Jesus Christ Our Passover
THE FIFTEENTH THROUGH
THE SEVENTEENTH OF NISAN
As the fourteenth of Nisan ends, we enter three of the darkest days in the history of mankind. Israel had rejected its Messiah. The world's only hope lay dead in a tomb. Very little is recorded in God's Word about these three days. The events of which we are told begin when the chief priests and Pharisees return to ask yet another request of Pilate.
Matthew 27: 62 to 66 -- Now the next day, that followed the day of [omit " the day of "] the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver [referring to Jesus] said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure [be secured] 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 [deception] shall be worse than the first.
Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch [guard]: go your way, make it as sure [secure] as ye can [know].
So they went, and made the sepulchre sure [secure], sealing the stone, and setting a watch ["sealing the stone with the guard"].
The religious leaders did everything possible to see that Jesus Christ not only died, but that no one removed his body from the sepulchre. They wanted to be certain that his fanatical disciples would not make more trouble by stealing the body and then claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thus, the leaders requested Pilate to let them have the tomb secured. This was done on the fifteenth of Nisan, the special Sabbath. In going to Pilate, it is doubtful they went into his palace. That would have defiled them for the Feast that had already begun. Therefore, it is likely that Pilate came out to meet them as he had done before in John 18: 29. Although the Passover meal had been eaten the night before, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would continue for several more days.
The religious leaders instructed the guards to seal and watch the sepulchre. The leaders were determined that this Jesus should cause them no more trouble. They feared him even after his death.
The sealing of the stone involved putting the mark or seal of the Roman ruler on it. It meant "Government Orders: Hands Off!" Anyone breaking this order would be punished. The custom involved with this type of seal can be seen in Daniel.
Daniel 6: 17 -- And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
So the stone over the burial place was sealed and guards watched the tomb continuously. The guards began duty on the fifteenth. The religious leaders had requested a watch "until the third day." Thus, since this meant that the tomb would be secured and guarded at least for the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth, we understand why no disciples would be able to enter the sepulchre to anoint the body until at least sometime Sunday, the eighteenth. All of these details are very significant in God's Word. These events are the ones recorded on the fifteenth, the special Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
On the next day, the women made some preparations, as recorded in Mark and Luke.
Mark 16: 1 -- And when the sabbath [special Sabbath or high day; Thursday, the fifteenth] was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had ["had" is not in text] bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
On the sixteenth of Nisan the women went and bought spices for anointing the body. They could not have purchased them on the fifteenth or the seventeenth because those days were Sabbaths and the marketplace would therefore be closed. However, the sixteenth, Friday, was not a Sabbath.
Though the women acquired the spices on the sixteenth, they would not have been able to anoint Jesus' body that day because of the guards at the sepulchre. Whether they went to the tomb to attempt to do so is not recorded. It is interesting to note that these women had seen Joseph bury Jesus without properly anointing him. After observing Joseph's work, they returned home, rested on the Sabbath of the fifteenth and bought spices on the sixteenth, desiring to anoint the body at their first opportunity. This demonstrates that the women did not realize Nicodemus had come after Joseph to give the body a proper burial. If they had known this, there would have been no need for them to feel obliged to properly bury Jesus' body themselves.
Luke 23: 56 -- And they [the women] returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day [weekly Sabbath] according to the commandment.
Since the spices were bought on the sixteenth, the day after the special Sabbath, they could not prepare them until then. That is why the above verse refers to the seventeenth, the weekly Sabbath. The women rested on the fifteenth (Mark 15: 42), bought and prepared spices and ointments on the sixteenth (Mark 16: 1 and Luke 23: 56), and rested on the weekly Sabbath (Luke 23: 56), the seventeenth. That is the simplicity with which God's Word fits.
After buying and preparing spices and ointments on Friday, the guards at the sepulchre would have still prevented the women from anointing the body of Jesus. However, there was nothing to stop the women from coming to view the sepulchre from the outside if they so desired. On Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, the guards continued their watch while others rested according to the commandment. In the following chapter we will look at the important record in God's Word as the seventeenth of Nisan draws to a close.