While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
(Matthew 28:11-15 ESV)
While the women ran to tell the disciples the news that Jesus had risen from the dead, some of the guard went and told the chief priest all that had taken place. A careful reading of this verse reveals something very interesting.
The guards on duty were Roman. Pilate was their boss. Yet they did not go to Pilate with this report. They went to the Jewish leaders who had requested Pilate guard the tomb.
The penalty for a Roman solider not completing his mission was death [Acts 12:18-19]. If they went to Pilate and reported that Jesus’ body had miraculously vanished and that an angel appeared to them, they would have been put to death. They knew Pilate would never have believed them. But they knew the Jewish leaders would.
The actions of the Jewish leaders show they believed every word of the story. Otherwise, there would be no reason to give the soldiers a sufficient (i.e. large) sum of money and encourage them to say the disciples came at night and stole the body while we were asleep. This lie has multiple holes in it.
First, if the guards were asleep how could they know who stole Jesus’ body? Second, the guards would be risking their own lives by admitting they fell asleep on the job. Third, as we learned previously, the disciples didn’t know where Jesus’ body was buried. Fourth, could the disciples really break the seal and roll the 2-ton stone away without waking up even one of the guards? Fourth, if the disciples did steal the body (which would have been illegal) why were they not pursued and the body recaptured?
And why, many years later, when they were tortured and killed for saying that Jesus rose from the dead did not even one of the disciples recant to save his life?
People invent all kinds of stories that have been spread all around the world to explain away the resurrection. But none of them are reasonable. The truth is that it is easier to believe what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ resurrection than it is to believe any of the alternate accounts. But doing so requires us to swallow our pride.
The dead, decomposing body of Jesus is of no threat to anyone. But the risen, alive body of Jesus is a threat to every political and religious system on earth as well to every individual’s personal liberty. And that is why the Jewish leaders, and people to this day, refuse to believe Jesus rose from the dead. Because admitting the truth about Jesus forces us to believe the truth about ourselves [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23].
So instead people invent and believe stories that can’t be reasonably defended based on the facts that are available to us nor with simple logic. I know. I was once willing to believe any story that opposed Christianity. But I hadn’t taken the time to think them through to see the many holes in them.
Jesus’ body wasn’t stolen. Jesus didn’t swoon on the cross. These stories don’t fit the facts. Nor are they logical. And while the resurrection is certainly miraculous, it is the only rational conclusion.
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