How to cover the truth in three easy steps.
Read Matthew 28:11-15
The book of Matthew was written by Matthew to the Jewish population. His viewpoints all reflect this approach. In this section Matthew wants the Jewish people to realize how corrupt they were in their acceptance of Christ. He wants them to know the apostasy of Israel was the final straw. They denied everything about Jesus, they crucified him, and they even denied his resurrection, and that makes this the final straw. Israel will now be required to step aside; Gentiles would now be the people to share the testimony of Christ.
What we have now is the denial of the resurrection and how this played out. Let us dig in.
While the garden was empty from any other witness, Mary and Mary were no longer at the tomb. John and Peter are no longer at the tomb. The angel went back to Heaven and now the guards begin to come to their senses, and they begin to process all that took place. They know for a fact that all the ensuing events happened at the hand of God and that Jesus has in fact risen from the grave. They remember the fear of God and how it struck them down as though they were dead.
As the women go through Jerusalem telling each disciple about the good news of Jesus Christ, the guards also go and tell the “good news”. The guards went to the chief priests, they were after all the ones who initiated the tombs security. It says in vs. 11 “they went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened”. They didn’t leave out a single detail, even though they could not physically move they still were very aware of all the events, they were even aware of the interaction the women had with the angel. They were key eyewitnesses.
Notice also in vs. 11 that is says, “some” of the guards went to tell the chief priests, about 16 guards were present. Not all of them went, at least to the chief priests, they left the scene, but they went their own way. There is debate over which soldiers stood guard at the tomb. Some believe Roman soldiers because Pilate gave permission for the priests to take a guard. Others say the guards were temple police because of this verse right here where they are reporting to the priests.
I think there may have been a mix of the two. A Roman soldier was needed to enforce the Roman Seal placed on the tombs and the temple police would have given the priests more sense of security because they could control them better, which they do.
The soldiers were each very aware of what their position was and what they were to look out for. The chief priests made it clear when they went to Pilate, they were afraid that Jesus would resurrect on the third day, they wanted the guards to be present until the third day. They convinced Pilate that this second deception would be worse than the first. If Pilate thought it was tough ordering Jesus to death, just wait until he rises back to life, there will be riots like never seen before.
The soldiers were given clear instructions, stand guard, don’t move, remain steadfast and what ever you do make sure you remain on high alert on day three, because he is going to come back to life. Watch out for his disciples too, do not allow them to steal his body, if they get to his body, they may steal it from the tomb. They were high alert, very aware of their surroundings, anticipating the worst scenario.
The worst did happen and now “some” of the men, the temple police had to confess what happened to the chief priests. They described the earthquake that struck just as the angels feet impacted the very ground they stood on, they described the angel himself and how strong he was to roll that stone back like it was a piece of fabric, they described the women looking into an empty tomb. They described every detail.
Everyone in this rooms knew for a fact that Jesus was resurrected. If they believed Jesus’ body was stolen, they would have said that right off the bat. Instead they meet with the church elders and devise a plan. The fact that they had to meet to devise a plan is proof that Jesus was resurrected. They had to cover up the truth, they all agree what the truth is, and they all agree to cover it up.
They were right when they told Pilate that the second deception would be worse than the first. Denying that Jesus died and was resurrected and is now alive is a major deception. The men heard the truth, they were given the opportunity to accept the truth and instead they reject it. People don’t always want to hear the truth, especially if it goes against their own personal agendas.
The chief priests meet up with the elders, aka, the Sanhedrin forms an official meeting. They call an emergency meeting. The grave was empty, the body was gone, they have witnesses and they need to decide immediately on the best way to cover this up.
They devised a three-part plan.
The first thing they did was pay off the soldiers, they bribed the soldiers with a large sum of money (vs.12).
The second thing was accomplished with the acceptance of the money. The soldiers were required to report that, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” They were required to tell a lie that made them look life buffoons and to possibly be executed. For a soldier to “sleep” while on any assignment would lead to immediate death, which leads us to the third part of their plan.
The third part is protection, the soldiers accept the money, tell the lie, and they will be protected by the mafia, I mean Sanhedrin. The soldiers are told in verse 14 “If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” They are so arrogant, they have complete control over Pilate, he does what they tell him.
Vs. 15 “So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed”. They took the money and went all through Jerusalem telling person after person that Jesus’ body was taken by his disciples. They repeated this lie over and over, until it was instilled in the belief system of the Jewish people.
Matthew wrote this book about 30 years later and it is recorded that 30 years later the Jewish people still choose to believe this theory. When this topic comes up, they agree, Jesus’ body was stolen from the grave. Fast forward, we are now well into the third century and this lie is still believed by many people.
While Jesus is sending men and women into all the world to preach the truth of the gospel. The Sanhedrin sent men out into the world to preach lies. To this day the lies are being told, just as they are being told the truth is also being told by those who see the truth, understand, and accept it.