Friday, September 13, 2013

New Life ...

The Sabbath had ended while Jesus had rested from His work of our salvation lying in the tomb.  Even in death, the precepts of the law had been maintained.  But with the Sabbath over, and the first day of the week arriving, it was time to resume His work, and go about the business of our redemption.  The darkness was now to give way to a light as bright as the noon day sun.  Angels were sent from the throne of God, angels who had SO longed to intervene to protect their Lord from making the sacrifice He made for love of us.  These angels were now given leave to go before the Roman company who had been assigned to guard the tomb of Christ and roll away the stone, breaking the Roman seal, and preparing the way of the Lord’s awakening.  There would be no resistance.  Mere mortal killing machines trained and hardened in battle, brought up to believe in the reality of gods of war, watched in unison at these beings of light moving the giant stone as if it were a pebble in front of them.  The angels they saw had no fear at all, and seemed bent on reclaiming the dead man in this tomb.  No salary was worth a fight with supernatural beings of strength they could barely comprehend.  They watched, but could not resist.  They bore witness, and knew the penalty for failure, but unlike the Jews, they were unwilling to take on the God of the universe in a dispute.
Then the Roman company from their centurion to their lowliest foot soldier saw the impossible become possible.  The dead man awoke and walked out of His tomb in front of them all.  Many were sure to have recognized Him from the proceedings that they took place in just days earlier.  Some might have woven the crown of thorns; others might have struck Him and mocked Him asking Him to prove His divinity to them.  Still others might have helped drive the nails into His hands, or put the spear through His side.  It is likely these men would have been assigned this heretofore seemingly meaningless grave guard duty, both due to the convenience of Pilate, and to the designs of our God.  For you see, these men were to bear witness to the rebirth of new life.  Their requests for proof of the divinity of Christ were to be answered, in a way they least expected.  Their witness was not designed to be punitive to them.  Christ did not emerge from His grave bent on revenge on these who stood before Him.  He did not come out with sword in hand, nor give the attending angels a command to unleash their fury upon these wicked men.  Generally in a war, this was the custom.  The Romans knew what defeat looked like.  They had seen it in the faces of their enemies.  They knew the losing side lost their lives and their freedom.  And now facing these angels, and their Lord who had returned from death itself – it was the Roman company on the losing side of this war against evil.   But death was not to be their fate.  Like us, Christ was still and only keenly interested in their redemption.  He had just paid the penalty of their sins and ours.  Now was not a time to kill a “former” enemy, but instead to reveal the power of love, and the rebirth of new life.
Each soldier present was to bear witness that death could be overcome by the power of God.  Death was slave to the love of Christ.  Death would not be the permanent condition we find ourselves in.  We can be reborn.  We can come back to life, the life of love Christ intends to give us NOW, and at the end of all things.  New life is to be His gift.  He brings it with Him as He emerges from the grave.  He does not look upon those who wounded Him with hatred, but instead with love and peace, and charity.  The gaze of His eyes, melts the hearts of men who have known only killing, hatred, and the sure knowledge of a certain violent and early death.  The most hardened among them, now see themselves and the deeds they have done in the light of Truth, and the light of His love.  They, like us, recognize the enormity of the pain they have directly caused this Lord because of the deeds we all do by intent.  They, like us, know they deserve death and the pain that precedes it.  But they, like us, see no revenge or anger or punishment in His eyes, instead they see only the most burning love and care and concern, and desire to heal, revive, and resurrect them into a new life.
 Where in any other circumstance, a failure of a mission this size, would have resulted in a mass desertion and exodus to flee for their lives.  In any other circumstance, if they had been taken by surprise by a Jewish mob and had failed at their mission, they would have faced certain death by their masters and commanders.  But not here, not now.  Instead they return to Pilate to bear witness to what they have seen.  And Pilate KNOWS they are telling the truth.  For He too has born witness of the Truth.  He now agonizes over his own role in the condemnation of the son of the only God.  He now shares their collective grief over his acquiescence to the Jewish religious leadership in condemning innocent and divine blood to a death, even if it was only short lived.  He knew before; this was wrong.  He knew before; a God stood before him.  And now 100 soldiers speak in unison and without inconsistency about the arrival of dead bearing new life into the world.  His soldiers are all accounted for; none were killed by this God upon His awakening.  The angels took no revenge.  This was unexpected.  This was different.  The testimony of the soldiers was of the love in the eyes of Christ.  There was a complete absence of hate, a complete absence of malice, a complete absence of self.  The risen God seemed only to long to ease the pain and guilt of this company of men.  Not only for their recent atrocities committed against God Himself, but for the entirety of their lives unto this point.  Christ wanted to free them from their past.  Like us, He wanted to bring the freedom that love offers, and the new life that is the hallmark of this freedom from the past.  He brings us freedom from the people who we have become.
The soldiers face no death sentence for their failure.  Pilate will take no further steps to make the priests happy and continue a war against God.  Pilate instead releases His men and looks to ponder the meaning of the response of love against all the hate he has witnessed.  The priests however, now fully realizing they have lost everything, STILL cling to their desire to maintain religious power over the people.  So they attempt to bribe the soldiers with silver and gold to keep them from talking, or if they speak, to lie and say the followers of Christ simply stole his body in the night.  But their attempts at bribery are misguided.  To admit that kind of failure would be to invite a death sentence for sure.  To wallow in the ways of death, and lies of the past, is to only embrace death.  But the Truth is liberating.  The Truth was believed by Pilate, and could not even be denied by the priests.  The Truth presented the opportunity for something new in their future.  Each of them now had reason to seek out more about this new Truth.  Each of them now wondered how their own lives might be irrevocably altered by their encounter with God.  These men would now take a story into the world and plant seeds with many that would be harvested by the power of His Holy Spirit in later days.  Rome itself would be altered.  Rome itself would be changed.  Rome itself would see love bring a new life.
John, in his gospel, was unaware of these events.  Perhaps he had been busy moving Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his home after the burial.  Perhaps he had been a while getting to the upper room to seek sanctuary from the anger of the priests and leaders.  It was not John, nor any of the others, who would first go to attend to their buried Lord.  Instead it was Mary Magdalene.  The former prostitute and now ardent disciple herself, would find no shame in seeking to attend her fallen Lord.  Mary knew that a company of rough and vile men awaited her at the grave site.  But Mary had spent a lifetime dealing with rough and vile men.  She imagined she could handle herself well enough to do what needed to be done in checking on her Lord.  But John records in his gospel in chapter 20 in verse one … “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. [verse 2] Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.”  Notice Mary did not enter the tomb.  Instead, expecting to find a company of 100 Roman soldiers, she finds none.  Expecting to find a great stone and unbroken Roman seal upon the tomb, the stone has been moved and the seal has been broken.  She immediately assumes, the Romans must have moved Him in the early hours.  She assumes He has been stolen and who knows what they are doing to Him now.  So she runs to tell the others the bad news.
John writes out the response he and Peter had to the news of Mary beginning in verse 3 … “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. [verse 4] So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. [verse 5] And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.”  The adrenal glands of John kicked in to overdrive and he simply out runs Peter to get to the tomb.  But they are not so hyped up as to overcome his fears about encountering the dead, and so John stops at the door of the tomb.  That was close enough for him at the moment.  He continues in verse 6 … “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, [verse 7] And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. [verse 8] Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. [verse 9] For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. [verse 10] Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.”  Notice again, when Peter arrives he sees the grave clothes folded and laid nearly inside the tomb.  John now enters and confirms what Peter has found, no body, and grave clothes folded neatly.  At this point both disciples believe what Mary has said, they have taken His body, and they have no idea where He is now.  The thought of resurrection has still not entered their minds.  And they have missed the obvious clue – if the Romans had taken Him, why would they be so careful as to fold the grave clothes and leave them neatly behind?  The Romans after all, had torn his clothing into 4 parts, and threw dice for His cloak.  Romans were least of all, clean and neat.  But in any case, what was clear, was that Christ was no longer in this tomb.
Given this new turn of events, the disciples are all more depressed than ever.  Peter and John return to their homes, but Mary is so heartbroken she does not even have the energy to do that.  Instead she can move no further, she can take no more, her grief is just too much, and she slinks down to the ground, right where she is and begins to weep.  She sobs for the sadness at the separation from her Lord, the source of life and love.  This is a pain that Christ knows all too well Himself.  For upon the cross, while carrying the stain of our sins upon Him, He too was forced to be separated from His Father for the first time in the history of the universe.  That separation broke His heart and killed Him.  So Christ knows what Mary is feeling.  Despite the universal importance of His mission of our redemption, of even Mary’s redemption, He must delay His work and see to the needs of the former prostitute who lies weeping without shame upon the ground in front of His empty tomb.  So with the universe still hanging in the balance, Christ MAKES time for Mary.  Nothing is more important to Christ than the object of His love and affection, even when the needs of the many seem more important to us, the needs of the one were what His love was all about.  Were we to see it rightly, we would share His priorities and attend to the one sheep in need, with Him in this effort, not waiting for Him to return to the ninety nine.
John records in verse 11 … “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, [verse 12] And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. [verse 13] And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”  Angels were first dispatched to see to the needs of Mary, and when she sees them she reveals her grief is still founded on the idea that Christ remains dead, and has simply been moved to a place she is unable to find.  Mary again is missing the obvious in front of her.  She is conversing with two angels in an empty tomb.  But her grief is clouding her judgment and her sadness is overwhelming her reason.  John continues in verse 14 … “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. [verse 15] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”  She is so grief struck that she does not recognize Jesus though He is standing right in front of her.  She is so overcome with her own beliefs that even upon hearing his voice she thinks He is the gardener, not her Lord.  Sometimes when we become so certain of our scriptural understandings and beliefs in our doctrines, we too are unable to perceive the Lord when He is right in front of us.  We become so dogmatic that we miss His voice, miss the clues, miss the angels, and see only what we believe that denies us the access to the God we profess to follow.  Like Mary we are distracted and overcome by what we think.
Even now, she believes perhaps the gardener moved Christ, or at least might have some idea about where the Romans might have taken Him.  John continues in verse 16 … “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”  Jesus does for Mary, what He must do for ALL of us; He breaks through her stubborn thinking and calls her out by name.  He reveals Himself to her, despite what she believes, despite what she is so sure is the truth, and instead reveals the Truth of Himself to her.  He undoes her entire belief system in a single instant, and reveals to her that New Life is found only within Himself.  The entire sacrificial system and its meaning to Mary is at an end in that instant.  The debates of the Pharisees who spend a lifetime considering the meaning of a given passage of scripture pales in comparison to an instant in front of the living God.  We need not be scholars to experience Christ, in fact, it might be a detriment to think ourselves so wise in the ways of the scriptures.  Better to be Mary, overcome with sadness at the thought of separation from Christ, and as such given a personal revelation of Jesus Himself.  Jesus calls Mary out of the history of her beliefs, and instills within her the only truth that matters, Himself.  Jesus reveals to Mary and us, that salvation is found in Him alone.  He must be our leader.  He must be the cornerstone of our beliefs.  He must bring to us the new life, if new life is what we are to experience.
But then John reveals how much Jesus cares for the needs of just one woman who seeks Him with the entirety of her being.  Jesus proceeds to tell her in verse 17 … “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. [verse 18] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”  Jesus reveals to her, that He has delayed the very work of our salvation to make time to see her and comfort her.  She must not touch Him as yet, because He can carry no stain of our sin before He sees if His sacrifice was enough for our redemption with His Father.  Even though He is unsure if because of carrying our sins He may never again be fully reunited with His Father, He still pauses to see to the needs of just one aching soul.  Instead, He bids her to tell the disciples the incredibly good news of salvation and new life He brings.  He is ALIVE. 
The first gospel commission is given not to men, but to a woman, a woman who had formerly been known as the greatest of sinners, a woman who before had been possessed of demons, and known of many a lustful man.  This woman’s former life was as bad as it gets.  But not her new life.  Her new life was to begin with a direct calling and mission and message from the Son of God Himself, to His most ardent followers.  Mary was to be the first one to carry the gospel to the church itself.  Mary was to be the messenger to those who would later call themselves leaders.  Mary would minister to them.  Mary would be first to lead them.  Mary would attempt to inspire hope in them with the Truth of Jesus Christ.  Christ did not send Mary to His followers because she was a woman, but because she was there, she cared, and she ached to see Him again.  She was willing.  She was faithful.  She obeyed.  And neither did Christ discriminate against her because she was a woman.  Debate over – our sex and our past has nothing to do with our fitness to minister for Christ.  When we are called to new life – ALL can serve as He wishes.
And Mary did as Jesus asked.  She returned to the others and began to share the good news.  But the men she ministered to, held to their own stubborn beliefs.  They would not be convinced by the emotional ramblings of a woman with such a checkered past.  They instead would cling to the grief they held on to.  They would refuse to be made free by the truth of the gospel which Mary would share.  It was not that these men did not hear her testimony; it was that they refused to believe it in their own hearts.  Had they been willing to hear the message of the Lord from the vessel He had sent, there would have been no need for Christ to personally appear to confirm the truth of what Mary had relayed.  But men, then and now, are stubborn.  Men refuse to believe that a woman could be called upon by God to deliver so important a truth.  Further, even today, we believe that the misdeeds a person has engaged in disqualify them from being a vessel of messages of truth.  We associate the person with the message, instead of separating the truth of what they say from the weaknesses of their lives.  Mary was speaking the truth given to her by Christ Himself.  She could not undo what she was, but through Christ, she was called to be something else.  She delivered His message; that He was ascending to His God and their God.  He was ascending to His Father and their Father.  We were being elevated to be considered family with God Himself.  This was incredible news, both then and now, yet men would not hear it from the mouth of a woman.
100 Roman soldiers knew the truth.  Mary had heard the most incredible message from the mouth of Christ Himself.  101 people had seen the risen Lord, alive and walking among us.  The first fruits of His kingdom had given the message of His divinity throughout Jerusalem for 3 days.  The priests knew the truth.  Pilate knew the truth.  But those men who SHOULD have known the truth, and been the first to embrace it, were not convinced by the testimony of others.  They would not hear the message of the one who God had called to take them the good news.  Instead, like the Pharisees, and like us, they clung to their own understanding of scriptures, and what they had witnessed, and refused to accept the testimony of another on the topic.  They, like us, judged the messenger as unworthy, and so refused to accept the truth Christ was trying to share with them and bring them joy in the process.  They, like us, had preconceptions about the roles of women and men when it comes to the preaching and teaching of the gospel.  As such the one who was willing, and the one who was chosen, was ignored by those who thought themselves as leaders and not followers.  They chose to cling to their sadness instead.  So like He had done for Mary, Christ would now need to wipe away the preconceptions of His own followers, and reveal to them, as to us, the Truth of Himself …

Friday, September 6, 2013

Aftermath ...

The darkness remained.  The noise dissipated.  Satan could not believe his own eyes.  He always thought that at some point, Christ in the embodiment of weakened human nature, would find a way to back out of going through with His own death.  Surely God the Father would not permit His most treasured object of affection, to actually die.  Particularly at the hands of this wicked species, who had the special irony of using God’s own religion against Him.  This was beyond the comprehension of Satan that Christ would go through with it, and that God the Father would allow it.
Satan and his band of malcontents had lost a war to this Christ.  They had been kicked out of heaven by this Christ.  They knew He had the power of God, and they knew He could easily stop His own death.  And yet He did not.  Christ submitted His own power, and His own desire for self-preservation, and His own human weakness; for the love He felt for us.  And thus Christ went through with our punishment even unto death.  Having all the power in the universe at His disposal, He used none of it to preserve Himself from suffering our fate, and taking on our well-deserved punishment.  This level of sacrifice, Satan had simply become too degraded to understand.  Seeing that love had no limits; effectively had broken down the purported legitimacy of every argument he had ever made about the character of God, on display to the entire universe.
This loss to the kingdom of Satan was stunning.  Satan had long hoped the misery of mankind over breaking the “laws” of God would somehow inspire the rest of the universe to revolt seeing that God was nothing more than a cruel dictator who took pleasure in the punishment of others.  However, to see that same God, give up everything; to see Him sacrifice His only Son; to see the perfect Son do nothing wrong, but willingly yield up even His own life, to save us from the fate and punishment we deserve stood as a real example of why Satan was wrong.  God did not delight in our punishment, but in our salvation.  And He was willing to die in our stead to prove it.  Satan would make no such gesture.  Satan wanted God dead, but would never be willing to make a similar sacrifice for his own kingdom or cause.  The difference was stark.  The difference was clear.  The character of God had been vindicated to the angelic hosts on both sides of the conflict.  The arguments were over.  The rest of sentient life in the universe could see the contrast of love for others without end, and what happens when love is twisted to only please self.  Satan’s argument had failed.  He had lost.  The contrast of good and evil was decided on that cross.  There was nothing left he could say, and there would be no universal uprising against God.  All Satan would have left now, was to hurt God as much as he could before Satan died.  He would hurt God, but by hurting the thing God loves the most, namely us.
Beyond the unseen realm of universal importance was the aftermath of the death of Christ here in our world.  In perhaps the height of hypocrisy, and self-delusion, the religious leaders who would never be able to remove the stain of the blood of Christ from their guilty hands, attempted to purify themselves, and resume services for the Day of Atonement.  Even while they killed the innocent lamb, the irony of killing the Lamb of God was lost on them.  Even though the symbolism of the blood of the lamb to atone for their misdoings was literally all over their fingertips, they missed the reality of what they had just done to the actual Lamb of God.  Instead they would follow self-proscribed ideas about Sabbath observance.  These same ideas had no founding in the values of God.  It was these ideas that had led to the first conflict with Christ, for Christ had loved and healed someone on Sabbath.  And despite their warnings of Christ not abiding by their own Sabbatical laws and interpretations, He had done it again.  So now, in the aftermath of the death of the Lamb of God, in the year of Jubilee when all property must be returned to its owners, all the slaves must be set free, and on the Day of Atonement itself, the religious leaders went about their traditions uninterrupted by the killing of God’s only Son.
But there was a problem.  Great care was always taken so that only the High Priest, wearing the vestments of his office, could enter the Most Holy place in the temple of God.  No one else was permitted to even look into it, upon pain of death.  The priest actually wore bells around the hem of his garment, and a rope tied to his ankles so that he could be pulled out if the bells stopped making noise in the event of his death.  To enter the presence of God with sin, in an incorrect manner, was to die as sin cannot exist in the presence of God.  It was our sin that separated Christ from His Father, broke His heart, and killed Him in grief.  So while every precaution always had to be taken for this singular annual event, today was markedly different.  The great and heavy multi-layered curtain which separated the Most Holy place of the temple from the Holy place where priests were always about their business was torn by an unseen hand from top to bottom.  Temple worshippers, of which there would never be more than now, some of whom had come to Jerusalem hoping to crown Christ their new Messiah King; could now see the Ark of the Covenant without death.  What is more, the presence of God was NOT to be found in the mercy seat.  Christ in fact, would be at rest in the grave on the Sabbath.
Without the presence of God in the temple, there would be no need for pilgrims to come to Jerusalem any longer to worship.  Without the presence of God in the temple, the control of the priests over the people would be broken.  The worship of God would now reside where it always should have been, in the hearts of men, not in the structures we erect in His name.  It was not as if the priests could cover this truth up.  The curtain was torn in front of witnesses.  It could not be repaired quickly.  And the entire missing presence of God was physically seen by the attending crowds.  The need for further sacrifice of sheep’s blood had lost its meaning.  No more would we need sacrifice to point forward to the death of God in our place.  Instead we would now look backwards at this event.  The sacrificial system had lost its significance.  The directives of God for worship in this regard, had been fulfilled.  They would no longer be required.  And to insure we got that message, the curtain had been torn, and the Mercy seat on the top of the Ark was visibly empty.  The laws of God would transfer their significance from the stone shards within the Ark, to the hearts of believers who would submit to their God and learn to love others.  No longer would the Jewish nation be the preservers of love, for they had given that duty away in the act of killing Christ.  From now on, ALL men would be drawn to the Love that was raised upon that cross.  The mercy seat would find its home in our hearts, as would the love of God, when we like Christ yield our will to the Father in Heaven.
The character of God, and the 10 commandment laws were not broken or done away with by Christ, even in death.  Christ still honored God, and kept His day Holy, resting from His own work of salvation; not taking the name of God in vain; nor dishonoring, nor stealing, nor killing, nor lusting, nor coveting.  In every way, before, during, and after His death, Christ upheld the law that began to define what love is to God and man.  This law was a part of “who” God is, and therefore cannot be abolished without abolishing Love itself.  However, the laws of the temple and its system of worship, the laws of animal sacrifice and atonement; those laws had seen their fulfillment in the life and death of Christ.  They would no longer be relevant, or required.  The annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or to any other city of worship, would be something without significance to God.  We would now be able to find God, by seeking Him from within our hearts.  God would no longer be constrained to be only in one place, in one temple, in one city.  He was free to be everywhere with us, through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.
The universe had been sealed forever.  The worship system of God had changed forever.  And the followers of God became publicly scarce in number.  However, the significance of these events were not lost on all who understood the prophecies and what had just been accomplished.  In the heart of darkness, those who had sought Him in secret now emerged boldly from the shadows.   John records in his gospel in chapter 19 and verse 38 … “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.”  Jesus was dead.  Joseph was one of the religious leadership so Pilate had no problems with having someone dispose of the body.  Next would emerge another follower of Christ who had kept his own allegiance quiet until now.  John continues in verse 39 … “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. [verse 40] Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”  These two men and the attending women would take great care of their Lord after His death.  They would gently clean His body, and perfume it with spices and oils, wrapping it in linens for burial.
The Sabbath was very close, and for convenience there was a garden close by, and a new tomb that had never been used within it.  So John records in verse 41 … “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. [verse 42] There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”  They would place Jesus here, at least for the time being, in order that He might rest and they might all return to Jerusalem for the worship they had grown accustomed to performing.  Perhaps they would join with those who sought shelter in the upper room.  Or perhaps they would bear witness to the first fruits that had emerged from their graves at the death of Christ.  A crop he would take with Him when He ascended to the Father; a harvest of what His sacrifice had enabled.  These long deceased messengers and patriarchs of God, walked the streets of Jerusalem with a singular message about the divinity of Christ; a message that would have a resounding resonance. 
By and large the people were still expecting to see Christ at the ceremonies.  They were anxious to crown Him king.  They were anxious to see the prophecies of the Messiah fulfilled.  They had every hope the Romans would soon be leaving.  But the religious leaders knew that could not be the case.  They knew what they had done.  They began to remember the words of Christ, they understood even before His own disciples did, that He might rise again on the third day.  So they took precautions to insure this could not occur through trickery.  John does not record their request they made of Pilate to place 100 guards at the tomb of Christ.  Pilate must have thought the Jews were completely crazy.  But given the popularity of Christ, there was no sense in seeing a riot break out over the disposition of where Christ was buried.  So he directed guards to place a giant stone in front of the tomb, a stone that required many of his guards to move.  They would place a Roman seal on the stone, so that anyone who dared to break it, would know it was a death sentence for them as well.  Pilate and the Jews who sought him out in this matter, believed they had all the bases covered. 
It would have been unusual for the followers of Christ to try something.  Up to now, they had not demonstrated a wealth of bravery.  Up to now, they had been meek, disappointed, sad, and humiliated.  One of their number had betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver, and ultimately hung himself in despair.  Another had denied even knowing who Christ was three times in a single night.  One of them was a notorious doubter.  One of them a former Roman tax collector and hated by his own people for it.  Most of the rest were simple fishermen with little education, and no fighting skills.  They would be outmatched at His grave by 100 seasoned Roman killers.  These followers were perhaps the most disappointed in the chain of events.  They knew Christ to be God, but they also knew He was dead at the hands of the priests and the Romans.  Like Satan, they could not understand how God would allow this.  Like Satan, they had always figured that power was the ultimate goal, and they knew Christ had it in Him to take power anytime He wanted.  Like Judas, they probably all had hoped He would simply exert that power to avoid death.  They would have.  We would have.   Why didn’t he?
The aftermath was a time of miracles, a time of reflection, a time of rest, a time of change, and a time of taking measures of precaution.   But nothing could prevent what was about to occur …