The incomparable English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Every circumstance connected with the life of Christ is deeply interesting to the Christian mind. Wherever we behold our Savior, He is well worthy of our notice….All His weary pilgrimage, from Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross, is, in our eyes, paved with glory. Each spot upon which He trod is, to our souls, consecrated at once, simply because there the foot of earth’s Savior and our own Redeemer once was placed.
“When He comes to Calvary, the interest thickens; then our best thoughts are centered on Him in the agonies of crucifixion, nor does our deep affection permit us to leave Him, even when, the struggle being over, He yields up the ghost. His body, when it is taken down from the tree, still is lovely in our eyes—we fondly linger around the motionless clay. By faith we discern Joseph of Arimathea, and the timid Nicodemus… drawing out the nails and taking down the mangled body; we behold them wrapping Him in clean, white linen, hastily girding him round with belts of spices; then putting Him in His tomb, and departing for the Sabbath rest.”
On the first day of the week, Christ broke the bands of death and rose again. In the words of the angel who was there that glorious morning, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6). It is in every sense of the word, earth’s greatest day.
WITNESS OF THE EMPTY TOMB
After the crucifixion of Christ, Joseph begged Pilate for the body of Jesus, that he might give it a proper burial. Once in his possession, Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the body and placed it in the tomb — they placed the Rock of Ages in a hewn-out rock. Then they removed the object holding the “great stone” in place, allowing it to roll in front of the entrance of the tomb. This stone is estimated to have weighed more than a ton; in fact, it is said that it would have taken the strength of twenty men to move it. According to the Scriptures, there were four believers that day who witnessed the entombment of our Lord’s body: Joseph, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary (Matt. 27:57-61; John 19:38-42).
Shortly thereafter, the Chief Priest and the Pharisees requested that Pilate secure the tomb. This was accomplished by doing three things:
“So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matt. 27:66).
To make the tomb sure meant that the stone would have been removed from the entrance so the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers could confirm the body of Jesus was actually there. Obviously it was present and accounted for, seeing that the soldiers sealed the tomb with the Roman signet. The motto in those days was, “Break a Roman seal, and lose your life.” Finally, they set a watch, which meant sixteen Roman soldiers were posted nearby, four of which were stationed at the door of the tomb. We know for certain that there were more than two soldiers on duty because Matthew clearly states that “some of the watch came into the city” after Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:11,12).
As dawn was breaking on resurrection morn, the air, in all probability, was cool and crisp. When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome arrived at the burial plot, they were amazed to find that the massive stone had been removed and the tomb was empty (Mark 16:1-3). When Peter and John arrived on the scene, they too were puzzled, but eventually realized that the reason the body was gone was because Christ had risen from the dead, as He had promised (John 20:19,20). The secured tomb was empty, which bears witness to the fact that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. Even the unbelieving Roman watch confirmed that the tomb they had been guarding was empty (Matt. 28:11-15).
THE WITNESS OF ANGELS
“And, behold… the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (Matt. 28:2).
It is interesting that, according to the four Gospels, there were two different appearances of the angels on the day Christ rose from the dead. As messengers of God, they announced the Savior’s birth, and now one of them announces His resurrection. But is it possible for one angel to move what Mark calls a “very great” stone (Mark 16:4), estimated to weigh well over a ton? The strength and ability of the angels of God go far beyond our comprehension; they are supernatural beings. For example, in the days of Hezekiah, one angel smote dead 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (II Kings 19:35; Isa. 37:36).
The account given to us by Matthew makes it very clear that the Lord had already risen from the dead prior to the angel of the Lord rolling the stone away from the doorway. You see, the removal of the stone was for our benefit. It was removed by the angel so we could see the tomb was empty. This is why the angel said to the women present that day, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen” (Matt. 28:5,6).
THE WITNESS OF THE LORD
Luke records for us that the Lord showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs —undeniable, irrefutable proofs (Acts 1:3). In addition to the aforementioned witnesses, the Lord was seen by over 500 brethren at once in Galilee (Matt. 28:10; I Cor. 15:6). This was followed by perhaps the most credible evidence of all: He appeared to James and Paul, both of whom rejected Him before His resurrection.
Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, when He saw the resurrected Christ, was similar to that of Thomas, who couldn’t deny his senses and said, “My Lord and my God!” But there’s still another infallible proof for those who believe: He lives in our heart by faith. Amen!