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. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (verses 11-13)
What on earth were these leaders thinking? How could they be so willfully blind?
They knew Jesus’ prediction of rising from the dead well enough that they had asked Pilate for a seal on the tomb and soldiers to guard it, lest someone try to manufacture the appearance of a resurrection by stealing the body and perpetrating a hoax.
But now, by the soldiers’ own testimony, something entirely different has happened – something completely unforeseen. The grave site was hit by an earthquake, and in that same instance an angelic being descended from heaven, looking like lightning, startling the soldiers out of their wits, and singlehandedly rolling back the weighty stone.
The body of the crucified Jesus was now missing. The occurrence should have stopped the chief priests in their tracks, causing them to question their previous convictions. Indeed, it should have led them to heartfelt repentance for their unbelief. But it didn’t. Instead, they persisted in denial, turned their eyes away from Jesus, and manufactured their own hoax by claiming the disciples had done the very thing the chief priests had been predicting all along.
But they knew it was a lie. What on earth were they thinking?
We live in a day when any inconvenient truth is labelled “fake news.” It seems this ruse was invented two millennia ago. These men circulated a false story concerning the disciples’ purported grave-robbing expedition, in hopes it would be so readily accepted that the true story could later be labelled “fake.” They didn’t want to be confronted with the resurrection of someone they themselves had caused to be crucified.
But they knew it wasn’t true. What were they thinking? Clearly God was at work. They themselves knew enough of the true story that it should have been obvious. But they suppressed the wonder.
No matter. The story of Christ’s resurrection could not be held down. It transformed the dispirited disciples. It took root through their proclamation of Good News. It spread on the highways of the Roman world, through succeeding years and centuries, through printed words in many tongues, on airwaves and internet connections, in one-on-one conversations and mass meetings. The story had legs. It raced to be told. It could not be suppressed.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!
Lord Jesus, you are the Risen and Glorified One. May the word go forth. May you use your people to live it and breath it. May the Good News touch many lives. You are risen – you are risen, indeed. Hallelujah.