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"He is not here: for He is risen"
by Wayne Blank
"So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
The chief priests and Pharisees knew who Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be, and of His statement that He would rise from the dead after 3 days and 3 nights. So, they went to Pontius Pilate and convinced him that Jesus' disciples were about to steal Jesus' body from the Tomb. Pilate then ordered that they officially seal (see Seals) the tomb themselves, to which Pilate also ordered a Roman military guard added. No one could have stolen the body.
"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first."
When Mary and Mary of Magdala went to the Tomb in the early morning of the first day of the week, although the Tomb was still closed and sealed, Christ was not there; He had already risen from the dead just before sunset on the afternoon before and passed through the solid stone of the sealed Tomb (see the Fact Finder question below). An earthquake (an aftershock of the larger earthquake that occurred a little over 3 days before, at the moment of Christ's death, i.e. Matthew 27:51) and an angel opened the Tomb that morning, not to let Christ out, not to let people in to steal His dead body, but to let people in to see that Christ was already gone:
"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
The women weren't the only people to witness that the Tomb was already empty when it was opened. The Roman military guards also plainly saw it. When they thereafter reported to their superiors that the resurrection really happened, the official coverup began. The soldiers were given a large bribe to begin spreading the lie that Jesus' body was stolen while they were all asleep on guard duty (an extremely serious offense for any soldier, then or now; if true, those Roman troopers would not have been around to proclaim their military incompetence, they would have been in a military prison for dereliction of duty, or even executed, as was done to the soldiers who later slept through Peter's escape from prison, i.e. Acts 12:18-19).
"Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done."
Fact Finder: On what day of the week was Christ crucified? On what day of the week was Christ resurrected?