were the soldiers of the Sanhedrin. They were no less brusque and no less skilled than their Roman counterparts. They had to be because they were, in effect, extensions of their Roman overlords. Professional pride made them as calculating and ruthless as the Romans. As a bonus, they were not considered unclean, or as unclean as the Emperor’s legions. They enjoyed, more or less, unrestricted access to the religious leaders. At the very least, four of these soldiers showed up to carry out these plans: 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. ~Matthew 27:62-66
How did they secure the grave? We’ve already mentioned the large stone that had been rolled into place. The grave itself was hewn out of solid rock, so there was no back door to look after. And, in addition to the soldiers, a seal was set in place. The seal was a soft material, probably made of clay, that was imprinted with the Roman imperial seal and attached to the stone by a rope. To break the seal would incur the fury of Rome.
And there sat the two Marys. Jesus was dead, wrapped, buried, guarded and now sealed. And even with all of that, they waited and watched.