1996-05-30 - The Great Coverup
Matthew 28:11-15  Now, while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.  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."  And they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this story is widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
There are several ideas that strike me right away. This is after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, where He has broken the power of Death and Hell for all time. He has made a narrow way for man to escape. The enemy now is crippled and knows defeat, and yet as if self-deceived, a misinformation campaign is begun. Maybe the situation can be salvaged.
The leaders of the Jewish nation, who should have been able to recognize the miracles of Christ miss the last and greatest sign. Jesus appears to Mary in the garden, when she needs Him most, in her moment of abject suffering. A group of angels announce the victorious return of their Master. The highly trained, skilled Roman guard of 16 men fall as if dead, paralyzed by fear. They have quite a tale to tell, but who do they report to at this time? Do they report to their Commander? They have failed at their post. So, not unlike you or me, they go looking for help. The hearts of the leaders, rather than seeing the power of God, tell the Guard to lie to their superiors.
It is a foolish lie at that. To be caught asleep on duty would mean that all 16 men would be executed horribly. The very idea that the disciples -- eleven scared, unarmed men -- would be able to secretly move a stone weighing several tons and remove a body unnoticed And, if they were unnoticed, who would know it was them? Off all the eleven, only John was present at the cross. So, they accept a bribe. Another court martial offense. And finally, they accept the promise of these master story tellers, who promise to bribe their Commanding officer to protect them. So, they place at least the career, if not the life, of their commander in grave jeopardy. These are hardly the actions of the character expected of elite troops. The burial wrappings where still laying on the stone slab, empty of their contents. The napkin that covered the face of the Lord was folded. These are hardly the actions of sneak thieves.
And we hold all of these men in contempt somehow. But, are we not all capable of the same foolish treachery? The old man within us is our worst enemy. He chaffes against the life of Christ we seek, even after we count him dead. We seek comfort and protection when we fail. And if we do not turn to our Master, or one of His trusted ambassadors, to report the problem, we will most likely be presented with this type of tempting advice. And the world has bought the lie. "The disciples took him!" They fight, just as the enemy fights to maintain the life-view they have formed. And we often blow the chance to do or say some kindness, and instead beat them with our Bibles, and stand amazed when they flee 'the good news'.
The Good News is so very simple. God loves you, right where you are. All of our faults and failures included. He accepts us. No changes are required before acceptance, no tests or tricks to perform. All the changes that come from that time on, will be for our good and done with as much love and care as possible. Work? The work is all done. Cost? The price is paid. The only requirement is that we finally put down our pride and admit that we can not do it all ourselves and we need help. Are we perfect after that? No, but we are being made perfect a little bit at a time. So, be patient with each other.
Lord Jesus, Please help us to see the tricks of the enemy for the lies they are and keep our focus on Your truth. You are the Victor and have happily shared that eternal victory with us. Help us to remain humble, and grateful that we may clearly reflect Your grace, mercy and love to a world that is deceived. Make the difference clear and desirable in our lives and hearts. Amen
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.