Summary: This speaks of the guards and the rolled-away stone from Jesus’ tomb. It basically says that God’s plans cannot be stopped, and we can trust Him with the things that seem to block His will for our lives.
Matthew 27:62-28:15 – God Still Moves Stones
Today we are continuing our series called He is Risen Indeed, based on the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What did His rising from the grave prove to us? What did it accomplish for us? Today we are looking at the story from the angle of the guards at the tomb and the stone that rolled away. Let’s read Matthew 27:62-28:15.
Now, we have to ask, who were these guys? Well, as our scripture says, the religious leaders remembered Jesus’ words about rising from the grave. I don’t think they thought He would actually do that, but they wanted to make sure that His disciples didn’t steal the body and then pretend that He rose.
So, they took precautions. They went to Pilate and explained their situation. Surely the governor would not want his decision to execute this criminal named Jesus to come back and haunt him. Surely he would do something.
Well, Pilate did. He put a seal on the tomb. That seal was 2 things: (1) an actual seal consisting of a cord set in wax around the stone where it was connected to the tomb, and (2) a Roman guard.
Who was this Roman guard? Matthew 27:65 says, "You have a guard: go, make it as secure as you know how." Some people have claimed that Pilate was refusing the request for a Roman guard and telling them to use their own temple guards. But the verb used can be an imperative, "take a guard, make it as sure as you know how." It can also mean he was giving them permission to have a Roman guard.
The word "guard" is the Greek word kustodia, from the Latin or Roman custodia. The use of this particular word would indicate a Roman guard and not the Jewish temple guard. This is further verified by the fact they ask Pilate for a guard. If they could have used their own guards why go to Pilate? Also, if only the temple guards were involved, the statements of verse 14 would have been unnecessary. No one would have to talk to the governor nor bribe anyone.
So the question is: Why was this important? I’ll tell you. Because the presence of Roman soldiers at the tomb and the Roman seal over the stone door made the arguments of the religious leaders sound ridiculous, if not impossible. The idea that these timid, fearful Galilean disciples could or would steal the body of Jesus out from under the noses of a guard of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers is not only ridiculous, but impossible. Even had the soldiers been asleep, think of the noise the disciples would have made trying to removed the huge stone covering the entrance to the tomb!
The religious leaders wanted to pretend the whole thing didn’t happen, and so they made up a foolish excuse. The disciples stealing the body? The disciples? Well, at first thought this sounds rational. But it’s not. To know that Jesus was not alive, but did indeed die, would be party to a great lie. And all the disciples either died or suffered for their faith. Let me ask you: would you suffer or die for something that you knew were a lie? People die for lies every day. But, if they KNEW it were a lie, they likely wouldn’t. The disciples would not have died for what they knew was a conspiracy or lie.
Of course, the Romans wouldn’t have stolen the body. The case of the missing body was about to produce a great amount of unrest in the country. The Romans wanted peace at all costs, and they would not have done anything to rile up the people more.
And of course the priests wouldn’t have stolen the body. They didn’t want the disciples to steal the body – they wanted the body where it was, in a sealed tomb. They didn’t want to make Jesus a martyr AND a hero. If they had stolen the body, they would have produced it again soon, to shut all the Christians up. They had no idea where the body was.
The lie of a stolen body was pure foolishness. It was the best lie anyone could come up with at the time, but they didn’t know that the disciples would suffer and die for Jesus. So between the impossibility of stealing the body from under the noses of the Roman guard, and the future martyrdoms of the disciples, there is no other explanation. Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found because He indeed rose from the dead.
Cartoonist Joe McKeever has drawn a group of tourists looking at the Garden tomb in Jerusalem. It’s an open tomb where the stone door has been rolled away. Their guide says, "The angel moved the stone to reveal an empty tomb and a risen Christ. Ever since, man has been trying to roll that stone back!"