November 19

Text: Matthew 28:12-14

And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.'  And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble."  (NASB)

Jesus’ missing body posed a huge problem for the Jews responsible for Jesus’ death.  In fact, the precise problem they were trying to prevent (Matthew 27:64) happened.  The potential problem produced by the missing body was enormous.  There simply had to be an explanation that would nullify any claim of resurrection as the explanation.  The solution: bribe the guards NOT to tell what they saw.  Instead, say that while they were asleep (on duty) the disciples stole Jesus’ body.  If confessing they were asleep on duty got the guards in trouble with the Roman authorities, the chief priests could and would protect the guards—there would be no consequences to the guards.

Note that there are at least three things that are seriously questionable about the invented story.

1.   The guards would confess that they were asleep on duty—a serious confession.  (None of them heard the stone being moved?  That is a deep sleep!)

2.   If they were asleep, how could they know the disciples did the stealing?  (People were to believe the guards were so soundly asleep that the theft happened, yet they saw and could identify the disciples?  If they woke up, why did they not stop the theft?)

3.   The guards’ reputations as capable watchmen would be ruined forever!  (No one would trust them with serious guard work again.  The explanation would have long-term consequences for each guard.)

This also suggested there were at least three types of people who would hear about the missing body.

1.   There were those who would regard resurrection to be a believable explanation.

2.   There were those who were undecided but could be persuaded.

3.   There were those who would regard theft to be a reasonable explanation.

Often what seems to be a good but false declaration at first is anything but good later.  This “explanation” did not prevent Christianity from becoming a major religious movement in Jerusalem.

Suggestion for reflection: What convinces you that Jesus’ resurrection was a reality?  (Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.)

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 Copyright 2011 David Chadwell