Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ Matthew 27:64
U.S. News & WORLD REPORT usually carries articles about contemporary events. On July 2nd, it broke tradition and told of an incident from the past. The magazine related the story of how, way back in 1876, a petty criminal, Big Jim Kennally, wanted to steal the body of President Abraham Lincoln. It was Kennally’s intention to bargain with Lincoln’s body and get one of the members of his gang released from jail.
Stealing a dead body is not something that ever occurred to me, but apparently Big Jim thought the body, unguarded, and buried in an above-ground vault with a single padlock, might be easy pickings. The plan might have worked if Kennally’s men hadn’t made a series of serious mistakes. First, since none of them knew how to pick a lock, they had to saw their way in.
Second, they didn’t realize Lincoln’s coffin, being made of cedar and lead, weighed 500 pounds.
The worst mistake they made was inviting a fellow by the name of Lewis Swegles to help them. An experienced criminal, Swegles might have been just the man for the job, if he hadn’t already been on the police payroll as a paid informant.
Thanks to Swegles, the police were waiting for the body snatchers at the tomb and the plan fell apart. Since that day, Lincoln’s body has received a far greater level of protection. Today it is buried ten feet underground and is surrounded by tons of concrete.
Christians should be thankful that Jesus’ dead body was never considered to be unimportant. Knowing how Jesus had predicted His resurrection, the priests who had plotted the Savior’s murder asked the Roman procurator to “order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his (Jesus’) disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’”
The stone at the grave’s entrance was placed, sealed, and a guard was set in place.
Because those precautions had been taken, Christians know that Jesus’ body wasn’t stolen by His followers. Because those precautions were made, we know that when Jesus’ grave was found to be empty on the third day, it wasn’t because of grave robbers, or rearranging gardeners, or because Christ came out of a coma.
Because those precautions were taken, we know Jesus rose from the dead and all who believe on Him as their Savior from sin and their Deliverer from death are saved.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we give thanks You have used the precautions and safety measures made by those who hated Your Son to give us confidence that He has risen. In His Name, we give thanks. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries