John 20 Bible Study
Matthew records what happened prior to the first verse of John chapter 20.
Matthew 27:62-66 62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Are the chief priests and Pharisees concerned that Jesus
may rise from the dead?
The stated concern is that Jesus' disciples may "come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’" But their logic is flawed since in order for the disciples to make that claim, they will need evidence of Jesus being alive again, not just his dead body being missing. The chief priests and Pharisee may have felt insecure after what they witnessed when Jesus gave up His last breath on the cross.
Why did they go to Pilate instead of just ordering their
own temple guards to guard the tomb?
The disciples of Jesus would have had a rightful claim to Jesus' dead body. At worst, they would have been guilty of stealing a dead body. However, once they "made the tomb secure" by "sealing the stone" with a Roman seal, breaking that seal for any reason was punishable by death. Roman soldiers were not only also better trained than Jewish temple guards, they also would have defended the seal with their lives since failing to do so was also punishable by death.