The opening of the graves and the raising of the dead was foretold by Ezechiel centuries before in these words: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people, and will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your sepulchres, and shall have brought you out of your graves, O my people." (Ezechiel xxxvii. 12, 13.)
Nicodemus' Account says that the leading Jews sent men to the tombs and found them empty. They took the dead who had risen and brought them into the synagogue, and made them swear on the sacred books to tell the truth. The dead asked for pen and paper and wrote down the account. With the saints who had fallen a sleep since Adam's day they were in Hades.
"And there rose a light like the sun. And Abraham with Isaias and the prophets cried out: " This light is from the Father, and from the Son, and from the Holy Spirit.' And there came into their midst an ascetic form, saying,«I am John the Baptist, the last of the prophets.' Adam, also, and Seth were there.
"And David was with them and he said : Dost thou not know, O blind, that when I was living in the world, I prophesied this saying: ' Lift up your gates, O ye rulers. (Psalm xxlil) 'And Osee said: I, foreseeing this by the Holy Spirit, wrote, ' I will deliver them out of the hand of death, I will redeem them from death : O death, I will be thy death! O hell, I will be thy bite." (Osee xiii. 14.) And for the second time a voice cried out: ' Lift up your gates.' And Hades answered : Who is this King of glory ?' The angels of the Lord say: ' The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.' And immediately with these words the brazen gates were shattered, and the iron bars broken, and all the dead, who had been bound, came out of the the prisons and we with them. And the King of glory came in the form of a man, and all the dark places of Hades were lighted up ....
"The King of glory stretched out his right hand and took hold of our forefather Adam, and raised him. Then turning also to the rest he said: ' Come all with me, as many as have died through the tree which he touched, for behold I again raise you all up through the tree of the cross. Thereupon he brought them all out. And our forefather seemed to be filled with joy and said : ' I thank thy majesty, O Lord, that thou hast brought me up out of lowest Hades.' And all the prophets and the saints said : ' We thank thee, O Christ, Saviour of the world, that thou hast brought our life up out of destruction.' And after they had spoken, the Saviour blessed Adam with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and did this also to the patriarchs and prophets, and martyrs and forefathers, and he took them up out of Hades."
The Mosaic law directed that the bodies of the executed criminals must be removed the same day. (Deut. xxi. 22-23.) The Mishna mentions the same custom. (Mishna, San. vi. 5) The Sanhedrin had set apart a place for the burial of those stoned to death and another for crucified criminals. The Romans refused to deliver up the bodies of executed criminals, but rich friends sometimes gave money to the judges, who allowed them to take away the bodies of their friends. (See Maimonides, San. xv. Sepp. iii, p. 65.)
The Talmud states that the cross with the instruments of the crucifixion were usually thrown into the grave with the body. (San. xxxiv. 2.) That was the custom in Germany. (See Sepp's Life of Christ, iii. p. 67,) Another Jewish law forbade the executed to be buried with the members of his family. (Sepp. iii. 65, 66 ) Christ's family tomb was just to the north of Gethsemane, in the Cedron valley where his grandparents Joachim and Anna were buried and where later his holy Mother was laid to rest before her body was taken up to heaven. There to-day you will find their tombs.
The great Sabbath within the Passover week began at sundown, and the burial of the dead Christ must take place at once in order to fulfil these laws. That was why they buried him in the new tomb of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, and fulfilled the prophecy, "And the rich for his death." (Isaias liii. 9) "And his sepulchre shall be glorious." (Isaias xi. 10)
When the commotion had quieted a little, the leading Jews belonging to the Sanhedrin, remembering that the great Sabbath falling within the Passover week began at sundown, did not want the bodies of the three criminals to remain during the feast, they sent a committee to Pilate to ask him that they might be killed, and the bodies removed. Pilate immediately gave orders that the legs of the three should be broken to hasten their death.
No sooner had the Jews retired, than Joseph of Arimathea demanded an audience, lie had heard of the death of Jesus, and with Nicodemus he determined to bury him in his own tomb, in his garden, not far from Calvary. Pilate was still filled with fear and anxiety, and he was astonished to see such a rich and influential Jew ask to give an honorable burial to a criminal he had condemned and executed. He sent for the centurion Abenadar, whom he had placed as officer over the guards around Calvary, and the latter gave him a full account. Nicodemus* account is as follows :