Have you had a busy weekend or week lately? You know one of those periods where you have so much to do and so little time in which to do it. If you are like me, I send those prayer missiles to God pleading for the ability to accomplish the required workload within the allocated time. Sometimes the workload is self-inflicted and at other times it comes our way without asking. Matthew shows us that the weekend was a busy one for the Religious Leaders. Leading up to Friday they were planning Jesus’ arrest with Judas. They had Jesus arrested the Thursday night. They tried Him twice early on the Friday morning before taking Him to Pilate, coercing the people to call for Jesus’ death. They were at the Cross making certain Jesus died. They called upon Pilate to secure Jesus’ tomb on the Saturday (Passover), whilst on the Sunday (First Day of the Week – The Day of Promise – The Third Day) they concocted a plan that would introduce a lie to brainwash people into believing Jesus did not rise from the dead!
1) Tell a lie.
Mt 28:11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
(1) The message of the empty tomb spread to the Religious Leaders very quickly. What is interesting is that the guards’ message, they … reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. It is fascinating that they reported to the Chief Priests and not their employer, the governor. This report would include the earthquake which these leaders were aware of; the “angels” presence; their (the guards) immobilization as dead men; the stone’s seal was broken and it was moved away by an angel; the empty tomb … Jesus’ missing body; the ladies visit and their interaction with the angel and Peter’s visit to the tomb. It is interesting that they explain everything, even though they are Romans. The Jews would quickly accept an angel’s visit because such events are recorded in their Holy Scriptures. Should they have thought backwards to their nation’s delivery from Egypt, their survival throughout the desert wanderings, their conquering Canaan starting with Jericho’s wall, not forgetting the miracles of Moses, Elijah and Elisha … the angel, open tomb and missing body ought to have been accepted as from God. However, the religious leaders had an ulterior motive.
(2) At all costs they needed to stifle any idea that Jesus rose from the dead because if Jesus is alive they killed Messiah and all the Scriptures that pointed to Messiah being killed, yet rising from the dead would be held against them. So they fabricate a story … actually, they devise a lie. Religious Leaders intentionally broke at least two commandments.
(a) The first is that as “men of God” they represented God in all of life, but especially when fulfilling religious duties
Ex 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
(b) The second is telling lies and making up untruths.
Ex 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
They told the guards to say:
Ex 20:13 “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’”
This is difficult to grasp because if the disciples stole Jesus’ body, the guards were negligent to start with. They should have been at the tomb, awake, on duty as Roman Military men. Sleeping on the job is a serious crime, especially as a military men. It seems as though the Religious Leaders only thought of their own necks whilst the guards would incriminate themselves. Again we need to be extremely cautious because religious leaders could easily manipulate and coerce one to say or do things that could incriminate one … and like these Religious Leaders … they get away with it.
(c) Spiritually dead spiritual leaders are not ashamed to use evil to achieve their intended purposes. In this case … they gave the soldiers a large sum of money. That is bribery! Their own “Law” speaks against it:
Ex 23:8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.”
What appropriate words … not for the guards because they were pagan … but for the Religious Leaders … with the chief priests giving leadership. As one reads:
Ecc 7:7 a bribe corrupts the heart
you realize that it’s not just the recipients whose hearts it corrupted. The initiator’s heart is equally corrupt and in this case it was from the top leadership of the Jewish Nation!
(d) Did the guards escape punishment?
Ex 20:14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.
These religious Leaders were very confident that should the lies they crafted reach Pilate, it would satisfy him. That is, he would believe it as truth and not punish the guard for their neglect of duty … that is, according to the lies they were forced to tell Pilate for the “large sum of money” literally forced upon them by the Religious Leaders. We do not know what happened to the guards but we do know most Jews believed the stories of the Religious Leaders. They denied their Messiah came, was executed and rose again. Once again, be extremely careful not to believe just anything a Pastor or Christian Worker tells you. Be like the Bereans:
Ac 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true
The onus and responsibility is yours to make certain you get the Truth by examining the Word to insure that what you are taught is what God is saying in His Word. From the First Century up to the day in which we live, many fanciful stories have circulate seeking to convince people that Jesus did not rise from the dead. If what they say is true, Christianity is a counterfeit religion and ought to be rejected. However, the New Testament record remains our most credible source for information. Read the post Resurrection accounts in the Gospels. The proof is amazing, helpful and encouraging. One last thought … were these Religious Leaders so spiritually blind that apart from rejecting Jesus, did they think their lies, deceit and corruption would be overlooked by God? The good news is that today God’s people are those following Jesus.
Thank You Lord. Amen.