The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’” The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.
After three long days in the upper room; after having gone through every possible emotion imaginable, the Apostles are readying themselves to conquer the world for Christ. The world too is preparing itself for battle. Who will win we already know. But who will be saved is an open question.
“You are to say” The soldiers received their marching orders: “You are to say…you are not to think. Now get out of here and spread this news!” What class of men were these soldiers? Were these the highly skilled professional soldiers of the Roman Empire? Were these men the stuff of legends; of honor and valor? No. They were not. They were despised men. Somehow, some way, they had fallen into disgrace with their commanders. It may have been their deceitful tongue or their Mafioso tactics. But no Roman soldier ever volunteered to serve in Israel. To be sent there was a career ender, and these two soldiers, like all the rest of them, tried to make the best of it. They tried to make money from it. Men like these were considered more like bounty hunters, mercenaries, ruthless and worthless; not soldiers. It was easy for them to be bribed. “The elders gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.” Who knows, the elders may very well have given these guys the same thirty pieces of silver that Judas returned. This “blood money” may have passed through multiple hands in a very short period of time. But no matter what people say, a lie, in order to be believed, must be lived. That is what makes a lie so very hard to believe. In fact, it is next to impossible to live a lie for a long period of time. Sooner or later, either the person will crack or the lie will be cracked.
Think about it for a moment. The elders and the soldiers had the upper hand? Didn’t they have the more logical and the more plausible story? And yet, it was not easily believed. Why? How is it possible that the Christian story has become the more plausible, the more believable and the more remarkable story ever told? The secret is in the truth. The secret is in the honesty of the people telling it. People do not believe in stories. People believe stories because they believe the people telling the story. And the Apostles were highly believable. They had much more to lose than to gain. They had much more to gain by going back to their former way of life then to gain by moving forward! People will lie for a large sum of money, but they will not lie for a large cross to carry! All the disciples of the Lord carried a large cross with them wherever they went and for the rest of their lives. Some of them were even nailed to it!
“You are to say” While the soldiers were receiving their marching orders from the elders, two holy (and problematic) women were receiving theirs as well; from the Lord. “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Unbelievable! The Apostles were now being instructed by two women! Two thousand years ago it would have been unheard of. Today, it is more believable than ever! Two thousand years ago the testimony of women would be considered worthless. Today, it is considered precious.
The Christian story is remarkable not only because it stands the test of time, but because it gets stronger and stronger has time goes by.
In fact, we are told, in the Gospel according to Matthew, this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day. Is Matthew referring to the story of the apostles removing the body of Jesus or is Matthew referring to the story that the elders (and soldiers) sold their souls for a large sum of money. Was that the untold story that was being shared by all? How ironic! That appears to be the more plausible one today!
The story brought to you by the elders and the criminal soldiers may make more sense and be much more logical and reasonable than the Christian story. But the problem with their story is the people telling it. They were not very believable, nor were they very charitable back then.
The Lord reminded his followers: “[People] will know you belong to me by the way you love one another.” The same is true with our story: [People] will know you are telling the truth by the way you love one another.
Only if I follow the Lord will I find the Lord. And when I find the Lord, I will find the tomb empty!