57As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus,58went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him.59Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth.60He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.61Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.
The Guards at the Tomb
62The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate.63They told him, “gSir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’64So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”
65Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.”66So they hsealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
Jesus is dead and buried. His enemies think it is over and they have won. Imagine the complete despair of his followers. Just 5 days ago his apostles had watched Jesus enter Jerusalem hailed by the crowds as their king and Messiah. Now he is dead and buried. Gone forever in their minds. They had left everything to follow him. Many would have had no job to return to and even going back to their families having been so wrong about Jesus would have been an embarrassment. Utter and total faith-shattering defeat and failure. Can we relate?
There are some things we need to note here to bolster our faith however.
- Romans usually left the bodies of those they crucified on the cross to rot as a warning to others. For Joseph to request the body and for Pilate to grant the request would have been odd and a clue that something was up.
- Matthew mentions the women as witnesses. This would have been unthinkable at that time. Women weren’t even allowed to testify in trials because they were thought to be untrustworthy. If Matthew were making this up, there is no way he would have mentioned the women here. No, Matthew is telling what he sincerely believes is the truth.
- The placing of the guards is EXTREMELY significant for several reasons. First, again, it must have been true because there would have been MANY witnesses around to contradict this claim if no guards were placed at the tomb. Jewish writings from the time make no attempt to say there were no guards. The simple fact that Matthew is willing to put it in the story again points to the fact that Matthew believes every word he is writing is true and this obviously occurred because Jewish writings from the time confirm it.
- Roman guards were extremely well trained. When a Roman soldier was put in charge of a prisoner, it was serious business. If the prisoner escaped, the guard was executed. There is no chance that the apostles would have been able to steal Jesus’ body with a Roman guard at the tomb. Absolutely no chance.
Father, help me to remember the apostles in my darkest hours and keep my faith in you. Help me to hold to the truth of Your Word when my faith is weak. *obbs*