Sermon – Matthew 27.62-66 (Easter Vigil – 2021)

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,

 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said,`After three days I will rise.’

 64 “Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people,`He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. (Matt. 27:62-66 NKJ)

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Well, the chief priests and Pharisees remembered Jesus’ words. Did the disciples or the women who sometimes accompanied Jesus remember them? If you were there at the time, would you have remembered Jesus’ words?

Those words: “After three days I will rise.”

We didn’t see this hope among Jesus’ followers. We don’t hear any of them encouraging the rest saying, “Hey guys, Jesus said He would rise again on the third day. You remember who He is right. Shouldn’t we believe what He says? Let’s look for Him to come to us on Sunday.” Instead, they embalm Jesus assuming His body was remaining in the grave for the long haul. They were mourning in hopelessness, and hiding for fear of the Jews.

We know that at least the enemies of Christ remembered Jesus’ words. It’s not that they believed the words Jesus spoke. Jesus gave plenty of evidence for the truth of His Words. Signs, even signs which showed His power over death, testified to the truth of Jesus words and His divinity. His words are trustworthy. However, they despised Jesus. They would not believe the words. Despite what their eyes had seen they believed that Jesus was a deceiver, a seducer of the people to get them to follow Him.

Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messiah. His works testified of this. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, He is the Anointed One of God promised in the Old Testament. This the scribes and Pharisees called the first deception. But they killed the Christ. In Jesus’ death they believed that they put that “deception” behind them. Though, that first “deception” would survive if the second “deception” came to pass.

What did they fear was the second deception? Well, Jesus also proclaimed that He will rise on the third day. If His body was missing from the tomb, this would go to show that His word is true. They feared that somehow the body of Jesus would go missing, of course they didn’t believe that Jesus would rise from the dead, but feared that some might steal His body away in order that it may appear that Jesus rose again. They imagined the disciples to be in on this deception. They thought that the disciples would try to steal the body so that it would appear that Jesus rose from the dead.

But why would the disciples seek to deceive? What did they have to gain? We hear that 11 of the 12 disciples died as martyrs. If Jesus’ resurrection was a deception that they were perpetrating, why would they die for it? Would they really die for something they knew was a lie?

There was no conniving going on among Jesus’ disciples. There were no efforts of deception. But there was no faith either.

So Pilate told the scribes and Pharisees to go ahead, take the soldiers and guard the tomb, and not guard the tomb haphazardly, but as secure as they were able. The stone over the mouth of the tomb was sealed, so that there could be no tampering with it. The guards wouldn’t dare allow anyone to break that seal.

And little did the scribes and Pharisees know that by providing this guard, they have only added to the firm certainty that Christ is risen. The guards were set there to prevent deception, but their presence only shows the truth of Christ’s resurrection. There was no deception. Christ’s body was not stolen. It couldn’t have been with the guards there. Neither did His body remain lifeless in the tomb. Jesus miraculously rose from the dead. The guards were not overcome by soldiers, but by angels. And the angels didn’t come to steal the body, but to show that the tomb was empty. That Christ is risen!

If only the disciples remembered the words of Jesus, and not only remembered them like the Pharisees did, but unlike the Pharisees to also believe in His words.

If only they would have believed those words, so that in the midst of their sadness that Jesus, their Lord, died, they could have also have waited with hope that He would rise again.

If only we could remember and believe the words of Christ as we wait for the resurrection of the dead. We fear as though death has won. We are despondent as though all is lost. We worry as though God is dead and is not able to help or save. We refuse to let go of our guilt as though Christ didn’t rise, and His atonement fell short.

But the soldier guard, the angels, and Christ Himself confirms that Christ is indeed risen! They teach us to remember God’s Word and not to doubt it. And so we can have full confidence and joy that death is defeated and life eternal is ours. Our Savior is risen, and we are His, how can we say all is lost. He who gave His life for us, that we may be His, lives and cares for you. The Father who raised His Son from the dead confirms that forgiveness has been won. His wrath was spent, and there is no more for you who are in Christ, but only grace towards you in Christ. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

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