“And they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:66)
For good reason, God’s people learn to rejoice in adversity and to thrive under persecution.
Fire burns brighter under pressure. Ask any ninth grade physics student.
Sometimes those intent on stamping out Christianity end up assisting it.
Scripture teaches that the opponents of the Lord remembered that He had predicted He would rise from the dead. (Matthew 27:62-63) It appears the wrong guys were taking literally the things Jesus had said! The poor disciples, forgetting the Lord’s promises, were mired down in their sadness and grief, all of it the direct result of not understanding and believing Jesus’ promises..
When the opponents of the Lord went to such lengths to secure His tomb, they inadvertently provided additional evidence for His bodily resurrection. Note their three actions: they made the grave secure, they put a Roman guard in place, and they set a seal on the stone.
The world helped verify the reality of the resurrection by ruling out all the other explanations. Many historians assure us that the only explanation that makes sense and meets all the criteria is Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave!
In order for Jesus’ resurrection to mean all that it should, it’s important to affirm that when He died, He was really dead. (There are foolish theories from people who refuse to believe. The swoon theory is one.) Unless He was truly dead, there was no resurrection and therefore the entire event was meaningless. “But now is Christ risen from the dead!” He was dead. He is risen. He is still up!
One way historians and archaeologists were able to identify the sites of ancient holy places–like the spot in Bethlehem where Jesus was born, the home of Peter in Capernaum, etc.–is that pagan rulers of those early centuries decided to build shrines to their idols above those sites so that Christians could not worship there. In so doing, they were telling future generations of believers where to locate those holy places. We owe them a great deal.
I asked Dr. Dennis Cole, Professor of Archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, for examples of this. He replied:
Foremost are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was built on the site of the Temple of Jupiter by Hadrian (Roman emperor from AD 117 to 138) after the second Jewish Revolt in order to replace the site venerated by local Christians as the place of the crucifixion. Likewise, Justin Martyr speaks of the cave area as the location of Jesus’ birth venerated by local Christians in early Second Century AD, that was then replaced by the Grove of Adonis after the Second Revolt.
I’m remembering how that in the harshest days of Communist Russia, in some areas local atheistic officers were given radio time each week in order to attack Holy Scriptures. What they did not know was that Christians tuned in each week in order to copy down the scriptures they read on the air before they launched into their attack. The Christians, for whom owning a Bible was illegal, were grateful to the enemies of the faith.
I’m thinking of instances in our land where opponents of the Christian faith harassed a church or some preacher and the authorities seemed to turn a blind eye to it. What was unexpected however is that local citizens were watching and were impressed by the Christlike spirit those who were mistreated demonstrated. The harsh opposition of the world gave the believers a chance to shine and the ensuing light led onlookers to the faith.
A believer writes an article or a book that gets wide circulation. Opponents of the Christian faith attack it, causing people who ordinarily would not read such material to pick up the book or article to see for themselves what the excitement was all about. In so doing, some have come to Christ.
So, let us not play the victim card when the world mistreats us. The world is lost, is in darkness, and is acting exactly the way the lost blind can be expected to act, striking out at anything appearing threatening or which it does not understand.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you false for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)