When informed by the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus’ day that our Lord had predicted “on the third day I will rise,” Pilate says dismissively, “You have a guard of soldiers; go make it as secure as you can.”
Such instructions may have been the most futile ever given in history, for if “death cannot hold him” then neither can Pilate, a ten cent Roman appointee in a backwater region of the empire called Palestine
But He did rise, and so the updated game plan by the religious leaders was to tell a lie and spin the resurrection as a bumbled plot by the disciples to steal away the body.
But is this rational? Possibly, but if someone stole the body, why were the grave clothes (the linen cloths used in Jewish custom to wrap the body of the deceased) neatly folded to one side, and the cloth that was specifically laid over his face folded and set aside separately from the rest?
Simply put, if his body was stolen (as those who reported to the Jews were told to say), then why would the thief have taken time to fold the linen grave wrappings so neatly?
A poem by Sedelius (as cited by the great Herman Witsius, in his Exposition on the Creed) makes this point well:
Speak, ruthless keeper; answer, guard profane:
your words, I’ll show, are wholly false and vain.
If fast asleep, as you presume to say,
within the grave immu’rd, our Jesus lay,
Till stolen from the tomb by daring hands,
unawed by terror of the roman bands,
whose are these clothes that in the grave remain,
the charge of which, two angels don’t disdain?
Can you suppose the thief would long delay,
judging which might seem the quicker way:
t’unbind the clothes, and strip the body bare,
or seize the sacred corpse without such care?
If thieves make haste, and not one moment lose,
what man of sense or reason can refuse,
that in linen wrapt, tis fully [disproved],
[the myth that] Christ’s body was removed?
The place where the Lord had laid was empty and the clothes folded neatly because he folded them, or the angels with him helped him to fold them, for He was not stolen, nor was his body removed.
He rose bodily from the dead.
He is not here. He is risen. Just as He said.