The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“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.
This short passage is filled so full of irony that it simply spills over.
Here’s what I notice:
(1) Although the disciples themselves seem to have missed the impact of Jesus’ repeated declarations that he would be raised to life on the third day and, as a result, were overwhelmed with shocked surprise when it occurred, the chief priests and Pharisees had understood Jesus’ statements clearly. But, of course, they didn’t believe.
(2) These religious leaders expect the bold, conspiratorial work of the disciples in stealing Jesus’ body and declaring a resurrection. In reality, the disciples are demoralised and clueless. Scared to death, they are holed up in an upper room in Jerusalem, with doors locked, shutting out the world. They are hardly the threat envisioned by these paranoid leaders.
(3) These leaders ask Pilate to “give the order for the tomb to be made secure.” Their request is laughable. As if Rome’s might could be any match for the declared will of the Sovereign Lord!
(4) Making the tomb secure is their strategy to combat their concern that “his disciples may come and steal the body.” But after the resurrection they switch tactics and claim, even with their secured tomb, that “his disciples came during the night and stole him away”(Matthew 28:13). Their plea to Pilate proves entirely hollow.
(5) The final line rings with the loudest irony of all. “They went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” Really? How could a Roman seal and a guard of mere mortals possibly thwart the power of Almighty God? They, of course, thought they were merely up against the conniving strategies of Jesus’ devastated disciples. But, instead, they were standing against the power of heaven.
“Low in the grave he lay – Jesus my Saviour. Waiting the coming day – Jesus my Lord. Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!”
Nothing could hold him back. The third day was coming. Inevitably. Resurrection was guaranteed.
Praise his name!
Lord Jesus, you are the Resurrected One. You overcame death. You overcame all foes. Praise your name.
Reflect: In what circumstances are you tempted to think that the Lord’s will and plan might be thwarted by the opposition of humanity? Place it before the Lord again. Pray: Your kingdom come, Your will be done.