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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE SEPULCHRE WAS MADE SURE

Matt 27:62-66 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The day of the preparation was always Friday. Because the Jews were forbidden to prepare meals on the Sabbath Day, they had to be prepared the day before. Therefore, these preparations were always made on the day previous to Saturday - the Sabbath Day. "The next day," referred to in the lesson text, must then be the Jewish Sabbath Day. It should be noted here that the Jewish day, we term Friday, ended at sunset, and the Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, began immediately thereafter. No doubt these Jewish leaders thought no time should be wasted in making their request to Pilate regarding the security of Jesus' tomb. With these things in mind, it is doubtful if these Jewish leaders waited until the sun dawned on the morning of that day, but rather went to Pilate immediately after the Sabbath Day began at sundown with their request.

The reason the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate was to warn him of something Jesus had foretold during His personal ministry. They didn't refer the specific time Jesus said it, or if they were present at the time it was said, but it was well known throughout Israel. On a number of occasions, Jesus told the His apostles and the multitudes that gathered to hear Him speak, After three days I will rise again. This, these Jewish leaders told Pilate, was spoken by Jesus; it is what that deceiver said, while He was yet alive. Matthew Henry, in his comments on this scripture, thought it to be extremely hypocritical when these Jews complimented Pilate with the title of "Sir," yet spoke of the promised Messiah, Christ Jesus, as a "deceiver." It seems quite clear that, with the death of Jesus having now taken place, these religious leaders were confident that Jesus was a false prophet and a blasphemer of God, and by His death, the charges brought against Him were now confirmed.

But because Jesus claimed that three days after His death He would rise again, they pleadingly asked Pilate to seal the tomb in which Jesus was buried until the third day. By containing Jesus in the sepulchre beyond three days, these Jews were sure that it would be proof enough to assure the Jewish nation that Jesus was an imposter. The reason they desired Pilate to secure the grave of Jesus was because they thought that His disciples would secretly steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead. They continued their plea to Pilate by saying that if this took place, that is, if Jesus' disciples took His body from the tomb and claimed Jesus had risen, the last error shall be worse than the first.

Indeed, these Jews thought that, by putting Jesus to death, they had put to rest Jesus' contention that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. This, they referred to as the first error. But if Jesus were removed from His grave and His resurrection was proclaimed to the Jewish public, His fame would once again return, His following would again grow, His influence among the people would become greater that before, and the Jewish leaders would lose their influence among the nation of Israel and would condemn them as murderers. This, the Jewish religious leaders contended, would be an error much worse that the first. To avoid this "error of deception," these Jews thought they must take all precautions to assure that the tomb of Jesus could not be opened until after this three-day period had taken place.

Their plea to Pilate was effective. He said unto them, Ye have a watch. A Roman guard was provided by Pilate. But by adding, go your way, make it as sure as ye can, indicates that the guard would be directed by the members of the Sanhedrin so they would have no recourse about the outcome of Jesus' entombment. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Although Joseph of Arimathea had rolled a great stone to cover the door of the sepulchre, as additional security, these Jews sealed the stone in a manner that would reveal if it were opened. As Christians, we are glad that such precautions took place to assure no deception of Jesus' resurrection took place that would have cast any doubt on God's plan of redemption. It is without doubt - Jesus is surely the Savior, the Son of God!