Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Why does the resurrection matter? The empty tomb proves that Christ has conquered death.
Harry Houdini had all kinds of escape tricks. Once, he was put into a straightjacket and dropped in a river, and he broke free. On another occasion, he was handcuffed and submerged in a huge tank of water, and he broke free as well. Houdini decided to save his best trick for last. He would escape death. He arranged with his wife, Bess, that whoever died first would contact the surviving spouse. Harry Houdini died on October 31, 1926. Bess waited to hear from her deceased husband, but she died without ever hearing a word, disappointed and disillusioned.
Not even Harry Houdini could escape the grip of death, which makes Jesus’ prophecy all the more amazing. In John 2:19-22, He said, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.”
Even though Jesus’ followers had forgotten what Jesus prophesied, His enemies remembered it very well. Look at Matthew 27:62-66. “On the next day . . . the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.’ And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” These Jewish leaders thought the disciples would steal Jesus’ body and claim He had risen from the dead, proving He was the Messiah. So they wanted the Roman government to make His grave secure.
Pilate gave them two things to secure the grave. First, he gave a Roman guard. A Roman guard consisted of 16 men who were trained to protect the tomb, knowing that if they were defeated, they would be burned alive. Pilate also gave them the Roman seal. The Roman seal was a long string across the tomb that was held in place by clay bearing the impression of the Roman signet ring, signifying that anybody who tampered with this grave would face the wrath of Rome.
Why did Matthew go into detail to tell us how Jesus’ tomb was secured? It was to answer the question: What happened to the body of Jesus? The body of Jesus has not been found in 2,000 years. God reached down and rescued His Son from the grave, proving that He conquered death.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Three Reasons the Resurrection Matters” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.