“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 27:65-28:15 NIV)
There are a couple of aspects of the Easter story that warrant deeper examination. Starting with verse 27:65, let’s understand that the Jewish leaders understood perfectly well that Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead on the third day. They didn’t believe he would really rise, but they understood this was what he said and they feared a conspiracy that would incite the people even further. If you missed our blog on conspiracy theories concerning Jesus rising from the dead, you can review it by clicking here.
The Sanhedrin was so concerned that they sought relief from Pontius Pilate. Pilate thus orders Roman guards to seal the Tomb and to Guard it closely. Now one simply has to ask, what kind of Stone sealed Jesus’s tomb? Was it the ultra-rare (for the time period) disk-shaped stone or the more common cork, or square-shaped, stone? We do not know for sure, but since the tomb Jesus was buried in was borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, a common man, it is most likely the stone was of the square variety. You can read more about this in an article published by the Biblical Archeological Society; click here.
Now either way, round stone or square, it would have been a very heavy object and thus quite difficult to move, but since it was likely the square variety, all that much more difficult, requiring several men. But before they could even think about the tools and effort required to move the stone, they would have been confronted by the Roman seal. The seal was a sign of authentication that the tomb was occupied and the power and authority of Rome stood behind the seal. Anyone found breaking the Roman seal would suffer the punishment of a very unpleasant death, quite probably upon the cross just as Jesus had died. And we can imagine that those who may have wished to steal Jesus’ body would have just observed for themselves the agonizing way in which he was killed. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this would certainly have acted as aversion therapy for any would-be grave robbers.
And then there were the Roman guards. The Roman “guard” was typically a sixteen man unit that followed very strict rules. The guard members could not sit down or lean against anything while they were on duty. If a guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned, but he was not the only one executed, the entire sixteen man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty. Applying some rational logic, it is easy to conclude two things: 1) it would likely take more manpower to overcome a Roman guard than even to move the square stone. A battle like that would not have gone unnoticed and would have resulted in casualties and loss of life, none of which are reported. 2) This elite and well-trained military unit would not have simply fallen asleep as such a dereliction of duty carried far too great of consequence.
So it is quite easy to see that both logic and reason compel us to the conclusion that something miraculous occurred, just as the Bible describes. People today do not seem to like to consider the possibility of the supernatural when it comes to Christianity, though they might watch ghost stories on TV in deep consideration of the possible reality they represent. Yet here we are, with every known detail begging the conclusion that Easter Sunday represents exactly what the Bible proposes. That an angel of the Lord came down, rolled the stone away while simultaneously striking terror into the otherwise fearless Roman guard, and then delivered to the Disciples and the two women named Mary a message about where to find the resurrected Jesus.
So with Easter time upon us, shouldn’t this be the year you admit your wrongs and confess your faith in the resurrected Savior, if you haven’t already done so? And if you have, I hope these words provide yet another reason to pursue your faith with renewed vigor and purpose, for the mission field is vast, and the workers are few. But Jesus has promised to be with us until the end of the age, and He has commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. It is certainly our privilege and honor to do so.
May you have a blessed Easter season, secure in the hope and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior!
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