Examining Official Policy on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Matthew 27:62-66; Matthew 28:2-7 & 11-15
       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.
       And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as now: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.
       Now, when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The chief priests apprehended that if the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection be once preached and believed, the last error will be worse than the first―a proverbial expression, intimating no more than this, that we shall all be routed, all undone. They think it was their error, that they had so long connived at His preaching and miracles, which error they thought they had rectified by putting Him to death.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Had He not risen again, they might have justly said, we know that this man was an impostor.

MATTHEW HENRY: But if people should be persuaded of His resurrection, that would spoil all again…That which really they were afraid of was His resurrection, [and] His enemies did what they could to prevent His resurrection.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): All imaginable care taken to prevent a cheat in the case.

MATTHEW HENRY: They sealed the stone; probably with the great seal of their sanhedrim, whereby they interposed their authority, for who durst break the public seal?

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The guard was to take care that the disciples should not steal him away…So every thing was done which human policy and prudence could, to prevent a resurrection.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): And now they seemed to dance on Christ’s grave, as thinking themselves cock-sure of Him.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): They little thought what they were doing; they little thought that unwittingly they were providing the most complete evidence of the truth of Christ’s coming resurrection. They were actually making impossible to prove that there was any deception or imposition. Their seal, their guard, their precautions, were all to become witnesses, in a few hours, that Christ had risen.

MATTHEW POOLE: Vain men! As if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead, could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the truth and belief of it to all the world. So doth God take the wise in their own craftiness, and turn their wisdom into foolishness, and that He may set His King upon His holy hill of Zion.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): See how they promote His design by opposing it, and fulfill His will by resisting it!

MATTHEW HENRY: We have here the confession of the adversaries that were upon the guard; and there are two things which strengthen this testimony―they were eye-witnesses, and did themselves see the glory of the resurrection, which none else did―and, they were enemies, set there to oppose and obstruct His resurrection.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Some of the watch, having recovered from their fright, came into the city to report the startling scenes they had witnessed. It is noteworthy that they did not go to Pilate; they had been placed at the disposal of the chief priests, and therefore the soldiers went to their ecclesiastical employers, and showed unto them all the things that were done. A startling story they had to tell; and one that brought fresh terror to the priests, and led to further sin on their part. For money Christ was betrayed, and for money the truth about His resurrection was kept back as far as it could be.

MATTHEW HENRY: Large money―probably a great deal more than they gave to Judas.

C. H. SPURGEON: The lie put into the soldiers’ mouths was so palpable that no one ought to have been deceived by it: Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

MATTHEW HENRY: This was so thin a lie as one might easily see through.

ADAM CLARKE: On one hand, the terror of the disciples, the smallness of their number―only eleven―and their almost total want of faith; on the other hand, the great danger of such a bold enterprise, the number of armed men who guarded the tomb, and the authority of Pilate and of the Sanhedrin, must render such an imposture as this utterly devoid of credit.

MATTHEW HENRY: A sorry shift is better than none, but this is a sorry one indeed. The sham was ridiculous, and carried along with it its own confutation. If they slept, how could they know any thing of the matter, or say who came? If any one of them was awake to observe it, no doubt, he would awake them all to oppose it; for that was the only thing they had in charge.

ADAM CLARKE: Is it likely that so many men would all fall asleep, in the open air, at once? Is it at all probable that a Roman guard should be found off their watch, much less asleep, when it was instant death, according to the Roman military laws?

C. H. SPURGEON: A Roman soldier would have committed suicide sooner than confess that he had slept at his post of duty.

MATTHEW HENRY: If really these soldiers had slept, and so suffered the disciples to steal Him away, as they would have the world believe, the priests and elders would certainly have been the forwardest to solicit the governor to punish them for their treachery; so that their care for the soldiers’ safety plainly gives the lie to the story.

C. H. SPURGEON: The chief priests and elders were not afraid of Pilate hearing of their lie; or if he did, they knew that golden arguments would be as convincing with him as with the common soldiers…This lie, which had not a leg to stand upon, lived on till Matthew wrote his Gospel, and long afterwards. Nothing lives so long as a lie, except the truth.

J. C. RYLE: In an age of abounding unbelief and skepticism, we shall find that the resurrection of Christ will bear any weight that we can lay upon it.


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