The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
(Matthew 27:62-66 ESV)
Yesterday we saw how the words of Jesus’ main adversaries trapped them in their own lies and hypocrisy. Nevertheless, God used their sinful deceit against them and to provide indisputable evidence for the very thing they were trying to prevent.
These men had gone to Pilate to request that he order Jesus’ tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal His body and claim that Jesus rose from the dead. They wanted to make sure that Jesus’ dead body remained in the tomb.
Pilate agrees and gives them a guard of soldiers with permission to make the tomb as secure as possible. So they went and secured the tomb by sealing the stone and setting a guard in front of it. By doing this, the Jewish leaders, and Pilate, were making it impossible for anyone to steal Jesus’ body. They were removing any possible suggestion of deception in Jesus’ resurrection.
Today many skeptics want to claim that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. But not only is there no evidence to support this, there is ample evidence to prove it could not have happened. The disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, first of all. And even if they were, there was no way they were getting past the Roman guards who knew they’d be executed themselves if they failed their responsibilities. God sovereignly used the hate of those opposed to Him to protect Jesus’ body from being stolen.
Isn’t it cool how God can use the schemes and doubts of His enemies to bring about His own plans?
One of the coolest of such events involves the East Gate of Jerusalem (also known as the Golden Gate). According to the prophet Ezekiel this gate would be shut and would not be reopened until the Messiah arrived and walked through the gate [Ezekiel 44:1-4]. After Jerusalem was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1187 this gate was walled up by Saladin to prevent the Jewish Messiah from fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy. About 360 years later the wall and gate were rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent at which time the gate was walled up again. It has remained that way ever since, despite some calls to open it.
These Muslim rulers walled up the gate to prevent the Messiah from walking through it. But in doing so they made it possible for Ezekiel’s prophecy – that no one would pass through the gate until Jesus returns – to be fulfilled. When Jesus does return He will set foot on the Mount of Olives, from where He left earth, and will walk west to Jerusalem and enter by the East Gate. It won’t matter that it is walled up. Jesus’ eternal body is not limited by walls [John 20:19].
Ultimately, the powers of this world are only tools in the hand of God. God can, and does, use people who oppose Him to bring about His own plans. Of course, these people are completely unaware that this is the case. The very ones who are against God and are against His children are unwittingly working for God’s glory [Psalm 76:10; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 3:19].
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