Many times during the years of His earthly ministry, Jesus promised that He would rise from the dead (John 2:18-22; Matthew 12:39-40; 16:21). His enemies remembered those predictions (Matthew 27:62-64) and were worried that what Jesus said might actually happen.
So, those enemies came to Pilate, asking for a guard to be set at the tomb (Matthew 27:65-66). The Roman ruler granted their request, saying, “You have a guard,” giving them Roman soldiers to watch the tomb. Before the enemies of Jesus left, Pilate added one more thought, telling them, “Make it as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65).
Pilate probably wondered why these religious leaders were afraid of a dead man. He didn’t think of setting a guard himself because he didn’t care. Why would anyone care about the tomb of a convicted criminal? But the religious leaders were more interested in making the tomb secure than the Romans were. They took Pilate’s permission and made the tomb as secure as they could, because it was in their interest to do so.
We know how the story ended. They did their best to make the tomb secure, but it didn’t stop the resurrected Jesus.
They tried to make the tomb secure with a stone, which is a material obstacle. These stones were big and set in a slanted channel. It could not be rolled away from the inside. If enough of the disciples had the courage to come to the guarded tomb, maybe they could roll away the stone. But to do that, they would have to work together, and that didn’t seem likely knowing their history of bickering and competition.
The tomb was also secured by a seal, which was an obstacle of human authority. According to custom, the seal was a rope, overlapping the width of the stone covering the entrance to the tomb. On either side of the doorway, there was a glob of wax securing the rope over the stone. You could not move the rock without breaking the seal. The Roman seal carried legal authority. It was more than yellow tape barricading a crime scene; to break a Roman seal was to defy Roman authority. That stone was secured by the authority of the Roman Empire.
Finally, the tomb was secured by a guard, which was an obstacle of human strength. A typical Roman guard had four soldiers. Two watched while the others rested. The soldiers would be equipped with sword, shield, spear, dagger and full armor. Remember that these were Roman soldiers. They didn’t care about Jesus or Jewish laws or rituals. They were called to secure the tomb of a criminal. To them, the only sacred thing at this tomb was the Roman seal, because if that were broken, their careers were ruined; and they might be executed themselves.
None of these obstacles mattered. They made the tomb “as secure as they knew how,” but it wasn’t secure enough to stand against the glory of the resurrected Jesus:
. Material obstacles can’t stand against the resurrected Jesus.
. Human authority can’t stand against the resurrected Jesus.
. Human strength can’t stand against the resurrected Jesus.
All opposition falls away before our resurrected Lord.