April 17 I Sunday
2 Samuel 1-2
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week…there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone.…The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” —Matthew 28:1-4
Could we imagine the marvellous scene from the opening verse? It is interesting that on the day of the resurrection, the living had become like dead men and the dead man had come to life. The Roman guards, whom the religious elite arranged to guard the tomb from Jesus’s disciples, because they thought His disciples would come steal His body, were some of the first witnesses of the resurrection.
The angels said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who went to the tomb early and also witnessed what the guards saw, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:5-6). Excited by what the angels said, the women ran to tell the disciples.
Now, the guards were left all alone with a real dilemma. They had one job to do, and that was to guard the body of a dead man, but they failed to carry out their orders. The tomb was no longer secure, the body was gone and their fault was exposed. During the New Testament time, for a Roman soldier to fail in his duty was potentially the loss of his life. The lives of these Roman guards hung by a thread. Should they go to their commanding officer, to Pilate or the religious leaders and explain what they had just witnessed? The only other witnesses of the resurrection were the women, and at that time, a woman’s testimony would not be held up in a court of law. The guards had the opportunity to cover this up, roll the stone back over the grave and say, “Jesus is still in there. Nothing happened. I do not know what these women are talking about.”
Yet, Matthew 28:11 tells us, “Some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.” For some, they could not shake what they had seen and heard; they went to the city and testified to the reality of what their own eyes had witnessed. The actions of these guards are a convincing proof of the reality of the resurrection, because these men were putting their own lives on the line, and one would not put their life on the line for a lie.
The first people to go and bear witness to the reality of the resurrection to the religious leaders were not the disciples, but the very guards they arranged to watch over the tomb of Jesus. These guards had no religious or political agenda, but in God’s mercy, He sent them as the first witnesses to the religious leaders.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You amaze me by not only having Your enemies be one of the first witnesses of Your resurrection, but also having them bring this testimony to the religious leaders. Without a doubt, You have resurrected from the grave. Praise You!