Today is a grave day. Not because I’m sad, not because anything has happened or that it is dismal and gray outside. On the contrary it is absolutely beautiful outdoors. The sun is shining, it’s warm out, and the spring leaves and flowers are becoming fuller. It is a grave day because today is the 2nd day in this Easter season. It is the day Jesus’ body was in the tomb, the large stone secured and sealed because the Jewish leaders feared it would be rolled away in the night by Jesus’ disciples. The Jews feared a resurrection conspiracy and had spoken with authorities to ensure that it was not only sealed but guarded by soldiers.
So I have been contemplative today, wondering what that 2nd day in history was really like. It was a bleak day for those whose lives were forever touched by Jesus, and an anxious day for his haters. Regardless, all of them were wondering if what Jesus said he could do (raise the broken temple, literally and figuratively) would really happen. So I turned to an online bible and looked for passages that talked about the crucifixion and resurrection and found something entirely different to wonder about.
In Matthew 28:2-4 it says that after the Sabbath day “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” Yet later on in Matthew 28:11-15 it says “While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.”
OK, what happened here with the Roman guards? They witnessed a powerful earthquake and an angel descend from they sky. The angel was obviously very “angel like”, supernatural enough to freak the guards out and cause them to faint. How would an experience like this affect a person truth wise? How can a person not believe something God-sized has just occurred? I’m sure that “some of them” did, because the verse says that “some of the guards” went to tell the religious leaders (chief priests) what had happened. To me, this implies that “some of the guards” stayed behind, and by further and perhaps liberal implication, I believe those particular guards may have at that point believed that Jesus was really the Son of God and had truly raised from the dead.
But I’m disturbed by the actions of the other guards who gave their report to the chief priests. These are the ones I assume that, while scared to death, didn’t believe the spiritual truth and ramifications of what they had witnessed. And for whatever they believed about what had happened before their very own eyes, they sold the truth in order to save and enhance their own lives. By accepting the Jewish leaders’ “large sum of money” to lie and tell people that a scam had taken place by the disciples taking the body from the grave, they sidestepped rebuke from their superiors for “slacking on the job” and letting this happen, plus that “large sum of money” was surely enough to live comfortably for a long time.
After witnessing a miracle, a God-sized event, not to mention a supernatural being, they sold the truth. For self-protection and provision they sold the truth. Wow.
But don’t people do that today? How many people witness God doing miraculous things, yet they don’t buy the truth of it? Like a surgeon who watches a patient clearly, scientifically, medically doomed suddenly have test results that come back stating a clean bill of health. Or a person living a completely “hell-bent” life suddenly coming in to work radically changed, talking about how Jesus changed his or her life, talking crazy madman spiritual stuff that is as foreign to that person as another language. Or a personal God experience, like hearing or seeing something that seems so clearly from God, or hearing a message and feeling so heavily the strong urge within to say “yes”, to respond, to believe and receive the thing so badly yet inexplicably desired?
There are countless examples of God-works throughout our lives. And there are just as many “bribes” offered to us to sell the truth of what we’ve witnessed or experienced. Sometimes it really is money and the protection and provision it brings. Some people would rather live comfortably than to risk anything that might compromise the layers of security carefully constructed by meaningless but oh so useful ‘green paper’. Some would rather sell the truth to keep relational peace, fearing the perception of others: “What would my family and friends think if I let Jesus into my heart and started behaving like a ‘religious nut’?” Others sell the truth for identity and independence no matter how powerful the God-sized evidence is in their life. They don’t want to give up who they are and the control they have over their own life. Humanly speaking, who would want to do that? I still struggle with that one, even though I know that no one knows who I truly am and can be better than God, and no one is more equipped to steer my life than One who is good and literally called Love.
Again, wow. This Easter I challenge all of us to put ourselves in a place where we can witness something otherworldly and powerful. To go to a church service, whether in person, on TV, or online and get ‘close to the tomb’. And for the life of us, and everything that temporally and eternally matters, not to sell the truth for a temporary substitute or bribe. How grave a decision “some of the guards” made that day in history. How I pray so many of us will not repeat history this Easter Sunday and match it with our own grave choices.
Blessings to you wherever you are this Easter. If you don’t have a service to attend, or you physically cannot get to one, or if your schedule is crazy and you want to watch an Easter service online at a later date, I invite you to join me at a place that miracles happen every day. I can tell you this, tomorrow will be a day when earthquakes will happen in the lives of many people who will witness the truth of God’s love for them. They will choose to receive the God-sized Truth that has pursued them patiently their whole lives!