11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
In verses 11 through 15, the religious leaders tried to justify their condemnation of Jesus by a lie.
Now while they were going,
While the women were on their way to deliver their message to the disciples, Jesus’ enemies plotted to undermine the resurrection message.
behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.
Soldiers reported to the leadership in Jerusalem the simple facts. They did not attempt to explain the situation but reported the bald facts. This would be an outrageous story if it were not true.
When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
The elders gathered together for the last time in Matthew. Their whole case against Jesus was at stake. Their hard hearts were not subject to change. The outcome of this meeting was that they bribed the soldiers to misrepresent what they saw. They gave a “large sum of money” because the lie the soldiers were to tell would incriminate the elders, whose duplicity was evident to all.
saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’
The elders gave the soldiers instructions about the lie they were to tell the public. It is ironic that the thing the elders feared (theft of Jesus’ body by the disciples, the reason they posted soldiers at the tomb) became the story they concocted to explain the empty tomb. Their first lie had to be backed by another lie.
Sleeping on duty was capital punishment under the Roman government. The story was suspect, bringing up the question of how the soldiers could have slept while a large stone was rolled away from the mouth of the tomb.
And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”
The “this” here is the lie the soldiers were to tell the governor (Pilate). If a judicial investigation were to occur, Jewish leadership would offer no complaint against the soldiers.
The words “we” and “you” are emphatic, showing collaboration between the Jewish leaders and the soldiers.
So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
The soldiers did as the Jewish authorities told them. Their fabricated report became widely disseminated among the populace until the writing of the book of Matthew.
Truth needs no lie to support it; truth is self-verifying.
There are those in every generation who attempt to explain away the resurrection of Christ. The swoon theory (that Jesus lapsed into a coma) is a current attempt to rationalize the resurrection, surmising that somehow Jesus unwrapped Himself from the grave clothes and got past the Roman soldiers. We are supposed to believe that, after massive loss of blood and beatings, in extreme weakness He traveled long distances (Jerusalem to Galilee). The Roman soldier was an expert in verifying the death of a person hanging on a cross. Over 500 people saw Jesus at one time, not including His many other appearances. You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time.
The disciples would not have been willing to die for a lie. The idea of them stealing the body is not believable. This theory around today would present serious difficulties if we were to argue its line of reasoning. If Jesus had died never to rise again, it would mean that His disciples committed spiritual suicide. No, the disciples turned from cowards to courageous catalysts because of the resurrection.
No one found His dead body after the resurrection in that small country. If they would have found it, they would have displayed it in fiendish glee, showing the resurrection to be utterly false. Yet their depth of deceit had no limit. Their chicanery was so low that it required multiplied lies.
Resurrection is man’s hope for eternal life. It is the proof that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.