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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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

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

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Question 3

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 from the dead. The Bible says the following things about the burial site of Jesus, and the precautions taken.

1. The Tomb Had Never Been Occupied

The tomb which Jesus was buried in was a new one; it had never been occupied. Luke records this fact:

He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine cloth. Then he put it in a tomb that had been cut out of solid rock and had never been used. (Luke 23:53 CEV)

Therefore, there was no possibility of confusing the body of Jesus with another body for no other body had been previously placed in that tomb.

2. No Other Bodies Were Placed in the Tomb after Jesus’

In addition no other bodies were placed in the tomb after Jesus was buried. Again, there was no chance for confusion as to where He was buried or which body was His. The body of Jesus Christ was the only one which was in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

3. It Was Hewn Out of Solid Rock

We are told that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was hewn out of solid rock. The Gospel of Matthew describes it as follows:

That evening a rich disciple named Joseph from the town of Arimathea went and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave orders for it to be given to Joseph, who took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth Then Joseph put the body in his own tomb that had been cut into solid rock and had never been used. He rolled a big stone against the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:57-60 CEV)

This fact would make it impossible for anyone to get to the body except through the opening at the front. In addition, the tomb was near the city of Jerusalem and accessible for investigation after the events of Easter Sunday.

4. 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.

The Stone

The Bible says that a large stone was rolled in front of the tomb in which Jesus was laid. Matthew wrote the following:

He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left. (Matthew 27:60 NLT)

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

The Roman Seal

The Roman seal was also placed over the entrance of the tomb. Matthew also records this happening in his description of what occurred. He wrote,

So they sealed it tight and placed soldiers there to guard it. (Matthew 27:66 CEV)

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.

The Guard

A guard watched Jesus’ tomb. This was either the Roman guard or the Jewish temple police. Matthew records what happened in this manner:

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. (Matthew 27:65, 66 NRSV)

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!

These precautions made the religious rulers feel secure that the excitement around Jesus of Nazareth, the One who claimed to be the promised Messiah, would soon go away. Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and His frightened disciples had scattered and gone into hiding. They were nowhere to be found. These religious leaders 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. The Bible says,

The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death. Remember that while he was still in Galilee, he told you, ‘The Son of Man will be handed over to sinners who will nail him to a cross. But three days later he will rise to life.’” Then they remembered what Jesus had said. (Luke 24:5-8 CEV)

They went back to tell the other disciples, who at first did not believe their report. Luke tells us that they thought the women were speaking nonsense:

The apostles thought it was all nonsense, and they would not believe. (Luke 24:11 CEV)

However, they were persuaded to look for themselves, and they too 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.

In sum, the precautions at the tomb of Jesus were placed there to keep anyone from coming and stealing His body. Of course, what never occurred to these enemies of Jesus is that He Himself would personally exit the tomb after His death. Yet this is exactly what happened. Jesus Christ is risen indeed!

Summary – Question 3
What Precautions Were Taken to Keep the Tomb of Jesus Secure?

The circumstances that we find around the burial of Jesus Christ add further evidence to the truth of His resurrection. There are a number of observations which we can make.

First, Jesus was buried in a tomb that had never been occupied. Thus, there would be no confusing of bodies.

In addition, there was no body placed in the tomb after His. He alone occupied the tomb.

Add to this the fact that the tomb was hewn out of solid stone—there was no chance of getting to it except through the one opening.

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 preventing the tomb from being empty on that first Easter Sunday morning. The disciples did not steal the body; Jesus came back from the dead! The precautions taken by these religious rulers could not stop what God Himself did.

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