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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

The Only People Who Paid Attention: Matthew 27:57-66

Focus Passage: Matthew 27:57-66 (CEV)

The only gospel writer to include any details of the Sabbath Jesus was dead is Matthew, and the details that Matthew includes are amazingly significant to the gospel story. Nothing about this weekend was normal or ordinary, but in this extraordinary set of days, we learn of some people who actually paid attention to Jesus’ words even better than the disciples had.

Matthew describes what happens by saying, “On the next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. They said, ‘Sir, we remember what that liar said while he was still alive. He claimed that in three days he would come back from death. So please order the tomb to be carefully guarded for three days. If you don’t, his disciples may come and steal his body. They will tell the people that he has been raised to life, and this last lie will be worse than the first one.’” (v. 62-64)

What is amazing about this when I read what these leaders say to Pilate is that they actually heard Jesus’ prediction about coming back to life. While they don’t believe Jesus to be capable of resurrecting Himself, they don’t trust Jesus’ followers to not steal the body and claim this. The Jewish leaders’ fear prompts one of the most understated, key details to happen surrounding Jesus’ resurrection.

Nowhere in the gospels do we read about the disciples thinking about crafting a resurrection lie or myth, but if they had thought this, the guards at the tomb would stop them from succeeding. In a strange way, the guards present actually validate the resurrection story because for those of us reading about this many centuries later, if no guards were present, a myth could spread that the disciples did come and steal the body. Even sleeping guards would discourage a midnight raid because the cost of waking them would be too high.

But Pilate’s response is even more amazing than the religious leaders’ request. Matthew tells us Pilate told the leaders, “All right, take some of your soldiers and guard the tomb as well as you know how.” (v. 65)

After John’s gospel record of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate the previous day, it is possible that Pilate actually believed the rumor these Jewish leaders brought to him. While the Jewish leaders believed Jesus to be lying about resurrecting, Pilate may have not been so sure. By saying “guard the tomb as well as you know how”, Pilate hints at his belief that Jesus may be capable of what they don’t believe. In Pilate’s mind, if Jesus was capable of returning to life, nothing the religious leaders could do would be enough to stop Him.

By placing guards at the tomb, the Jewish leaders unknowingly help prove that the resurrection miracle actually happened. While trying to prevent a heist that could become legend, they actually place credible witnesses in place for the ultimate miracle of all of history. Jesus was the only person to ever predict His death and resurrection days later, and then have history play out exactly as He said it would.

Reading about this Sabbath tells me that God can use anyone to help move His plan forward. Even the most unlikely individuals who had no faith and who were completely opposed to the thought of resurrection become a part of God’s plan. They end up being witnesses and the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection, and while they were trying to avoid rumors and speculations from spreading regarding a resurrection, they get the tables turned on them and have to create their own rumor about the heist they were trying to prevent.

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