Summary: The response of the Roman guard to the resurrection of Jesus points out our need to find our security in Jesus Alone
We live in a world today where people are constantly seeking security in every area of their lives. So it is not surprising that enterprising people have capitalized on that desire for security by providing us with all kinds of products that promise to give us security. Just the other day as I was driving in my car I was bombarded with radio ads that promised me to give me security in many different areas of my life. I could be protected against identity theft for only $10.00 per month and if I put in the right code I could even get a 10% discount on that. And then there were the ads that promised to provide me with financial security if I bought gold or invested my IRA funds with a financial advisor whose clients had never lost even a dime. I could have security while on the road by getting my brakes inspected for free or by getting the crack in my windshield fixed or by pressing my “OnStar” button – assuming I had an “OnStar” button. I could be secure at home by installing an alarm system that would protect my family and my belongings. And when I head to the airport at the end of next month to go on vacation, I’ll be subjected to screening procedures that are intended to provide security for me and the other passengers on our flight.
But the desire for security is not new. In fact, as we gather here this morning to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we’re reminded that the desire for security played a significant role some of the things which occurred in connection with that important historical event.
This morning, I’m going to be reading from Matthew’s account of those events. I’ll begin in Matthew chapter 27, verse 62 as Matthew recounts an event that took place on the day after the crucifixion of Jesus:
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Matthew 27:62-66 (ESV)
Both the Jewish religious leaders and Pilate had a vested interest in keeping the tomb of Jesus secure. The chief priests and the Pharisees had heard Jesus claim that He would rise from the grave after three days and they wanted to prevent that from occurring. They knew that if the people believed Jesus had risen from the dead, people would flock to follow Him and they would lose their position of power and influence over the people. Although they told Pilate that they were worried the disciples would steal the body, it seems to me that wasn’t their real worry. After all, the disciples were all hiding out, fearing that if they were seen in public, they might meet the same fate as Jesus. Although they would never admit it, I think these religious leaders believed it was possible that Jesus would somehow be able to fulfill the promise He had made. And foolishly, they thought they might be able to somehow prevent that.
And Pilate, as the governor of Judea, wanted to prevent anything that would disrupt the peace there because that would threaten his standing with the Roman authorities who had given him his position of power. Although Pilate viewed this as primarily an internal matter among the Jews, he still didn’t want a body to turn up missing.
But we also get the feeling that, after his previous encounter with Jesus, Pilate sensed that there was something about Jesus that made some kind of miraculous event seem plausible. Pilate’s response to the Jewish leaders is very telling: “Go, make it as secure as you can.” It was almost as if Pilate discerned that the guards that he was sending wouldn’t be able to stop what was going to occur.
Each Easter, I really like to focus on some particular person or group of people whose lives were changed by the resurrection of Jesus. And this year, as I read the gospel accounts of the resurrection and the events which followed I was really intrigued by these men who made up this Roman guard. As we’ll see in a moment, they were among only a very few who actually witnessed the empty tomb as the stone is rolled away.