Whitewashed Tombs

One year ago I attended the funeral of my high school sweetheart whom I will cherish until I die. During the graveside service, I began to think about my parents who had died 13 ago, I wondered how long it took for our bodies to decompose.

I began researching what happens after we die, we don’t become angels. What I learned helps give a clear sight Christmas. I used to think insects ate us, but what actually causes our bodies to decompose is already inside us.

Our digestive system causes our bodies to decompose. We literally eat ourselves from the inside out. After we die our immune systems cease to function and lets our insides go. No matter how things look on the outside our ultimate end is within each one of us now, even if we’re washed by the water.

It’s like religion. We think it keeps our souls in check, but we’re dying on the inside. What’s on the outside is just for show. It kind of reminds me of the Christmas holiday traditions and temporary blessings people put their confidence in.

Sorry, but traditions are nothing more than religious checklists. Everyone looks busy and alive, but they really just dead men walking. This is what Jesus told the Pharisees to their faces (Matthew 23:27). The church is called to march to the beat of a different drum.


I’d heard the Jewish burial tradition is a lengthy process. After one dies, the body is prepared for burial and then they are placed inside of sepulchers (tombs). Most family sepulchers were hollowed out caves near the family home or even a room added to the home.

Family members would wait a year and remove all of the bones and place them in a bone box where they could rest evermore (1 Kings 2:10). This allowed the tomb to be reused since we use permeant graves we can’t relate.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Jesus, Christmas and the birth of love. All of the prophecies about Jesus—Emmanuelle—God with us predicted He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), it’s Christmas Day.

Bethlehem was a shepherd’s town and stables were often made in caves. There are many claims that Jesus’ actual birthplace was in a cave where animals were housed. This makes sense because Israelites often used caves or sheep pens made of loose rock to protect the animals from would-be threats.

It would also help keep the animals warm on cool desert nights like in California. To make it more prophetic it was a borrowed cave. Another key fact about the messianic prophecy is that none of His bones would be broken; this would cause a discrepancy when the family collected the bones.

Lastly Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, which meant someone had to go back and get His bones; they didn’t know He was coming alive. So tombs were full of death and a sign of a family legacy or tradition. When Jesus compared the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs He was referring to tombs that have been cleaned up on the outside, yet were full of tradition and death on the inside.

One of my favorite childhood memories growing up was always having a white Christmas. There’s nothing like gathering around the Christmas tree with family while the ground is covered with snow to make it feel like it’s Christmas.

It made everything on the inside feel that much more cozy and welcome. After my father retired from the military and we moved to the Deep South, Christmas stopped feeling like Christmas for me. Because we rarely get any snow, especially on Christmas.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized Christmas is about more than just feelings and family traditions. Regardless of how we feel, Christmas is ultimately about the love that is on the inside.


Recently some friends of mine at the gym posted a picture on Facebook of all of them praying in a circle before they had their workout, I don’t think they know what they’re doin’. Before you say amen, we need to understand Jesus spoke strongly against public prayers (Matthew 6:5-6). Remember the first Noel was in a cave, not some big grand entrance like an earthly king.

I find it ironic that for the last decade or so the American church has made a spectacle out of praying publicly when Jesus taught the first-century church to get in their prayer closets and not bang their drums to be seen (Matthew. 6:6).

The prayer God always hears isn’t necessary the loudest, but the sincerest; it’s not about getting our way or what we want. It’s not what we say in front of others that makes us Christians, it’s Who is on the inside of us regardless of what is happening around us, that is joy.

Since the turn of the millennia, the church has broadcast their deeds and prayers over every form of social media, the Pharisees were known for wearing ornate robes and religious paraphernalia.

The Pharisees were a separate society from other Jews; they never accepted Jesus as the Messiah as our savior, their religion made them nothing more than whitewashed tombs.