A post Easter reflection.
So we’ve made our way through Easter. How has it been for you? Did you attend a service online, or in person, or step aside entirely from anything organised this year? One way and another it’s been strange circumstances to be retelling and rehearing the Easter story in, hasn’t it? But maybe you, like me, have found yourself noticing something you haven’t noticed before. Maybe that has been because we have come at something that, for so many of us is so familiar, through a different kind of lens this year.
Can I share with you the thing I have noticed? It’s a question.
Why did the Pharisees and Priests (and Pilate) seal the tomb?
In Matthew 27: 62-66 we read that after Jesus has died and been placed in the tomb, the Pharisees and chief priests go to Pilate to ask him to make the tomb secure. They are, they say, anxious that Jesus’s disciples don’t get in to steal Jesus’s body and then claim that he has risen again as he said he would. This deception, they tell Pilate, would be more serious than the first. It would create all sorts of headaches that none of them needed.
Pilate accepts their concerns and grants them a guard of soldiers. He tells them to make the tomb as secure as they can. And so with Roman soldiers and the seal of Rome on their side they head to the tomb, seal it and it is guarded.
But let’s backtrack a moment.
What did they say their concern is? That the disciples don’t get into the tomb to steal the body. I find myself thinking, for the first time this year, that surely Roman soldiers on duty outside would have been enough. If their only concern was keeping the disciples out, wouldn’t those soldiers have been all it took?
They had lived the last crazy years alongside this itinerant teacher, healer, prophet, dealing with the fall out that surrounded him. They had heard what he had said, seen what he had done, known that in his life he had already raised people from the dead. What if his claims were true? That he would rise again? What if his other claims were true? That he was the Son of God? That would be the worst news for these Pharisees, chief priests and, indeed, Pilate.
If Jesus got out it would be the beginning of the end for them.
So they sealed the tomb, with the seal of the Roman Empire. They threw as much weight of human authority as they could at it. Yes, they will keep the disciples out, but they will do all in their power to keep Jesus in too. Just in case.
But they can’t.
And we can’t either.
Do we, at times, try to keep Jesus in the tomb too?
Maybe we have areas in our lives we don’t want him to see, to touch. Maybe we have relationships we don’t want him to be a part of, get in the way of. Maybe we live lifestyle choices we don’t want him to notice, or speak into. Maybe we have views of others we don’t want him to get hold of, to change
To let Jesus out would create all sorts of headaches for us that we just don’t need. Or that’s what it feels like.
And what about our churches, our fellowships. Do we, there, try to keep Jesus in too – using our language, worship styles, attitudes to keep him in a place we feel secure with, comfortable with, are delighted about but which he is, in all truth, bigger than, wider than, deeper than.
It feels important to remember again who Jesus is.
Read these words slowly.
Our shepherd. Our bridegroom. Our friend. Our Saviour. Our advocate. Our beginning. Our end. Our deliverer. Our light. Our hope. Our protection. Our way.
We need not fear him. Truly. So we need not contain him. Indeed, we simply cannot.
In Matthew 28 we learn the measures the Pharisees, chief priests and Pilate took simply, incredibly failed.
This is the Easter Story. Jesus got out. The seal was broken and the stone rolled away.
Can we learn from their wasted efforts, their misguided schemes?
This week I will sit with this prayer. Could you? I will hold it in my head and my heart as I walk out across the fields.
Where do I need to hear from him on this? Where do you?
But that does all lead me to another question.
Did the stone need to roll away?
Maybe that feels a bit rhetorical. But I think it is worth reflecting on.
Can you come back next week and join me as we do just that?