Only Matthew tells the story.
After Jesus’ burial, his enemies said to Pilate: “We remember [Jesus] said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised . . . This last deception will be worse than the first.”
There’s a bit of humor here I think. The eleven fled when Jesus was arrested. They were nowhere to be found at his trial (except for Peter and John and one of them denied him). They kept their distance at his crucifixion and locked their doors after his death. Evidencing cowardice during his life, would they become courageous now that he was dead?
Another bit of humor is to be found in the word “secure.” It occurs three times in three verses. Christ’s enemies want the tomb secured. Pilate gives orders to make it secure. The tomb is made secure. At least . . . as secure as it can be made. It would appear even Pilate had a bit of insecurity about the security of that tomb.
Those who know the story cannot help but smile at all this. Not even death can keep Jesus in the ground.
When the temptation to doubt creeps into your life – and it will – and the resultant fear comes hot on its heels, remember this one thing: the tomb is empty, just as Jesus said it would be. Whatever is challenging your life, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead is looking out for those who are his. There is no power that can foil God’s will for the life that trusts in Him. No matter how painful that trusting might become, whether the sun comes up tomorrow or not, a new day will dawn, because the Son is risen.
Only Matthew tells us, once the leadership has Jesus in their hands, that they decided to kill him. Only Matthew tells us of Judas’ repentance, which, oddly enough, results in a burial place for non-Jews. Only Matthew tells us of Pilate’s wife, who proclaims Jesus innocent. It is only in Matthew that Pilate tells us Jesus’ death will be murder – the shedding of “innocent blood.,” and only Matthew tells us of the willingness of the people to be guilty of such atrocity, but to have their children be guilty too. And only Matthew tells us that those who determined to kill Jesus were so concerned that they were making a mistake, that they asked to post a guard so that Jesus could not come out of his tomb.
Of Matthew 27, one scholar writes: “There is terror in this text. The mocking and torture of the innocent and righteous son of God are not intended to make sense, but rather, to shatter sense, to portray the depths of irrational human depravity.” And as you become aware of Matthew’s focus, you see emphasized the injustice of it all.
And you have to wonder: “Where was Jesus’ father?” Where was God? The absence of divine action is underscored by the words of the crowd (also only in Matthew) “He trusts in God, let God deliver him now if he desires him, for he said: “I am the son of God.”
But God is not silent. At Jesus’ death the earth quakes, rocks split open, tombs are opened, and when Jesus is raised, so are many other people. The power of the resurrection is too great to be confined to just one person – even Jesus. Its blessing spills over into the lives of the holy.
The silence of God at times is beyond our understanding, beyond our sense of justice. But as Matthew indicates, it does not signal an unjust, uncaring, or impotent God, but a God whose response is likely to be life-changing.