Lie of Lies

Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1-5; 12-1

Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ “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.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

I have a question; why lie? I also have an observation; at first, they told the truth. I also have a hypothesis of which I put forth in my last two missives; God showed grace to the Pharisees and chief priests. And I have a conclusion; nobody wants to change their lifestyle.

For the Pharisees and chief priests, Jesus was a troubler to their religion. Make no mistake, they knew exactly what Jesus was claiming and they wanted no part of it. They loved their religious relics and traditions and they knew that Jesus claimed and end to their lifestyles. They didn’t believe because they didn’t want to believe. They wanted a Messiah to bolster their religion and make it easier for them to be autonomous, without the interference of Rome, Babylon or Assyria. They wanted peace on all four sides to practice their religion uninterrupted and unhindered. Does this sound at all familiar, Americans? Problem; Jesus came to not only interrupt their religion but to wipe it out completely, saving sinners from every tribe and tongue. Jesus came to  drastically change things, for the better. Not just a little bit–a tweak here, a pinch there and little hint of a change over yonder but a total transformation. The good news is, the Good News. The Law could not save anyone, only the perfect Lamb of God could sacrifice Himself to save us. The bad news remains, without faith like Abraham, descendent or not, the wages of sin remain–death. I often feel like the foremost of sinners, based on the context of the Bible. But one thing of which I am sure, I have no possible place in the Kingdom without the blood of Jesus. There is no set of rules, no religious rites or customs of which I could follow, no songs to sing or manual to walk with which would ever make me good enough to enjoy the comfort of Christ. Nevertheless, there is a world outside of my mind, that has hundreds of religions, in which man makes his own way. But there is only one way to God, God himself, taking the form of a bondservant, dying in our stead. Most miss this because they are self-righteous, in their own eyes, doing what is right in their own minds, even if it contradicts their beliefs. We have all done it, myself foremost. It is why I came up with the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where, context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Otherwise I would be able to rip verses out of context, stringing them together and use them to demonstrate how I feel and what I believe. “But what I need and what I believe are world’s apart” -Jars of Clay. Make no mistake, this is more than prevalent in our parishes. Let’s consider the context.

“Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate.” This is one of the most holy days in Judaism, the Pharisees should have been at the solemn assembly, the holy convocation or at home, not working. The chief priests, should have been doing their job at the temple and certainly not commiserating with Pilate. Hypocrisy number one.

“The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.”‘” Notice that the deceivers called the only one who never deceived, never lied and never bore false witness, a deceiver. Hypocrisy number two. They are breaking their law for a second time in as many minutes, bearing false witness against Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus ever said specifically to the ones present that he would rise again after 3 days but he certainly did try. That’s the irony of the situation, they are telling the truth about the claims of Jesus but not believing them, calling Jesus a liar and indicating that his disciples are unscrupulous. Notice what they say next.

“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.” Hypocrisies numbers three and four. Jesus’ disciples were deniers and doubters, at this point in the context. It seems that the Pharisees understood the resurection better than the disciples. There was no reason at all to fear the disciples stealing the body of Jesus to fake a resurection. They also believe that the disciples will cause a greater deception than Jesus did. Problem; Jesus told nothing but the truth and was wrongly convicted, by them. We won’t look back at all of the hypocrisies on the day of days, for time’s sake. Nevertheless, see the sublime string of the scheming Pharisees and chief priests. Notice also Pilate turns it all back to them. Pilate truly believed that he had washed his hands of the matter.

“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.'” Words are an amazing way of communicating. Those who say that a picture is worth a thousand words must not be using the right words. Look at how much information is contained in the few words which Pilate spoke, as recorded by Matthew. The problem is when only a miniscule amount of words are used, we tend to gloss over them. Nevertheless notice; Pilate was unwilling to send his troops to gaurd the grave. Yet Pilate was more than willing to allow the Pharisees and chief priests to use their gaurds to gaurd the grave. We therefore learn that the Pharisees had a gaurd. We see that the Pharisees and chief priests had Pilate’s blessing to seal up the grave to the best of their ability. And we also see that while Pilate was not willing to lift a finger to seal up the grave, he was happy to have them do it and do it well, just in case.

“And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” Hypocrisy number five, six and seven. The grave was outside the city, the Pharisees and chief priests, or at least some of them, would have walked from their homes to the temple, then walked to the praetorium of Pilate’s, and now they are walking outside the city and would have to return home. A Sabbath day’s journey is less than half a mile, or the distance between the temple and the Mount of Olives, according to Acts 1. I am sure that at least one of them walked more than half a mile. They also, “made the grave secure.” Therefore they did work on a Sabbath day. And last but not least, the gaurds remained keeping watch. To the dogmatic disciple of the Law, that’s work. But also, it meant that they would miss the holy convocation of the Passover Sabbath. And there they stood, keeping watch, until early the third day.

“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” It appears that Mary and Mary knew how to keep the Sabbath, unlike the Pharisees and chief priests. For they came to the grave after the Sabbath came to a close but before anyone else, besides the gaurds who had been there since the Sabbath. And besides the angel but we don’t know exactly when he arrived. But we do know that the earth quaked and the stone was rolled away. Not to let Jesus out but to let the witnesses in, based on the context. And when the angel did these things we notice something.

“And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.'” I do believe this was an angel and not Jesus, himself, based on what he says. The angel, in what can only be described as, heavenly, appears like lightning and his clothes are white as snow. Plus, the stone was rolled away and there was an earthquake. We see what happened to the gaurds, they “shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” Is it safe to say that the gaurds somewhat understand the situation? They are shaking and falling down because of the actions and attitude of the angel. They were meant to be in fear but the women were not. “And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” Nevertheless, the gaurds were present. But then everyone goes their way.

“Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”‘” Hypocrisy of hypocrisies and lie of lies. The gaurds were not given hush money by the religious leaders but paid and encourage to lie! Hush money we could understand, maybe. “Here’s your pay, and keep your mouth shut!” But no, these alleged lovers of the Law tell the guards the specific lie to tell. “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.'” How could they all be asleep and still be considered gaurds? Now we don’t know how many gaurds there were but we know Pilate said, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And this is exactly what they did. The exact thing that they did their best to prevent has now become the lie that they tell. If this is not the lie of lies and hypocrisy of hypocrisies, I don’t know what is. And yet we see the grace of God in it.

All the Pharisees wanted was a sign from heaven to prove that Jesus was who he said he was, their long-awaited Messiah. On more than one occasion in Matthew, we see the Pharisees saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” For more on this, read my missive, How About a Billboard? We have read of a myriad of miracles, signs and wonders. But as Jesus kept calling them an “evil and adulterous generation,” he also did promise them one sign, the sign of Jonah. Make no mistake, they knew exactly what Jesus meant, even if it escaped the disciples’ grasp. What they told Pilate is all the evidence we need. And ironically, should have been all the evidence that they needed. Because they made that grave as secure as they knew how and left gaurds there, who witnessed the heavenly sign of Jonah, they should have believed. God did everything exactly the right way for them to believe, and we see this in the context. Jesus was gone, with no possible, mortal way out. Jesus has risen from the dead, just like he said he would. Therefore, in order for them to continue in their unbelief, and to ensure the unbelief of others, they had to come up with the lie of lies.

“And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” ‘And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.”

Why lie? What is the purpose in lying? What is the intended outcome by telling the gaurds to lie and not only this, but also paying them to lie? Let me state this another way; why not simply tell the truth? They didn’t believe, why then would they need to lie? Who could possibly believe their story? Do you see God’s good grace in their experiences? Their lie proves the grace of God because they had to lie. It sounds like circular reasoning but it’s logic 101. Everything that has transpired did so exactly as Jesus said it would, with a heavenly angel thrown in for good measure. Because they had no explanation for what has transpired, other than Jesus being who he said he was, they told the gaurds to lie and that tradition also spread. Notice; “And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.”

Application: Is the risen Jesus in the way of our lifestyle? Is this the reason that the mega-churches are very popular? Do we want Jesus to change our minds and ways of thinking, resulting in a change of behavior or do we desire a Messiah to bolster our health, wealth, happiness and liberty? Do we want to be autonomous from a world with homosexuality, transgenderism, alcoholism, drug abuse, crippling anxiety, violence, racism and sexual perversion, to be free to live our lives they way in which we want without regard for that which Jesus has called us to do? But that’s next time, Lord willing.

Remember, read your Bibles considering the context, aspirations, genre, examples and then divide it rightly. Unless you are learning for yourself you only know what you have been taught. Come to the throne of grace as you are, expecting to be changed.

 

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