The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
Whether or not the lie the guards told helped them to keep their jobs, certainly the truth about what happened at the tomb would have caused a few of their superiors’ heads to roll.
The angel appeared at the tomb and: “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).
Once recovered from their shock the guards reported in. Angels had appeared, rolled the stone away and the body they were so carefully guarding was gone.
If you had heard this story and didn’t believe it, what would your reaction be? If you fired the guards for negligence claiming that they had fallen asleep and the disciples had stolen the body to make it look like Jesus had come back from the dead, the guards would have told the truth and made you look like a fool. So you pay the guards to keep their mouths shut and spread the story that the disciples stole the body while they slept, and make them look incompetent.
For the right amount of money the guards didn’t care if anyone thought they were incompetent.
The story, or course, has holes. The guards should have been fired for falling asleep in the first place. What kind of sleep were those guards sleeping that prevented them from hearing a stone the size of the one blocking the entrance to the tomb being rolled to one side? There was no way such an operation could be done quietly. If they were asleep, how did they know it was the disciples who stole the body? No fingerprints. No DNA from the sweat that would have been expended in moving that stone.
Later, the appearances of Jesus would cause a lot of people to wonder about the truth of the story that was circulated by the authorities.
The religious authorities who had stationed the guards outside the tomb were afraid of what Pilate would say if he found out that Jesus’ body was gone (28:14). As the rumours circulated, the governor probably was informed. Oh to be a fly on the wall when he called for an accounting from those who were supposed to keep that gravesite secure!
What I see here are people lying to themselves. Jesus would appear to more than 500 witnesses before He ascended into heaven. To keep up the pretext that the body had been stolen was a classic case of self-deception. But according to Matthew 28:15, when John recorded the events the story was still being circulated.
How many times do we convince ourselves something is true when it is not?
Everything is fine.
Such-and-such isn’t a problem.
That pain in my chest is just heartburn.
That little “lapse in judgment” isn’t a sin.
And the list goes on.
I wonder how long it took for the men who invented the story and for the guards who told it, to acknowledge the lie. Did they go to their graves insisting that Jesus’ body had been stolen while their neighbours told the story of seeing Him ascend into heaven?
How long will it take you and I to look into the deep recesses of our hearts and admit that everything isn’t fine, such-and-such is a problem, that pain is serious and that “lapse” isn’t a lapse at all but an offense against God that needs to be dealt with?
Hopefully you and I don’t go to our graves dying with the lies on our lips and never knowing that the truth will indeed set us free (John 8:32).