As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.’ If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.’”
Fresh from their encounter with first an angel and then the Lord Himself, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the empty tomb with fear and great joy.
They had been sent on a divine mission to tell His disciples the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Theirs was a mission of peace, hope, and truth so far reaching and profound, it would turn the world upside down!
Simultaneously, a sinister plan was being formed by the priests and elders to suppress the truth of what had actually happened at the tomb.
Their hopes of suppressing the powerful, tradition-shattering teachings of Jesus were realized at the cross (or so they thought). The voice of the One who had exposed them as “graves painted white” to conceal their wickedness was finally stilled by crucifixion. Their bravado was tempered considerably by the troubling events that surrounded His death.
Why had the skies suddenly turned dark, obliterating the sun? Was God pronouncing judgment? Was it really a coincidence that there was a major earthquake, with people actually coming out of their graves? It was unheard of. Worse still, it was an utter impossibility for the Temple’s veil to be torn in two, from top to bottom, yet it had!
Now this: an empty tomb. It was really too much. And so they hatched a plan to bribe the soldiers into saying that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body as the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding the tomb slept. The story was not without risk, for how could any self-respecting soldier admit to sleeping on the job? In the end, the money paid proved too great a temptation, and just as Judas had given in, so did the soldiers.
We cannot escape the fact that the priests and elders were in such an illicit relationship with the Roman governor they could commit to his approval of the plot without even consulting him. That they did tells us the extent of their collusion.
Within certain circles, the lie was successful. Ready ears accepted the implausible explanation despite what His followers declared—the truth that Jesus was alive and well.
We have to believe that at least some of them—priests, elders, and even Roman soldiers—considered the reality of His resurrection. Perhaps they so feared their peers, the religious establishment, or even the Roman rulers, they simply couldn’t give voice to what they knew to be true.
Jesus had died. That was certain. But there it was. He was alive again, defying natural law. It was all so puzzling. Humans who die—and He did die on a Roman cross—don’t come back to life. He was human, without doubt.
He walked and talked, ate and slept, and lived humbly among them. Yet there were credible reports that He was the Son of God—One who could make blind people see, lame people walk, and even raise people from the dead. And yet, such a thing had never happened in human history.
The questions the people of Jesus’ day grappled with are pretty much the same as those of today. Our understanding is based on what we see, smell, and touch. Our hearts and minds are often unable to grasp events and concepts that are so far outside our personal experience there’s simply no frame of reference.
In contrast to people of the first century AD, we actually have a far broader record of Jesus’ life, testified to by countless eye witnesses. Yet people have the same difficulty believing. For many today, the truth simply won’t do.
It’s exactly this concept that prompted religious and governmental leaders to deny the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Beyond the fact that natural laws of life and death had been broken, the consequences of believing were simply too great.
They feared Jesus was truly the Son of God. And if that were true, then all their resistance, teachings against Him, and efforts to publicly expose Him would be revealed as the blasphemy they accused Him of!
What would become of their standing in the Temple? How could they control the masses? Who would look to them for counsel and guidance, for forgiveness? No, at all costs, the truth simply wouldn’t do.
I believe Jesus is who He said He is—the one and only Son of God. I believe when He died on the cross, He took my place and punishment for sin, and He provided my only means of becoming clean, of being in fellowship with God the Creator.
As a consequence, everything about my life changed at the moment I declared my faith in Him. My attitudes, desires, companions, hopes, and dreams were all changed. His Word became my instruction manual, and I’ve followed Him since that day.
My faith walk has been far from perfect. I’ve stumbled and fallen more times than I can count. But He continues to forgive, restore, and redeem. I live in absolute certainty of eternal life in His presence!
But what about the consequences for my unbelieving friends and loved ones, those who have never heard, or those for whom the truth simply won’t do?
- Are you able to put yourself in the place of a priest, charged with teaching people God’s truth, and yet becoming a party to a lie that prevented people from knowing the truth about Jesus? How might you have responded?
- What are the consequences you’ve faced as a result of believing the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection?
- What ways have you discovered to lead those who struggle with the truth of Jesus into His presence?