Every precaution had been taken. Having crucified Jesus, the authorities wanted absolutely no repercussions. People were still talking about the way in which Jesus allegedly had raised people from the dead. All of these reported incidents undoubtedly encouraged the authorities to forestall any possible fulfillment of the prediction that on “the third day He shall rise from the dead”
(Mark 10:34 NKJV). If His disciples had forgotten, His enemies hadn’t (Matthew 27:63).
The hitherto unused tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as a resting place for the body of Jesus, would have suited the civil powers. A great boulder is rolled across the aperture. Not only can no one enter, but, perhaps more importantly in this particular situation, no one can get out.
Next, the seal is applied. Would anyone dare to tamper with it? All the authority of the Roman Empire is declared in that imprimatur. To see the seal of the Empire would be sufficient to scare off any of the Galilean’s foolhardy followers intent on creating a legend.
The stone said “No Entrance!” It also said “No Exit!” The seal said “No Trespassing!” But, mused the authorities, what if the disciples of Jesus suddenly had a return of courage and banded themselves together to invade the tomb? Well, the legion could take care of that! Some well-armed soldiers could handle the followers of Jesus.
A stone… a seal… soldiers.
And then it happened! The angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). The seal was broken. From the angel there is a triumphant announcement. “He has risen! He is not here” (Mark 16:6).
Now, men need no longer march into the tomb without hope of egress. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is no longer a cavern without exit, but a corridor to a new and everlasting life! The law of mortality which says that every man who is born must die, gives place to a new law of immortality in and through the risen Lord.
Christ is risen! The grave cannot hold Him. Death is vanquished forever. And the truth of it, the fact of it, will echo again and again. Choirs will sing it. Trumpets will sound it. Bells will chime it, and millions of hearts will witness to it. He is risen indeed!
Arnold Brown, Occupied Manger, Unoccupied Tomb