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A Synopsis of Paper 188: The Time of the Tomb

It was customary to throw the bodies of those who had been crucified into an open burial pit. To prevent this from happening to Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus gained permission from Pilate to take the Master's body for proper burial.

Over the violent objections of the Sanhedrin, Joseph and Nicodemus took possession of Jesus' body on Golgotha. The body was carried to a tomb owned by Joseph, where it was wrapped in bandages saturated in myrrh and aloe, covered with a linen sheet, and placed on a shelf. The men who tended to this sad task were Joseph, Nicodemus, John Zebedee, and the Roman centurion. The centurion then signaled his men to roll the heavy stone into place to cover the entrance to the tomb.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, Martha the aunt of Jesus, and Rebecca of Sepphoris lingered near the tomb until after dark. They had followed the funeral procession at a distance because it was not permitted for women to associate with men at such a time. These four women saw that Jesus had been given a hasty burial; they agreed to return after the Sabbath to properly prepare his body.

Jesus' enemies remembered reports that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. The chief priests requested that a Roman guard be stationed in front of the tomb so that Jesus' followers couldn't steal his body and then pretend he had risen. Ten Roman soldiers joined ten Jewish guards to watch over the burial site. They placed a second stone in front of the first and attached Pilate's seal to it to make certain nothing would be disturbed. These men stayed on guard in front of the tomb continuously through the hour of the resurrection.

There are significant lessons attached to Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus lived and died for the whole universe. His life on earth shed light on the mortal pathway to salvation, and his death forever made evident the certainty of survival after death. Jesus' death portrays the full devotion that he had for even the lowest members of his creation.

The triumph of the death on the cross is summed up in the attitude of Jesus toward his assailants. The Master neither condemned nor condoned sin. Divine love doesn't merely forgive sins, it absorbs and destroys them. The cross became an eternal symbol of the victory of love over hate and truth over evil when Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." His devotion to mortals was contagious throughout the universe. On millions of worlds evolving creatures were inspired by the sight of Jesus laying down his life in unselfish devotion to human beings.

The cross is the abiding symbol of sacred service, representing the devotion of one's life to the welfare and salvation of others. When intelligent people look upon Jesus as he offers up his life, their own hardships and grievances hardly seem worth complaining about. The Master's death on the cross stimulates the universal realization of the Father's eternal love and the Son's unending mercy.

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