Summary: Comparing the power of the Empire of Rome and her soldiers to the power of the Empire of Heaven and its soldiers.
We Were There - The Soldiers
Matthew 27: 45-54, 62-66; 28:1-15
CALVIN CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
It was a rather non-descript assignment. Certainly not one of the tougher ones they’d ever faced. The group on shift before them had a much trickier assignment - more action. They’d been the ones who maneuvered through the frenzied holiday crowd with three convicts; done the execution just outside of town.
But now there’s this assignment.
A grinding chore. Task: sit outside a tomb and make sure no one tries to break in. So a seal is placed on the tomb stone, declaring this piece of real estate to be Imperial property. Anyone caught breaking the seal would have their neck broken.... – death for tampering with the authority of the empire.
Even getting to the seal would be a real task. Any fool wanting to do so would have to get past the guards - Roman legionnaires who worked for Pontius Pilate, a man with a reputation for cruelty. People who got in his way often just disappeared. Not every prisoner made it to trial...... if you get my drift.
Those guards would be on duty, and wide awake. Some of you know that I worked for a time as a security guard during my student days. Most of that was night shift. Once, doing guard duty at a factory where a strike was in progress, I nodded off. Was woken up by the glare of the sergeant’s flashlight in my eyes. A smirk on his face. A rather embarrassed apology from me. And the incident was forgotten.
If any Roman soldier fell asleep on guard duty, things were not so easy.
The penalty was immediate execution.
Romans simply didn’t fall asleep.
Big, strapping guards.
What today we’d consider special forces material. Veterans of combat.
Conquerors - feared throughout the world.
Under personal orders from Pilate.
Put into position by request of the leading Jewish figures of the day.
Just for the weekend.
When the threat was over, they could leave.
It all seemed simple enough.
Flex the muscle of the Empire for a few days.
After all - they were the last word in town.
The pharisees and chief priests feel satisfied and check out for the weekend.
The soldiers of Rome settle in for what promises to be a real yawner.....
......And the soldiers of Heaven prepare to go to work.
So Sunday morning breaks.
With it comes a confrontation between ground troops from the Empire of Rome and the.... well, let’s call them the "airborne" troops from the Empire of Heaven.
Please understand that the confrontation which occurs has absolutely NO bearing on the status of Jesus.
He was long gone before these two war parties meet.
The confrontation between them is over the stone and the seal.
It is about claiming ownership of this piece of ground. Rome vs Heaven.
It is about keeping things closed and dark.
Or opening it up for all to see, and for light to stream in.
That’s the issue.
Gotta love that angel. If anyone doubts whether there is such a thing as heavenly humor they just need to consider this scene: