Tag Archives: soldiers

The Resurrection

Matthew’s account of the resurrection pays a lot of attention to the soldiers who guard the tomb of Jesus. I think most illustrations of the resurrection in our churches and our books, like the above, follow his account.

There are the soldiers surrounding the tomb, who “became like dead men,”  fearful after an earthquake shook the tomb open and he appeared “like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” (Mt 28, 2-4)

Matthew wants to assure us that his disciples didn’t steal Jesus’ body away after his death. That was a story circulating in his day and it circulates today.  But Jesus really died, Matthew claims, and the soldiers are his proof.

When Joseph of Arimathea asks to take the body for burial, Pilate first called the Roman centurion to certify that Jesus was dead, according to Mark’s gospel. ( Mk 15,44-45) The Romans certify his death.

 The Jewish leaders are worried his body would be stolen and ask Pilate for a guard to watch the tomb for three days. Pilate tells them to put their own guard at the tomb, a further assurance the body wont be taken. Often in illustrations the guards are pictured as Roman soldiers, but they are really the same kind of guard who came to seize Jesus in the garden and take him to the Jewish leaders. (Mt 27,64-66) 

When the guards go to them to report the body of Jesus is missing, they are told to say his disciples stole the body while they were asleep. (Mt 28.11-15)  The evangelist extends his resurrection account to make sure we know this.

Jesus really died, and he really rose again.

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, honoring those who fought in our country’s wars. It was originally called Armistice Day celebrating the end of fighting between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918. The United States lost 116,516 troops in the 1st World War; other countries lost millions more. The wars that followed added to that count.

Our church calendar today celebrates the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, the great 5th century saint, who is remembered especially as the soldier who gave a beggar half of his cloak on a freezing day at the gate of that city. Son of a Roman officer, Martin chose to become a monk, a man of peace, instead of a soldier. He died on a peace-making visit to a squabbling church in the diocese where he had become bishop.

As a bishop, Martin lived a noticeably poor life; he lived and dressed as a poor man, his biographers say.  Poor in spirit, he identified with the poor. Evidently, the beggar he met at the gate of Tours had a lasting effect on him. In a dream that night, Christ told him he was the beggar Martin clothed that day.

It was customary in Europe for farmers to put away meat for the winter on St. Martin’s feast. They were also urged to put away a portion for the poor this day too.

In Martin’s time as bishop, a group of Christians were following a teacher named Priscillian, who was convinced that the evil in the world was so ingrained in life that only severe ascetical practices could root it out. Other bishops convinced the imperial authorities that the leaders of this heretical group should be executed. Their execution marked the first attempt by Christian leaders to stop heresy by killing those suspected of it.

Martin was against the execution. He believed you didn’t deal with people with wrong ideas by killing them; you had to live with them. You need to have a soldier’s heart to do that.

Pope John XXIII was an admirer of Martin of Tours. I think he wrote a thesis about him. After he was elected pope he wanted to go and pray at his shrine. Another soldier of a sort.