Which Hoax Do You Believe?

Matthew 27

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)

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Matthew 28

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.

Reflection

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?

 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

 

 

Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson

Genesis 27

1When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

2Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. 3Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. 4Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like* and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing* before I die.”

5Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ 8Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing* before he dies.”

11Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. 12What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

13His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

14So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.”

20Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.

21Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. 24“Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed.

28May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine.

29May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

30After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.

40You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” (Genesis 27:1-40, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 27, we encounter a situation that demonstrates how our character traits seem to pass on to the next generation.

If you remember, Abraham was not always as honest and faithful as his reputation might suggest. In Genesis 20, Abraham deceives Abimilech, telling him his wife Sara is actually his sister out of fear that they will kill him to get her if they knew she was his wife. I wrote about this passage in my post “Old Habits are Hard to Break”. This wasn’t the first time Abraham had resorted to deception to alleviate his own fears.

In Genesis 25, Isaac also deceives Abimilech (likely a different ruler with the same name due to it being years later). He claims his wife Rebekah is his sister because he fears that because of her extreme beauty, the locals might kill him to take her if they believed she was his wife.

Now, a few chapters later, Isaac is an old man and he can no longer see. He invites his oldest son Esau to go and kill some wild game and make a delicious meal for him so that he can offer him, his oldest son, his blessing, something that was standard in the Ancient Near Eastern culture.

But Jacob and Rebekah have other plans. Jacob has already enticed Esau, his older twin to sell his birthright for a cup of lentil stew and now, with his mother’s help, he deceives Isaac into giving him the blessing that would normally be given to the older son. In this way, Jacob is establishing himself as the heir instead of Esau.

A few things stand out to me as I read this passage. First, it’s interesting to see that Esau has selective memory. He claims that Jacob had deceived him to get his birthright when the truth of the matter is that Esau didn’t care enough about his birthright and willingly gave it to Jacob in order to satisfy his hunger.

The second thing that stands out is that character traits like deception can be passed along to those around us whom we influence. Rebekah, who saw the deception of her husband in Genesis 25 is a willing accomplice, even the author of the deception that Jacob perpetrates on his father Isaac.

Because of this act, Jacob ends up fleeing his home, out of fear that his brother will kill him. This act takes him away from his family for many years.

Fortunately, Jacob is able to re-write his own story, as all of us are. This one incident doesn’t end up defining Jacob. Instead, God ends up giving Jacob a new name (Israel) and a new destiny, the patriarch of a new people who would be God’s chosen people.

Reflection

What character traits, good or bad, have you picked up from your family?

How can you ensure that you limit the negative traits you pass on to your kids?

What are some incidents in your life that haunt you and tend to define you?

How can you allow God to rewrite your story so you are not defined by that one negative circumstance?

 

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Old Habits are Hard to Break

Genesis 20

1Now Abraham moved south to the Negev and settled for a while between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. 2Abraham told people there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. So King Abimelech sent for her and had her brought to him at his palace.

3But one night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married.”

4But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham told me, ‘She is my sister,’ and she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence!”

6“Yes, I know you are innocent,” God replied. “That is why I kept you from sinning against me; I did not let you touch her. 7Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die.”

8Abimelech got up early the next morning and hastily called a meeting of all his servants. When he told them what had happened, great fear swept through the crowd. 9Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What is this you have done to us?” he demanded. “What have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done! 10Why have you done this to us?”

11“Well,” Abraham said, “I figured this to be a godless place. I thought, ‘They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ 12Besides, she is my sister—we both have the same father, though different mothers—and I married her. 13When God sent me to travel far from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Wherever we go, have the kindness to say that you are my sister.’”

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants—both men and women—and gave them to Abraham, and he returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15“Look over my kingdom, and choose a place where you would like to live,” Abimelech told him. 16Then he turned to Sarah. “Look,” he said, “I am giving your ‘brother’ a thousand pieces of silver to compensate for any embarrassment I may have caused you. This will settle any claim against me in this matter.”

17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and the other women of the household, so they could have children. 18For the LORD had stricken all the women with infertility as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife. (Genesis 20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 20, we find Abraham resorting to one of his old habits – deception. Abraham, fearing the locals, convinces his wife to go along with his story that Sarah is his sister, which is technically true, but still deceptive because Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife.

If you’ve followed the story of Abraham, you know that he did the same thing with the Egyptian Pharaoh in Genesis 12:10-20.

In both cases, Abraham feared for his life, thinking that if people knew Sarah was his wife, they would kill him to get her.

Throughout the Bible, Abraham is regarded as a great man of faith, and yet we see him resorting to deception on multiple occasions in order to protect himself.

What are we to make of this?

First of all, Abraham is not innocent. Abimelech pleads his innocence to the Lord, to which the Lord replies, “I know you are innocent….that is why I kept you from sinning against me.”

Secondly, Abraham does not demonstrate much faith in this situation or the situation in Genesis 12. In both cases, Abraham resorts to deception because he’s afraid that the locals will kill him because of Sarah’s beauty.

Yet Abraham had been promised by God that he would become the father of many nations. In fact, God changes his name from Abram, which means “exalted father”, to Abraham, which means “father of many”. In addition, God had promised that his wife Sarah would bear him a son and it would be through that son that his covenant promises would emerge (see Genesis 17).

If Abraham was such a great man of faith, why does he resort to deception to save himself? Wouldn’t a man of faith tell the truth and trust that the Lord would provide? Wouldn’t a great man of faith trust the Lord to save him from the locals instead of taking matters into his own hands?

The reality is that Abraham was just like us. We often see Abraham taking matters into his own hands, as he does in this situation and also when he decided to father a child through his wife’s maid, Hagar, instead of trusting the Lord to provide a child through his wife.

The story of Abraham gives me hope to know that I don’t need to be perfect in order to receive God’s blessing. Abraham doesn’t always demonstrate faith and he often falls into old sinful habits, but he’s regarded as a great man of faith, not because of these incidents, but because of how he responds to the Lord’s leading and direction and how he finishes his life.

Reflection

What are some of your old habits that you are prone to fall back into?

In what kinds of situations do you find it difficult to trust God for the outcome?

What steps or habits can you implement in your life to ensure you are regarded as a person of faith?

 

Photo by Basil MK from Pexels

 

The Consequences of Not Checking Your Facts!

1Now all the kings west of the Jordan heard about what had happened. (These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as the Lebanon mountains.)  2These kings quickly combined their armies to fight against Joshua and the Israelites.

3But when the people of Gibeon heard what had happened to Jericho and Ai, 4they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old patched wineskins. 5They put on ragged clothes and worn-out, patched sandals. And they took along dry, moldy bread for provisions. 6When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.”

7The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.”

8They replied, “We will be your servants.”

“But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?”

9They answered, “We are from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the LORD your God and of all he did in Egypt.  10We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River—King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth). 11So our leaders and our people instructed us, ‘Prepare for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and declare our people to be their servants, and ask for peace.’

12“This bread was hot from the ovens when we left. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy. 13These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and cracked. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our long, hard trip.”

14So the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the LORD. 15Then Joshua went ahead and signed a peace treaty with them, and the leaders of Israel ratified their agreement with a binding oath.

16Three days later, the facts came out—these people of Gibeon lived nearby! 17The Israelites set out at once to investigate and reached their towns in three days. The names of these towns were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18But the Israelites did not attack the towns, for their leaders had made a vow to the LORD, the God of Israel.


In Joshua 9, we see Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites committing a rookie mistake of leadership – check your facts!

The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the desert and when they finally crossed the Jordan river into the land of Canaan, they had a simple directive from the Lord – destroy the cities of the Canaanites who inhabited the land.

At this point in the narrative, the Israelites have removed the cities of Jericho and Ai. The Gibeonites hear about what happened to Jericho and Ai, and fearing for their own lives, they resort to deception to save themselves.

When they arrive on the scene, they tell Joshua and the other leaders that they’ve heard about the Lord’s amazing miracles in delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians and also His deeds in subduing the Amorite kings on the east side of the Jordan River. Cleverly, the Gibeonites make no mention of the recent conquests of Jericho and Ai, for that would likely reveal their ruse.

Joshua’s mistake is revealed in verse 14 where it says that he examined the bread but he didn’t consult the Lord.

How often have you neglected to consult the Lord when confronted with a critical decision or an important issue?

The facts came out just a few days later that the towns of the Gibeonites were close by, only a three days journey in fact.

If Joshua had paused to check the facts before signing the treaty, he could’ve learned that the information he was being fed wasn’t true and that the people were in fact part of the contingent of people that the Lord had directed them to remove from the land.

How exactly would Joshua have checked the facts? He didn’t have Google or Snopes.com.

The Lord was Joshua’s fact checker. Joshua was being directed by the Lord and his unique relationship gave him access to God’s insight and wisdom. But instead of checking with the Lord, Joshua instead chose to rush to judgment.

I see this rush to judgment play out all the time, even today. For example, have you ever received an e-mail from someone that shares some important information urging you to pass it on to everyone you know, only to find out, after checking Snopes.com or some other fact-check website that the information was completely false?

We live in an age of urgency, where people have a desire to be the first to get the scoop or demonstrate to others that we’re in the know. As a result, disinformation is rampant.

This passage reminds me that it’s important to verify information before passing it on and before acting on it. We have lots of tools at our disposal that allow us to verify the facts of a story or situation. When facts are in question or tools aren’t available to help us, we still can consult the Lord and ask for wisdom.

When we rush to make decisions without examining the facts or consulting the Lord, we’re more likely to make rash decisions that we later come to regret.

Reflection

When have you experienced the result of someone who neglected to “check the facts” before passing on misinformation?

What safeguards can you put in place to ensure that you aren’t unknowingly an agent of misinformation?

What are some simple ways you can “consult the Lord” in  your decisions?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe