Holy Week - Saturday
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:62-66)
As we pass from Good Friday to Easter Eve there is a flutter of concern amongst the authorities. Jesus had made a claim that he would rise again - what if his disciples decided to fake a resurrection?
It seems to me that Pilate shows remarkable restraint at this point. Surely the question “why” was on his lips. Why would the disciples want to fake a resurrection if they could not produce Jesus himself? Who would be convinced by that? No doubt wearied by the whole business Pilate allows a guard to be set on the tomb, and the Pharisees and chief priests go off about their business.
And so it is that solders carry on playing their role in proving the resurrection took place. They nail the notice “Jesus Christ King of the Jews” on to the cross. They witness Jesus’ death, with one even proclaiming “this man truly was the Son of God”. They confirm Jesus’ death when they are sent out to break his legs, and then pierce his side with a spear to make doubly sure. Then they guard the tomb so that we can be sure that no-one interfered with the corpse lying inside.
As we pause and wait for Easter morning it is soldiers who are setting the scene. Not Jesus’ disciples, not the women who supported his ministry, but soldiers. We need have no doubt that as the sun sets on Easter Eve that Jesus lies dead within a sealed and guarded tomb.
The scene is set.