They Gave It Their Best Shot—In Vain

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When Jesus was dead and buried, with a big stone rolled against the tomb, the Pharisees came to Pilate and asked for permission to seal the stone and guard the tomb. Pilate said, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can” (Matthew 27:65). So they did. They gave it their best shot—in vain.

It was hopeless then, it is hopeless today, and it will always be hopeless. Try as they may, people can’t keep Jesus down. They can’t keep him buried. They may use physical force or academic scorn or media blackout or political harassment or religious caricature. For a season they will think the tomb is finally sealed. But it never works. He breaks out.

It’s not hard to figure out: He can break out because he wasn’t forced in. He lets himself be libeled and harassed and black-balled and scorned and shoved around and killed.

I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John 10:17-18)

No one can keep him down because no one ever knocked him down. He lay down when he was ready.

If China was closed for forty years to the Western missionaries, it’s not because Jesus slipped and fell into the tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved 50 million Chinese from inside—without Western missionaries. And when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done.

When it looks like he is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in the dark. “The kingdom of God is like a man who scattered seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, but he knows not how” (Mark 4:26-27). The world thinks Jesus is done for—out of the way. They think his word is buried for good in the dust of irrelevant antiquity.

But Jesus is at work in the dark places: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He let himself be buried—“no one takes my life from me”—and he will come out in power when and where he pleases—“I have power to take it again.” And his hands will be full of fruit made in the dark.

“God loosed him from the pangs of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus has his priesthood today “by the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).

For twenty centuries the world has given it their best shot—in vain. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him in. They can’t silence him or limit him. Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). All things were made through him and for him and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Colossians 1:16-17).

Trust him and go with him, no matter what. You cannot lose in the end.

Awed by his freedom and quiet power,

Pastor John