Matthew’s Passion: Guards, guards
40 Blogs of Lent: 39
In 2006 my wife and I holidayed in Nesebar on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. In the Archaeological Museum there is a room dedicated to icons from the churches there. Icons depicting the burial or resurrection of Jesus painted during the occupation of Bulgaria during the Ottoman Empire show guards in Turkish uniform. I wanted to show one of those in this blog to show how we interpret the Bible afresh in our own culture, but was unable to find an image of them online. Instead here is an image of a rock tomb in Jerusalem typical of the tombs of the rich of that time. The poor people would shave been buried in the ground.
I recommend a visit to Nesebar to anyone interested in Christian art, the churches there are full of icons and icon painting is still going on. The island part is full of history.
The Jewish authorities wanted the tomb of Jesus guarded. The idea of Jesus being Messiah was one they wanted to quash early. It would later escalate to threatening the disciples, then to illegally executing Stephen, an administrator in the early and growing Jerusalem church, illegal because only the Roman governor Pilate could order that, on to killing James, one of Jesus’ three inner Apostles. They were desperate that what they saw as heretical teaching should not take off.
God had other plans.
They were unprepared for a Messiah who would suffer, despite writings in the scroll of Isaiah. That God should die was not on their agenda. They were either looking for a military leader who would kick out the occupying Romans or were not wanting the Romans disturbed to maintain peace. Either way followers of Jesus were a threat. That the chief priests were operating with the Pharisees shows that both sides were uniting. That the tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, one of the Jewish council, showed that they were not united.
Pilate must have been perplexed. The Jews had brought Jesus in for sentencing to death, had asked for a notorious criminal to be released, nearly stirred up the mob to riot, one of them had asked for Jesus body for burial, now they are asking for soldiers to guard the tomb. It must have been puzzling. Pilate was having no more to do with these political manipulators.
The man Jesus was dead, this should have been the end of the matter.
God had other plans.
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 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.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Matthew 27 ESVUK
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Image from Wikimedia