62The next day—on the first day of the Passover ceremonies*—the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. 63They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will be raised from the dead.’ 64So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”
65Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. (Matthew 27:62-66, NLT)
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11As the women were on their way into the city, some of the men who had been guarding the tomb went to the leading priests and told them what had happened. 12A meeting of all the religious leaders was called, and they decided to bribe the soldiers. 13They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you and everything will be all right.” 15So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today. (Matthew 28:11-15, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, we are still in our sins. Hence, if you can disprove the resurrection, you can disprove the entire Christian faith.
The early church could have been squashed before it even got off the ground if the religious leaders did just one simple thing – produce the body of Jesus, thereby demonstrating that Jesus had not risen from the dead but was still resting in the tomb exactly where he had been laid.
The religious leaders were aware of Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead on the third day, so they went to Pilate to secure reinforcements and armed security at the tomb to make sure that the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal the body and perpetuate a hoax on the people.
But as it turns out, Jesus rose from the dead anyway, and with his body now gone, the religious leaders found themselves in an unusual predicament. One option is they could realize that Jesus must be who He claimed to be all along and repent of their hard-heartedness and wickedness that led them to crucify Jesus.
Or they could go the other route, which is to do whatever is necessary to maintain their power and position over the people they lead.
Not surprisingly, the religious leaders chose the second route, which included bribing the soldiers who guarded the tomb to tell people that the disciples had stolen the body while they were sleeping.
The irony of this whole situation is that the religious leaders secured the tomb site in order to prevent the disciples from being able to perpetuate a hoax, but instead, the religious leaders ended up creating and perpetuating a different hoax of their own.
This story – that the disciples stole the body and then claimed that Jesus had been resurrected – is still being promoted today among those who staunchly dispute that Jesus was resurrected.
Though it’s a popular theory that seeks to explain the empty tomb, this story has so many holes in it that it is easily debunked.
First off, if the soldiers were sleeping, how would they know who it was that supposedly stole the body?
Second, how likely is it that all the guards were sleeping at the same time? Given that sleeping while on duty was punishable by death, what is the likelihood that JUST ONE of them had fallen asleep? VERY LOW.
Now what is the likelihood that ALL of them were asleep at the same time? EXTREMELY LOW.
And if they were to have fallen asleep, how is it that the disciples were able to move a HUGE stone (estimated to be at least 2000 pounds or more) without waking any of these guards?
It takes more faith to believe this story than it does to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, removed the stone and emerged from the tomb alive!
In addition to the details of their story not lining up, this explanation also requires us to believe that the disciples, who had all scattered when Jesus was arrested, somehow came together and mustered up the bravery to steal the body of Jesus so that they could perpetuate a resurrection narrative that they not only knew to be false, but that brought persecution upon them and ultimately led to their death.
Most people will do whatever it takes to save themselves from pain and death. It is simply not believable that all the disciples were willing to die for something that they knew to be a lie.
Lastly, this theory doesn’t explain the many post-resurrection appearances Jesus made. It’s reported that after His resurrection, Jesus made multiple appearances to many different people and once appeared to more than 500 people at the same time.
So in the end, we must decide which hoax fits the facts more reasonably.
Is it more believable that the disciples are the ones perpetuating an elaborate hoax that has deceived billions of people over the centuries? This hoax requires us to believe that trained soldiers fell asleep on the job, yet still somehow knew that the disciples were the ones who stole the body.
Furthermore, what was the motive of the disciples’ fabrication? This hoax requires us to believe that these disciples, who were afraid for their lives when Jesus was arrested, suddenly became brave enough to steal the body of Jesus and declare Him to be resurrected to an unsuspecting populace. This elaborate deception resulted, not only in intense ongoing persecution, but ultimately in their deaths.
Or is it more believable that the religious leaders are the ones who perpetuated a hoax for the purpose of maintaining their power and authority over the people? The Scriptures tell us that they bribed the soldiers and told them to propagate the stolen body story in order to explain the empty tomb.
In the end, the religious leader’s hoax is the more likely hoax because the one thing it requires me to believe is eminently believable – that people are selfish and will often go to great lengths to maintain their power and authority over others.
Which of these two hoaxes do you think is more believable and why?
Describe a time when you lied in order to protect yourself? Conversely, when is a time you lied for the purpose of bringing about great pain and hardship?
Given the circumstances, why do you think the religious leaders continued to resist Jesus as the Messiah?
Can you think of a time in your life when your stubbornness caused you to act irrationally? What was the situation? How did you overcome your stubbornness? What happened to help change your attitude?