Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV) The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
The chief priests and Pharisees had two big problems. First, they refused to accept Jesus for who He claimed to be, in spite of His mighty and inexplicable miracles, including such things as healing a man born blind (John 9), and resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days (John 11). They fully believed that when God did send the Messiah, He would do things their way, and would fully agree with their own ideologies. Since Jesus didn’t do those things, they rejected Him as the Messiah, despite all of the other signs that He performed.
Their second problem was that they had no idea of what God was actually able to do. The miracles in their Scriptures had become for them more like a mythology since, as far as they could tell, He didn’t do mighty miracles any more. (The miracles of Jesus they attributed to another source entirely – see Matthew 12:24.) Their religion was not a walk with God in power, but had degraded to dry forms, without any power at all.
Therefore, when it came time to deal with Jesus’ prophesied resurrection, the only means that they could think of that something like that could be pulled off in the “real world” was deception. His students could break into the tomb and steal the body, then show people the empty tomb and claim that He had been raised. It never entered their closed minds or hard hearts that Jesus could actually rise from the dead for real.
So they determined to use the best “real world” solution that they could think of: an imperial guard. When the soldiers of Rome were assigned to guard something, they guarded it with their lives. Pilate was easily persuaded to assign a guard. To be honest, he simply wanted all of this to go away. If guarding the tomb for seventy-two hours would stop all of the lunacy surrounding Jesus, then so be it.
Of course, God is not intimidated by earthly guards, or even whole armies or nations. Despite the fact that these Jewish leaders slept well that night, believing that they had done all that was necessary to prevent Jesus’ “resurrection,” before they woke the next morning, Jesus would be alive, the seal on the stone would be smashed by angelic power, and the imperial guard would be running to the city in complete terror.
Father, You are the Sovereign God, and what You determine to do will be done, no matter who tries to stand in Your way! The mightiest force on earth at the time couldn’t stop Your plan, and the mightiest forces on earth now or in the future can’t stop it either. Thank You for Your mighty power, and for Your ultimate unstoppable plan, which includes eternal life for all of Your people. Amen.