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Don Stewart :: What Precautions Were Taken to Keep the Tomb of Jesus Secure?

Brought to you with permission of Don Stewart, the Bible Explorer

As we examine the events leading up to Easter Sunday, we discover that certain precautions taken by Jesus' enemies actually give circumstantial evidence to His resurrection. The Bible says the following things about the burial site of Jesus.

What The Bible Says About Jesus' Tomb

The tomb was a new one that had never been occupied.

And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain (Luke 23:53).

No other bodies were there to be confused with that of Jesus.

It was hewn out of solid rock.

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock (Matthew 27:59).

It was near the city of Jerusalem and accessible for investigation.

The Precautions At The Tomb: The Stone, The Roman Seal, And The Guard

The precautions taken at the tomb consisted of three things - the large stone, the Roman seal, and the guard.

1. The Stone

The Bible says that a large stone was rolled in front of the tomb of Jesus.

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away (Matthew 27:59,60).

This stone, not only sealed the tomb, it also would have made it difficult for someone to come right in and steal the body.

2. The Roman Seal

The Roman seal was also placed over the tomb.

And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone (Matthew 27:66).

The seal was sign of authentication that the tomb was occupied and the power and authority of Rome stood behind the seal. Anyone found breaking the Roman seal would suffer the punishment of an unpleasant death.

3. The Guard

A guard watched Jesus' tomb. This was either the Roman guard or the Jewish temple police.

Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone (Matthew 27:65,66).

There is a question as to which one of the two groups was watching over it. The context seems to favor the Roman guard. The Roman guard was a sixteen-man unit that was governed by very strict rules. Each member was responsible for six square feet of space. The guard members could not sit down or lean against anything while they were on duty. If a guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. But he was not the only one executed, the entire sixteen-man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty.

The Religious Leaders Felt Secure

These precautions made the religious rulers feel secure that the excitement around Jesus would soon go away. Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and His frightened disciples had scattered and gone into hiding. They thought that they had won.

The Event That Changed The World

But the story was not over. The Bible says that early Sunday morning certain women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. The stone had been removed, the seal had been broken, and the body was gone. An angel at the tomb asked:

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen (Luke 24:5,6).

They went back to tell the other disciples, who at first did not believe their report.

And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them (Luke 24:11).

However, they were persuaded to look for themselves, and they also found the tomb empty. This caused them confusion. The confusion vanished as the resurrected Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to some other women, and finally to the disciples. After being with the disciples for forty days, Jesus ascended into heaven. Ten days later, the disciples publicly proclaimed to all Jerusalem, and to the world, the fact that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

Summary

Although the religious leaders felt satisfied when they handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified they remembered Jesus' words that He would come back from the dead. Consequently they asked Pilate to make the tomb as secure as possible. This consisted of a guard, either Roman or Jewish, a large stone rolled at the entrance of the tomb, and the Roman seal. However these precautions were worthless when it came to stopping the tomb from being empty on Easter Sunday. The disciples were not able to steal the body - Jesus came back from the dead!

Psalm 138:2

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