It will never cease to amaze me why those so close to text refuse to accept Truth. Is it not a puzzling wonder why countrymen of Christ should deny their own Messiah? The closing account of the Gospel of Matthew helps us get inside the mind of those who see Christ but remain blind.
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15 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
Five things are mentioned about the report of some of the guards who were stationed at Christ's Tomb and bore witness to the truth that Jesus had risen from the grave - in their unbiased minds, a terrifying earthquake and petrifying angel, beyond any reasonable doubt, had brought the facts of Messianic death and immortality to light.
First the Testimony of the Guards.
Some of those posted to guard the tomb on pains of death freely testified to the miraculous events and facts of the case - the ground shook, the stone rolled, the angel blazed, the guards froze and the tomb had been vacated by the man who was now resurrected.
Second the Consideration of the Guards.
In response to this report, the Sanhedrin was convened so that the elders of the Jews might formulate a response to this predicted turn of events.
Third the Enticement of the Guards.
A decision was made to make a one-off payment to the guards to bribe them to suppress the evidence of Christ's case: in addition, firm instructions were given as to what they should inform any inquiring heart that asked - in the dead of night, while the soldiers had fallen asleep, disciples came and robbed the grave.
Fourth the Assurance to the Guards.
The guards were consoled to learn that, if they would fall in line, no blame would come their way, should news come to Pilate's ears. Not only had the soldiers been corrupted with a bribe - a threat is now implied, that should they decide to repeat unvarnished facts, the council would feel obliged to inform upon their guilt.
Fifth the Compliance of the Guards.
Financially better off, absolved of guilt, the soldiers consented to tow the party line. Council and cohort would sing off the same "hymn sheet" - the official edited version, which was a lying fabrication, was circulated far and wide. The hearts of many souls were blinded by the sulfur-reeking falsehood that wickedly denied that Christ crucified had, in truth, been raised.
It would be unjust to point the finger at a single people group for culpability at this point - Gentiles, also, were complicit in this erroneous act.
Recently, while re-reading the guards report about the Empty Tomb of Christ, I was reminded of the surprise that gripped me while on a houseboat, on Dal Lake, in Kashmir, India, in 1988.
We had been regally welcomed by our most hospitable host, Ahmed. While waiting for the roasting of the duck (which I had innocently commented appeared to be so beautiful), I picked up a anti-Gospel tract: it falsely reported and wrongly suggested that Jesus Christ had never claimed to be the Son of God - appended, in footnotes, were a list of biblical misquotes (drawn from the Gospel According to Matthew, if I am not mistaken). I came to understand later, discussing this with an Indian Missionary, that this erroneous rumor is commonly circulated among the peoples of those places, in order to quell fair consideration of the claims of Christianity.
Both these instances, one from the Bible, and the other from the boat, serve to highlight a disturbing fact. The human heart is deceptively duplicitous - we will resort to any ruse in an attempt to evade the force of truth if it impacts on our sin, exposes our faith as false, or commands we yield our will to Christ, in Gospel repentance and faith. Behind all this activity, of course, is the unseen subtlety of Satan, who employs such lies to blind sinners with their own culpable unbelief.
But both these instances, one from the Bible, and the other from the boat, also teach us how some from a sea of blinded souls might be saved - distorted, mangled, misquotes must be unpicked and correctively explained, while myths and rumors circulated by Gospel deniers need to be exposed as fabrications by preaching Matthew Truth. The principles found in this text should serve both as a "heads up" for pastors and also a "hands up" for God's people - let us ask for humility and honesty to proclaim and practice the Christ-Truth we confess.