1998-07-30 - On Guard
The Cross Series, Part 46
Matt 27:62-66 Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' 64 "Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. (NAS)
The Pharisees never cease to amaze me. First, they fear Jesus is moving in on their turf. The turf they were protecting was God's not theirs to begin with. There was either no regard for the truth, or they were self-deluded into believing their own stories. They hatched and sprang a plot to kill Jesus after ramming it down Pilate's political throat. They execute the plan with ice cold determination. They witness the death of Jesus. And now, they were afraid of a group of men and women who currently live in fear of their lives in hiding, or they were afraid of a dead man.
Could they have actually feared the disciples stealing the body of Jesus? This august and very political group was leaving nothing to chance. It is a measure of their character, trusting no one at all. I sense disgust in Pilate's voice as well. He granted them the guard as much to get rid of them as anything. It was as though he could no longer stand their presence and would have done whatever it took to dismiss them.
But there is something else there too in Pilate's answer. "… make it as secure as you know how." There is a hint of belief there. If Jesus were to rise from the dead - if Jesus was Who He had claimed to be, then what pathetic little would 16, or 16,000 guards be able to do? Between the dream his wife had sent him a message about, and the conversations Pilate had with Jesus, Pilate had been deeply troubled and done everything he could think of to free Jesus. Could it be that Pilate sensed the real threat to the Council's plan? It was surely not the disciples. Only one had the courage to show himself at the cross. The women could hardly move the stone from the tomb without enlisting some serious help. Jesus was a hot enough potato that raising that kind of help would be difficult.
It is also interesting to me that the Sadducees were not even present. It was done - dead was dead and that was that. The Sadducees were reported to not believe in the resurrection - which as the old joke goes, is why there were "sad you see". For the Sadducees, there was no hope beyond the grave - and certainly no hope of ever returning from the grave. Jesus was no longer a problem.
It would be interesting to hear the alternate stories of the priests who were on duty in the temple when the veil was torn from top to bottom. Both Sadducees and Pharisees alike must have stood agape as the curtain that weighed tons was split - the sound of which would be staggering in its own right. According to tradition, many of those men present believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But human nature is not easy to shake. The men who requested the troops from Pilate were still playing the game of control. They were so focused on their next move in the game that the facts would not be allowed to confuse them. There must be another explanation for the temple veil. Ha!
Are you still playing the game - playing move for move with Jesus? The control the Pharisees sought to maintain in political power was an illusion - a cruel trick at best. They were on guard against Jesus, but for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong places. The Council fought against something they had no control over - Truth. The Truth came in a way they did not expect - and so they rejected it. Did algebra come the way you expected it to come? Would rejecting it change its mathematical principles? Not in the slightest. The idea that truth can be avoided by ignoring it is a terrible pitfall. The facts do not go away or change.
If you are still playing the game, please stop and cut to the chase. An honest evaluation, careful consideration of the events of the resurrection is what Jesus asks of us all. What else would transform the disciples from terrified men hiding in a rented room to men who would be willing to die personally and watch family members die for this Jesus? Be on guard against light dismissals because it is not what you expect. If Jesus is Who He claims to be, the consequences could be eternal.
Lord Jesus - give men and women everywhere the courage to look You in the eye and see You for Who You really are. Then give them the courage to act on what they find. Amen.
Grace & Peace,