Sealing of the Tomb, 27:62-66
Only Matthew records the incident of the chief priests and Pharisees coming to Pilate the next day, which was Saturday, and requesting that the tomb be sealed to keep the disciples from stealing the body of Jesus and then claiming that He was risen from the dead. It is most interesting that the chief priests and Pharisees, who were unbelievers, remembered the prediction of Jesus that He would rise again after three days, while this truth does not seem to have penetrated the consciousness of the disciples in their sorrow. With Pilate’s permission, the Jews sealed the stone, which had closed the tomb’s door, and set a watch of soldiers to be sure there was no interference with the tomb.
The temple soldiers were not used for this purpose, as their jurisdiction was only the temple area. A regular detachment of Roman soldiers was sent to watch the tomb. Pilate had said to them, “Make it as sure as ye can,” and so they did. Stealing the body of Jesus was an impossibility, but chief priests, and Pharisees, and all the power of the Roman government could not prevent Jesus rising from the grave. Their care in thus guarding the tomb only added to the certainty of the evidence when the resurrection took place.
The Burial of the King (Matthew 27:55-66)
The Lord Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb (verses 57-60), another fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 53:9). The burial was proof of His death. The Lord Jesus really died on the cross. When He was taken off that cross He was really dead and He was really buried. Normally, dead bodies are buried, not live ones. Some unbelievers today, in order to try to disprove the resurrection, say that the Lord never really died on the cross. They insist that when He was placed in the tomb He was still living, and after some time He revived and was able to stand up and walk away telling everyone that He had risen from the dead. There is not one ounce of plausibility or truth to this theory.
The burial of Christ is important. As Wilbur Smith once wrote: “We know more about the burial of the Lord Jesus than we know of the burial of any single character in all of ancient history. We know infinitely more about His burial than we do the burial of any Old Testament character, of any king of Babylon, of any Pharaoh of Egypt, of any philosopher of Greece, or of any triumphant Caesar. We know who took His body from the cross; we know something of the wrapping of the body in spices, and burial clothes; we know the very tomb in which this body was placed, the name of the man who owned it, Joseph, of a town known as Arimathaea. We know even where this tomb was located, in a garden nigh to the place where He was crucified, outside the city walls. We have four records of this burial of our Lord, all of them in amazing agreement, the record of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
This indicates that God considers the burial of Christ something very important. Why else would He take the time to record this event with such meticulous care and accuracy?
There is one prerequisite for being buried, as we have mentioned already. The person first must be dead! In fact, Pilate refused to let Jesus be buried until he first made sure that He was really dead (see Mark 15:43-45)! The soldiers made sure that Christ was really dead (John 19:33-34)! The fact that Christ was buried is proof that He died. Compare the great gospel facts in 1 Corinthians 15:3- 5—“Christ died for our sins!” What’s the proof? “He was buried!” “Christ rose again from the dead.” What’s the proof? “He was seen (by numerous eyewitnesses–1 Cor. 15:5 and following)!”
The burial of Christ not only proves that He died, but it also looks ahead to the empty tomb. The fact that Christ was buried gives unmistakable evidence that He really rose again. A dead body was placed in a tomb and was buried. Three days later that body was gone and the tomb was empty. All the world could come and look at the place where He was buried and see that the body was missing! “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6) is the great angelic invitation. The Lord's enemies did all that they could to keep Him buried forever (Matthew 27:62-66), but it was all in vain. “Up from the grave He arose!”
The women saw the exact place where the Lord was buried (verses 55-56,61). Some unbelievers say that the Lord did not really rise again from the dead but that the women mistakenly came to the wrong tomb, and this is how the resurrection rumor got started. However, this unsupportable theory does not take into account two key facts: 1) These women were eyewitnesses of His burial and they knew the exact location of the tomb; 2) Even if the women had made a mistake and gone to the wrong tomb, the enemies of the Lord would have quickly pointed out the correct tomb and in doing this would have forever silenced the rumors about His being alive. However, the Lord’s enemies knew that the tomb was empty. All they needed to do was bring forth the Lord’s body to demonstrate that He was dead, but they could not do this.
The last part of Matthew chapter 27 shows how the enemies made sure, as best they could, that the tomb of the Lord was secure and well-guarded. They had remembered that the Lord had predicted His own resurrection (verse 63; at least in this we give them more credit than the disciples who did not believe the Lord’s predictions about His resurrection). These enemies seemed to fear that the disciples would come and steal the body and then tell everyone that He rose again from the dead. Some unbelievers still explain away the resurrection in this way (compare Matthew 28:15).
Notice that they sealed the stone (verse 66). The seal of the stone was to make sure that no one would move the stone without it being very apparent and obvious. We are reminded of the seal which was placed on the stone guarding Daniel when he was in the den of lions (Daniel 6:17). The seal at the entrance to our Lord’s tomb could have been a cord covered with clay or wax on which an official Roman seal has been impressed. This was attached to the stone at the grave’s entrance. The message was very clear: This seal is backed up by the power and authority of Rome—let no one tamper with this stone!
They also “set a watch” (verse 66) which means that they made sure that the tomb was well guarded by Roman soldiers given to them for this purpose by Pilate. Everything was set and ready for the greatest miracle of all time!
Matthew 27:62-66 Breakdown
The Guard at the Tomb 62The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’
The chief priests were the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus and the dead saints walking through Jerusalem must have shaken them, but it did not convert them. Unless God opens the eyes of a skeptic, it is impossible for them to believe, even if they witness the resurrections of the dead. The Pharisees hated the Sadducees, but they joined together against Christ. They both understood the claims of Jesus. They understood that He would raise Himself from the dead after three days.
64So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”
With all of the first-hand evidence, these skeptics still could not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Their total depraved and sinful nature explained away the resurrection.
65Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.”
Roman legions were guarding the tomb of Jesus to make sure that the disciples did not steal the body.
66So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Sixteen soldiers guarded the tomb of a dead man. Twelve were always on duty and four were sleeping or resting. A two ton rock covered the entrance to the tomb. The Roman seal was placed upon the rock. Anyone who broke the seal was given the death penalty. If the guards fell asleep, then they would receive the death penalty as well. The Pharisees think that they are keeping the disciples from stealing the body. What they were actually doing was confirming the resurrection.
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