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Have you ever heard the little ditty about "Habit"? They were Roman soldiers.
They were independent of both the disciples and the Jewish leaders.
The guards probably saw this as a routine assignment.
They had their routine, which kept them both awake and alert.
Nothing suspicious would escape their attention.
"You can take off the 'H' and you still have 'a bit.'
You can take off the 'Ha' and you still have 'bit.'
You can take off the 'Hab' and you still have 'it.' "
Could be that this is why it is so hard to get rid of a bad habit.
Of course, there are good habits.
We should strive to develop good habits.
Tradition is another word that causes us to cringe.
We see it as being locked in to the old and have an unwillingness to change.
That can be bad, but not always.
Tradition is the set of habits passed on from one generation to another.
In most cultures the habits and traditions associated with death and mourning
have as their purpose to help the relatives and friends of the deceased come to terms with their loss.
Habits and traditions reflect the beliefs of people about this life and the life to come.
They will provide a familiar routine for a period disrupted by grief.
Soldiers have a routine to follow.
It helps them to cope with the common tasks and the unexpected crisis.
At the request of the chief priests and the Pharisees,
the tomb of Jesus was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers.
They were told to guard the tomb "so that his disciples will not be able to steal the body,
and then tell the people that he was raised from death" (Mt.27.64).
A three-ton stone covering the opening sealed the tomb and sealed with the great seal of the Roman Empire.
The guards knew what was expected of them.
The seal was legal evidence that the tomb had not been tampered with by anyone.
They were there to ensure that nobody removed the body.
The routine was fine, but then something happened out-of-the-ordinary!
The earth shook with the force of a violent earthquake.
Then they see this dazzling angelic creature appear And roll the stone away, and then, sit on it.
None of their training prepared them for this!
They were scared stiff and "trembled and became as dead men."
They heard an angelic message, "He is not here;
He has been raised, just as He said."
They had done everything required of them.
Their procedures had been letter-perfect.
The breaking of the seal on the tomb occurred at this point and revealed that the body was already gone!
Some of them hurried into the city with the news.
But where should they go?
If they went to the Roman superiors, that would be bad.
Would their story be believed?
Their lives could be at stake!
So they went, instead, to the Jewish authorities, and reported the extraordinary happenings.
So, the chief priests framed their plan.
They were relieved that these men had come to them first!
They were determined to stop that news then and there!
So, the men were given a large sum of money to say that the disciples of Jesus had stolen His body.
Sleeping on duty was punishable by death, but they must have convinced the soldiers
that they would back them up.
When the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, there were women
watching the proceedings.
Matthew names "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" as being at the tomb. (27.61)
They had good reason to watch.
They had their traditions and routines to follow too.
Jesus was put to death on the eve of the Sabbath - and it was a Passover Sabbath.
There was no time to complete all the burial procedures before the Sabbath begun.
Besides wrapping the body in linen cloths, spices, myrrh and aloes must be prepared
to complete the embalming.
It would be necessary to come back after the Sabbath.
The Sabbath finished, of course, on Saturday evening, but it was early Sunday morning
when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary returned to the tomb to complete the embalming.
When they neared the tomb, an earthquake shook the ground and they saw the angel of the Lord
come down, roll the stone away and sit on it.
The angel spoke to them, "You must not be afraid!
I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said.
Come here and see the place where he was lying.
Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from death, and now He is going
to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!'
Remember what I have told you."
So they hurried off to tell the news to the disciples!
On the way, Jesus himself met them.
The same Jesus who had been put to death so cruelly on the cross is alive!
On the third day He rose victorious over death and sin!
He is both Saviour and King!
They couldn't make the tomb strong and secure enough to stop Him rising!
The earthquake and the angel only confirmed that He was already alive from the dead!
The guards and the women were just doing their duty.
They were following the routines set down for them by generations of custom and practice.
But in the course of doing their duty, this great extraordinary event unexpected
had interrupted their routine.
The guards found that they were guarding an empty tomb, and the women found that
their embalming spices were unnecessary!
Jesus is not dead - He has been raised!
What have you been doing this past week in the course of your duty?
Where will does your duty take you this week?
As you go through this coming week, let this extraordinary fact sink into your awareness -- Jesus is not dead!
Jesus is alive!
Jesus is alive!
He is here in this place!
Invite Him into your heart if you have never received Him as your Saviour!
Sermon By Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org