Eyewitness to Easter: Pilate Guards the Tomb

Pilate has granted permission for Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus body but he’s not finished with situation, yet.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate  and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’”  {Matthew 27:62-63}

Imagine the chief priest ire once they discovered Jesus body had been granted to one of their own—who was a disciple of their enemy—and buried. They waste no time in hurrying to Pilate.

“His enemies did what they could to prevent his resurrection… he chief priests and Pharisees, when they should have been at their devotions, asking pardon for the sins of the week past, were dealing with Pilate about securing the sepulchre, and so adding rebellion to their sin. They that had so often quarrelled with Christ for works of the greatest mercy on that day, were themselves busied in a work of the greatest malice.” {Matthew Henry Commentary}

The words of Jesus came back to the chief priest and Pharisees and they were afraid.

They said to Pilate, “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.””  {Mathew 27:63}

They were afraid Jesus disciples would steal the body so they came up with their own plot.

“They were vexed that the body was given to one that would bury it decently; but, since it must be so, they desire a guard may be set on the sepulchre…see how they compliment Pilate with the title of Sir, while they reproach Christ with the title of Deceiver.{Matthew Henry Commentary}

They probably did all they could to butter Pilate up in presenting their request. They wanted to make themselves look good and the dead man look as bad as possible.

“That which really they were afraid of, was, his resurrection; that which is most Christ’s honour and his people’s joy, is most the terror of his enemies.” {Matthew Henry Commentary}

Instead of rejoicing that Jesus was dead, they were afraid. Can you feel them quaking in their boots?

“Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”  {Matthew 27:64}

Pilate agreed that they could guard the tomb.

“Pilate must still be their drudge, his civil and military power must both be engaged to serve their malice; one would think that death’s prisoners needed no other guard, and that the grave were security enough to itself; but what will not those fear, who are conscious to themselves both of guilt and impotency, in opposing the Lord and his anointed?” {Matthew Henry Commentary}

Do you wish we could hear Pilate’s thoughts? To know what he really thinks about the situation? Did he regret his actions, had Jesus touched his heart in some way or was he tired of the Pharisees bothering him?

“Pilate’s answer… as ready to gratify Christ’s friends, in allowing them the body, and his enemies, in setting a guard upon it, being desirous to please all sides, while perhaps he laughed in his sleeve at both for making such ado, pro and con, about the dead body of a man, looking upon the hopes of one side and the fears of the other to be alike ridiculous. “ {Matthew Henry Commentary}

They leave and go to the tomb where they make sure it’s well sealed.

“So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”  {Matthew 27:65}

It wasn’t good enough to seal the stone. They also had to leave a guard to make sure no foul play takes place.

But not trusting too much to that, withal they set a watch, to keep his disciples from coming to steal him away, and, if possible, to hinder him from coming out of the grave. So they intended, but God brought this good out of it, that they who were set to oppose his resurrection, thereby had an opportunity to observe it.”  {Matthew Henry Commentary}

Imagine the surprise and fear the guards would experience with the resurrection. Even they could not prevent the power of God from prevailing and shining through.

This is the last mention of Pilate in the gospels but we know from history that Pilate was later removed as governor and returned to Rome.

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