Matthew 27:51–66 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 15:38–47; Luke 23:45, 47–56; John 19:38–42)
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.Matthew 27:51-55
54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
At the point of Jesus death, several things happened almost simultaneously. The veil of the temple, which separated the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God resided, was torn from top to bottom. The nature of this tearing was supernatural, and signified that the presence of God was now among men. Anyone could come to God directly and did not need to go through a man. At this occurrence, there were earthquakes. Rocks split and graves came open. Even some predeceased saints resurrected and walked among the people of Jerusalem. All of the fantastic events moved the centurion and the soldiers with him to recognize the deity of Jesus Christ. Perhaps in a nod to their faithfulness or to speak to the oppression of women in that day, Matthew mentioned the names of the faithful women who stood by Jesus at that moment. This amazing series of events establish the historic, ephochal importance of the death of Christ. The earth experienced and upheaval as Christ descended into the depths of hell to effect redemption and make the path to salvation available to all of mankind.
57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.Matthew 27:56-66
62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Jesus’ life and mission did not require long-term planning. His adult ministry lasted only three years. He would not require retirement benefits, geriatric care, or funeral pre-planning. He only had to borrow a tomb, because He would only require a short-term stay. Joseph, a disciple of Jesus, loaned him a tomb out of love and care for Christ. The tomb was new, just recently prepared, so Jesus’ was the only body in it. This was a tomb carved out of a large rock formation, possibly at the base of Calvary, and they rolled a large stone (a round flat stone set in a track) in front of the entrance to seal the tomb. Due to the onset of the Sabbath, they could only wrap the body in a clean cloth and leave it until the Sabbath had passed, and then come back and prepare the body for proper burial.
The chief priests and religious leaders, fearful that the disciples of Jesus would steal His body and claim He had risen, asked Pilate to seal the tomb and post a guard. While his response leaves a grammatical uncertainty as to whether they already had a guard or if he was simply authorizing one, a guard was nevertheless present at the tomb for just such concerns. It is ironic that the religious leaders feared Jesus’ body would be stolen, and then they accused the disciples of that very thing once He arose. They did not believe He would rise, but the guard posted at the tomb to prevent a grave robbery eventually would witness the powerful resurrection. The tomb was sealed, but it could not hold the Savior, powerful even in death.