Vainly They Seal the Dead – An Easter Meditation

sb-logo-rfpaFrom the April 15, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer we find this edifying meditation on Matt.27:62-66 from the pen of Rev. James Slopsema (emeritus PRC pastor). The title is taken from a line of the familiar resurrection hymn “Low in the Grace He Lay,” and is titled “Vainly They Seal the Dead.”

Believing that every Sunday is a remembrance and celebration of Jesus’s Christ’s victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave, we may again fill our minds with thoughts of His triumph on this Lord’s Day.

A significant watch!

This watch of the Roman soldiers was significant in that it was used by God further to substantiate the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection is of greatest importance. It is God’s seal of approval on Jesus’ atonement at the cross. It is God’s pledge that He will one day also raise us up from the grave as He did Jesus. And we need a living Savior who can from heaven shower upon us the blessings of the cross for our salvation, beginning with a spiritual resurrection of our dead hearts. As the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church, if Christ be not risen, then is our faith vain and we are yet in our sins. (I Corinthians 15:17)

But Jesus’ resurrection was so different than any resurrection before. His resurrection was not a return to this life to remain here a little longer and then to die again. His resurrection was an advancement from the earthly to the heavenly. His mortal, perishable body became immortal and imperishable. His flesh and blood body, adapted to live here on the physical earth, was changed into a spiritual body adapted for heavenly glory. This is why no one saw Jesus rise from the dead. Earthly eyes cannot behold the heavenly.

But because the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is so important for our salvation, God left behind many infallible proof of the resurrection. There was the empty grave discovered by the women. There were the grave clothes left undisturbed, through which Jesus had simply passed. There was the explanation of the angels to the women that Jesus is risen as He said. And then there were the ten appearances of the risen Jesus to His disciples in the forty-day period between His resurrection and ascension into heaven. These all were necessary to convince the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection.

But now with the Roman soldiers set to watch Jesus’ tomb there is something added. To let the women in to discover the empty grave, the Lord sent an angel from heaven to role away the stone that sealed the grave. Not only did the soldiers witness this, but it terrified them so that they became as dead men. After gathering their wits they returned to Jerusalem to inform the Jewish leaders of what had happened. This only verified the truth of the witness of the disciples to Jesus’ resurrection. Even Jesus’ unbelieving enemies had concrete proof of Jesus’ resurrection.

The unbelieving leaders would not accept the fact of the resurrection, even in the face of clear proof. In fact, they paid the soldiers money to spread a false report that, while they slept, the disciples stole his body. That and other preposterous lies have been perpetuated by the unbelieving world to explain away the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. The unbeliever will accept the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion. But he will not and cannot accept the fact of His resurrection. This is because Jesus’ resurrection exposes his unbelief for what it is. It is an evil and foolish rejection of the greatest reality of history – God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

Let us by faith embrace and confess the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

By that faith we will find the great salvation of God.