Christianity’s Easter did not originate adorned with colored eggs, bunnies and bonnets or pastel pink and green dresses. For the growing number of Americans who are ignorant of these matters, Easter is a commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You may recall His name. It is regularly invoked by some whose vocabulary is dwarfed by frequent cursing. I have often wondered why similar profanities fail to employ the names of Buddha, Allah or Mohammed. Could it be that none of those reflect the ultimate power of a physical resurrection? The purpose of a curse is to place a stamp of authority on the pronouncement---who has greater dominion in life than one who conquered death?
Recognizing potential political disaster in the remote event of Christ coming forth from the grave, we read: “Now the next day, that followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:62-66).
Clearly, the problem was if Jesus Christ was resurrected, it would prove that He alone was uniquely righteous; therefore, if any of His “Believers” arise before the “last judgment,” it is plainly proved that they possess an infused righteousness not to be found in church membership, sacraments, prayers, alms, fastings, and golden rules. This cannot be tolerated!
Pilate’s answer is amusing. It is so ironic that it might be considered a pathological response. “Make it as sure as ye can.” When the statement is read carefully, it is a glittering gem. Pilate cannot possible mean: “I’m in this thing with you boys, and I don’t want false doctrine taught any more than you do, so let’s really seal that thing up!” Any study of the conversations that took place between Pilate and this ecumenical council in John chapters 18 and 19 would clearly reveal that Pilate is not sympathetic; he is sarcastic. The implication is “go and do what you can, little boys, but personally, I don’t think you are going to prevent anything ---He may very well fulfill his own prophecy.” This may sound far-fetched, but remember what he said in John 19:22 with the words of his wife (Matthew 27:19) still ringing in his ears. Pilate is not at all sure that any watch will keep the body in the tomb. He, like Herod (Luke 23:8; Mark 6:14), was getting so shaken with Jewish theology, Old Testament prophecies, religious controversy, and converted centurions, that he was beginning to doubt his own infidelity.
“Make it as sure as ye can.” The words are spoken warily, indifferently, and skeptically; he doesn’t think they can do it. Pilate appears to be betting on Jesus even though he was the villain who ordered the Lord’s crucifixion. This attitude was surely predicated upon Pilate’s inability to find any fault with Jesus (John 19:4,12) when he interrogated him, but politics generated by those who made the most noise initiated the death sentence. How many Pilates walk the halls of Congress today?
“Sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” The scene is reminiscent of the one in Daniel 6:17,18 where Daniel, as a type of Christ, foreshadowed the events of the gospel. To properly appreciate what follows in the resurrection chapter, the facts must be observed; the tomb is closed, sealed, and guarded. It is closed by the owner; it is sealed by the government; and it is guarded by the most ferocious and experienced military group the world had produced in 1000 years –the Roman Legionnaires.
If Christ arises and makes an exodus from this kind of place, then a genuine miracle has happened; for throughout, the Holy Spirit has pointed out the historical facts which must be faced by the infidel and skeptic if he is to deny the literal resurrection. If anyone steals this corpse, he is going to by necessity possess more cunning and power and stealth than Houdini and John Dillinger combined.
The Scriptures call the evidence “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:2,3) of a literal, bodily resurrection of the same man who was crucified and buried: 1.) The body was missing. 2.) Those most anxious to recover the body never recovered it (Matthew 28:15) 3.) Christ was seen by more than 500 witnesses in post-resurrection form (I Corinthians 15:5-8) 4.) If it was stolen, whoever stole it had the power to hypnotize Roman soldiers long enough to steal it (Matthew 28:4) 5.) If it was stolen, the stupid thief wasted fifteen precious minutes unwinding the body and folding up the grave clothes in a neat little pile (John 20:5,7) 6.) If it was stolen, the Roman government and the Jewish Sanhedrin could not find it in forty years, even though the integrity of both was at stake 7.) If it arose, only “spiritually,” it could still eat and drink. (Luke 24:42) 8.) It had “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), and testified of its own resurrection forty days after it arose.
A dead Christ is a threat to no one, but a living Saviour who conquered death and the grave has every right to say that it’s “His way or the highway”. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)