By Elizabeth Prata
Now on the next day, that is, the day which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63and they said, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I am rising.’ 64Therefore, give orders for the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66And they went and made the tomb secure with the guard, sealing the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66).
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and THE Teacher of Israel. He came to Jesus saying “WE know you are from God…” (John 3:2). They knew. They also remembered Jesus had said He would rise on the third day. The disciples had apparently forgotten, but the priests and Pharisees and scribes didn’t. They were worried that the disciples would come and steal the body and try to claim He had risen. So they went to Pilate. They reminded Pilate that the disciples may steal the body. This was likely a strategic mention, not just to prevent any claims of having risen, but tomb robbing was a terrible problem in the Roman Empire. Severe penalties existed for grave robbing. Mentioning the likelihood of the body being stolen would have startled Pilate and/or the Romans into action.
Placing a stone against the tomb’s opening was a usual practice. Lazarus’ tomb had a stone against it. (John 11:38-39). The seal on the stone was probably what they used commonly in those days- a wax seal impressed with a signet and some cords pressed into the wax and then stretched across to an opposite lump of wax.
The seal was not intended to prevent moving the stone away, the guards were there for that, and the stone itself. The seal was only to indicate that if the seal was broken it would be a sign someone had messed with the grave.
Poole's Commentary says, "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Vain men! as if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead, could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, that he may set his King upon his holy hill of Zion." Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, p. 143). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.
The Pharisees had set up triple barriers but in the end all they did was prove that Jesus had resurrected! They knew that Jesus was from God, did they really think a paltry rope seal would stop the avalanche of God’s power in raising His Son from the dead?
They had seen or heard of the moment in Nazareth where Jesus stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah as depicted in Luke 4:16-19,
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
And then Jesus announced that the prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing. Who else but someone from God, or the Messiah Himself, could open the eyes of the blind? No other blind person had ever been made to see in all of Israel’s history, before this. They knew. Romans 1:18 reminds us that the unsaved suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They were very busy suppressing the truth of who Jesus was, and scurried around putting Scotch tape over a boulder’s crack.
Nothing can stop the power of God. Nothing. He created the worlds with a word, and the stars also. He made man from dust. He sustains it all by His power. He resurrects the dead, and he regenerates sinful hearts. His power cannot be stopped with a stone or a guard or a wax seal. Poole is right- o vain men!
I like to ponder the love of God and His invitation to come to Him who is gentle and lowly. I also like to ponder His power and might!