Pilate Sets a Guard

On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. – Matthew 27:62-66.

Summary
The religious leaders remember Jesus’ words that ‘After three days I will rise’, so they approach Pilate to make sure that the tomb is made secure until the third day in case His disciples come to steal Him and claim the resurrection of Christ. Pilate tells them to take a guard of Roman soldiers and make the tomb as secure ‘as you know how’. They secure the tomb, sealing the stone and setting the guard. The way for fraud and deceit is blocked, and the way into and out of the tomb is blocked.

Analysis
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation” (v.62) — This is an obvious reference to the Sabbath. Being in Pilate’s presence and court would have made the Jewish leaders ceremonially unclean and thus unable to participate in the Passover. This very act shows how fearful they were of Jesus and His power and predictions.

“the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together” — It is so ironic that (1) they met at all since they were fierce rivals; (2) it was the Sabbath of Passover week; (3) the Sadducees did not even believe in the resurrection; and (4) they became powerful, though unwilling, witnesses to the resurrection!

“Sir” (v.63) — It is ironic that Pilate is called Kurie (“sir” implying “master”) by these Jewish leaders and Jesus the Lord is called “that deceiver.”

“that deceiver” — Or “that deluded one”. This word (planos) may be literally rendered “wanderer”. It originally referred to the orbit of planets that did not follow the standard pattern of the constellations. The term had a negative connotation in Greek. It was applied to errors or liars.

“After three days I will rise” — Literally, “after three days I arise.” Their apprehension causes Pilate to assign Roman soldiers to guard the tomb. The Jewish leaders knew of Jesus’ predictions (cf. Matt. 12:40; 16:4) and feared them. The disciples were surprised by the resurrection-what irony!

“You have a guard” (v.65) — This is an idiom (i.e., an imperative, not an indicative) for permission to the Jewish delegation for Roman soldiers to guard the tomb.

“go your way, make it as secure as you know how” — There is a bit of sarcasm here (i.e., “as you know how”). These priestly leaders were no friends of Pilate, but they shared a desire of political expediency.

“So they went” (v.66) — This refers to the representatives of the Jewish leadership and the Roman soldiers. These leaders wanted to make sure the tomb was sealed and guarded! Their representatives may even have helped seal the tomb themselves!

“made the tomb secure” — In all probability, it was a string that was stretched across the stone at the entrance of the tomb, which was then sealed with wax on both sides by Pilate’s legal authorities. Archaeology suggests that the tomb of Jesus would have had a cork-shaped blocking stone.

The purpose of the seal was to authenticate that Jesus was dead; therefore, it is evident that His body was thoroughly inspected for proof of death. There is no doubt that Jesus was dead, since His body was examined several times, at it lay in the tomb. An officer from Pilate’s court would have examined Jesus’ body before setting the official seal on the tomb. The chief priests and elders who accompanied the soldiers to the burial site would have viewed His dead body as well so that they could verify that He was truly dead and actually laid in the tomb!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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