The Jewish religious leaders inadvertently testified to the death of Jesus by placing guards around his tomb, but is there other evidence of Jesus' death?
Matthew 27:62-65 — Did Jesus Die?
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on Matthew 27:62-65. Listen.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
We met Pontius Pilate a few days ago while reflecting on Jesus's trial. We saw how he gave in to the crowd's demands to crucify Jesus, even though he knew Jesus was innocent. Once we have taken the coward's way out, we often continue doing so, as we see in today's passage. Pilate continues to cooperate with the chief priests and the Pharisees.
These religious leaders, aware that Jesus had said he would rise again after he died, approached Pilate with a request. They ask him to secure the tomb and place a guard to prevent any possible deception by Jesus' disciples. This shows how afraid they were of the potential impact his resurrection would have on their authority.
We can learn a powerful lesson here about how nothing can thwart God's plan. He will often use human scheming to fulfill his plan, as we saw in the case of Judas. And humans will often inadvertently assist in his plans. Sealing the tomb and placing guards testified to the reality of Jesus' death and burial!
What other evidence is there of his death and burial? Plenty, as it turns out! In addition to the accounts found in the gospels written by early followers of Jesus who were witnesses or received information from witnesses, there were both Roman and Jewish sources that refer to Jesus' death.
Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius mention Jesus and his execution. Writing in the first century, Tacitus refers to Jesus' crucifixion under Pontius Pilate in his work Annals. Suetonius briefly mentions the expulsion of Jews from Rome under Emperor Claudius, which might be indirectly connected to Jesus' ministry.
Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews. Though scholars debate the authenticity and later additions to the text, Josephus' reference to Jesus' crucifixion is seen as one of the earliest non-Christian accounts.
Then there were early Christian writings outside the New Testament, such as the letters of Paul and other early church fathers, that also refer to Jesus' death and resurrection. These writings were composed within decades of Jesus' crucifixion and further confirmed the historical event.
Ultimately, believing in Jesus' death and resurrection goes beyond historical evidence and is a matter of faith for Christians. Millions of people have found spiritual significance and transformation in accepting and following Jesus based on their faith in these events. This author/speaker is one of them. He hopes you are too.
May the Spirit be with you.