The paranoia escalates.
“The next day, that is, the day after the day of Preparation [for the Sabbath], the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate And said, Sir, we have just remembered how that vagabond Imposter said while He was still alive, After three days I will rise again. Therefore give an order to have the tomb made secure and safeguarded until the third day, for fear that His disciples will come and steal Him away and tell the people that He has risen from the dead, and the last deception and fraud will be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, You have a guard [of soldiers; take them and] go, make it as secure as you can. So they went off and made the tomb secure by sealing the boulder, a guard of soldiers being with them and remaining to watch.”
Matthew 27:62-66 AMPC
During this time crucified victims hung on the cross after their death allowing the animal scavengers to take care of the decaying body which was now a property of Rome. Occasionally Roman authorities granted family members to take the dead body for burial provided the criminal had not been guilty of high treason. This proves the fact of God’s watchful care over the body of His One and Only Son. God had promised that His Son would not see decay. High treason was the one thing the Jewish authorities convinced Pilate to judge Jesus on. Jesus’ body should have been left on the cross. Joseph of Arimethea was not family. Pilate by Roman law should have never released Jesus’ body for burial.
Talk about governmental conspiracy. Now enter the Jewish hierarchy who are clawing their way to secure their position.
The “great stone” that sealed Jesus’ tomb was set on an incline in a channel cut in the rock. This made it easier to seal tombs by rolling the stones downhill. It took several men to roll the gravestone back up the incline. This discouraged grave robbers and kept wild animals out of the tomb.
The Pharisees and Chief Priests were so fearful of an empty tomb that they also had attached a Roman Imperial Seal to the gravestone. This seal was probably made of clay and had a Roman insignia printed on it. It was then attached to the stone by a series of thick ropes strung back and forth across it and securing the seal. Breaking the seal would incur Roman wrath.
Then there was the issue of getting past the guards.
“Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.” Matthew 27:65 NET
If you go looking through art and pictures of the Easter story, more likely than not you will see two guards standing watch of the tomb of Jesus. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These were a Roman Guard unit mixed with Temple guards. Protocol of the time would dictate a minimum of four guards with each man taking three hours of the night watch. It was grounds for court martial If any soldier on guard had fallen asleep.
After Jesus’ resurrection the Pharisees and High Priests circulated a lie.
“While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After they had assembled with the elders and formed a plan, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came at night and stole his body while we were asleep.’ If this matter is heard before the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story is told among the Jews to this day.”
Matthew 28:11-15 NET
See that narrative just doesn’t work for me, but as I go through this part of the Easter Story, I come to realize that’s what fear does to people. It makes you act irrationally. Fear of losing social standing or political standing or religious standing makes you hold onto your position so tightly that you loose your grasp on reality. Worry causes you to have control issues. You try to control your situation instead of allowing God to handle it in His way. Have you ever heard the story of Abraham, Sarah and their maid servant Hagar? Lastly fear makes you lie and thrusts you head long into a conspiracy.
Worry and fear are no good. Trust me I am well acquainted with the worry pit. I’ve dug them many times in my life. I would love to tell you those pits are behind me but I know myself too well. Even as I write I see my shovel in the corner.
“And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:6-7 NET
The word “casting” in that verse paints a poignant picture of what we are really suppose to do with our worries and fears. I don’t ride horses, but I’ve seen my husband and sister-in-law saddling their horses. They carry their heavy saddles right up to the animal and because the horse’s back is so much taller than them they have to heave the saddle up over their shoulders and then sling them across the back of their horse. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not calling Jesus a horse, but I am saying that is how we are to rid ourselves of fear and worry. Heave them up over our shoulders and sling them onto the shoulders of our Savior. It’s one of the reasons Jesus came into our world. He came to carry the sins of the world across His back. Jesus’ shoulders are the only thing strong to handle the world’s problems.
So go ahead get some excercise this day. “Heave ho people.”