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The identity of the actors in this narrative is significant. Because John's disciples took great risk and buried their teacher (14:12), we may expect at least as much courage from Jesus' disciples here (Rhoads and Michie 1982:133). But Jesus' disciples disappoint us, leaving the task to characters Matthew's audience would not anticipate unless they had heard the story before (they probably had heard it, but might still be struck by the contrast).
Matthew explicitly notes the use of Joseph's own family tomb, fulfilling Isaiah 53:12. To bury Jesus in his own tomb (Mt 27:60) fits the situation of haste and location, but also suggests a special love normally reserved for family members or those equally esteemed (compare 1 Kings 13:30-31). Archaeological evidence for the tombs in this area may suggest that the tomb belonged to a person of material substance (Craig 1995:148).
Most Judean burial sites were private family tombs scattered around Jerusalem and elsewhere (Safrai 1974-1976b:779-80). Often these were caves with an opening covered by a large stone rolled in a groove; such stones could not be removed from within (Reicke 1974:187; Yamauchi 1972:112). Because Joseph was well-to-do, he probably owned a more ornate tomb, whose disk-shaped stone would be too large (a yard in diameter) for a single man to move even from outside (Lane 1974:581).
But the primary focus of this paragraph and its conclusion in 28:11-15 is the incontrovertible evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Sealing the stone (27:66) would make it impossible for anyone to enter the tomb and then merely replace the stone (see Filson 1960:299). Although Jesus has already left the tomb, the stone is not removed until 28:2. Because Matthew would hardly create a charge that did not exist, we may be sure that the primary polemic against the Christian claim concerning Jesus' resurrection was theft of the body (compare Craig 1984; Meier 1980:356).