Summary: Three groups can help us understand our resistance to trusting in the Resurrection of Jesus.
I read a story of a man who was on his way to the airport to catch a plane. He came to an intersection where his wife had told him he needed to turn left to get to the airport. It was a narrow little road and he was on a board road that also would let I see some of nature’s beauty. He decided to take the more scenic route. There is a way that seems right to man the Bible says. The time was getting away and little voice kept saying turn around and take the narrow road. He reasoned "I feel like an idiot." Pride and stubbornness kept him going on the scenic road. He got to the airport and raced to the where he was to board the plane only to hear, "The gate has been shut. The doors are locked. The plane is leaving. You have been left behind." He was to late because he made the wrong choice. The plane would not be coming back for him. (From a sermon by Dennis Selfridge, What we have in Jesus. 10/17/2009).
Mat 28:11-15 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Almost as a setting of a theatrical production: While one small group of women was scurrying off to tell the disciples the message from the angels, the soldiers were on the way to the chief priests with an entirely different disposition. The women were filled with apprehensive joy, some confusion, reviving hope and almost speechlessness. The soldiers were even more confused, but full of fear, disappointment, and shame.
Some of the guard stayed behind, to guard an empty tomb, to pretend to be protecting what was already missing. Some went to report to the Temple authorities.
Upon hearing the news, the priests on duty sent out messengers immediately to the members of the Sanheidren. Gill describes the coming in of the rulers and elders graphically: "moreover, the rulers and governors, who (were concerned with the news of) the sepulchre, coming to themselves, returned to the city with a pale and frightened countenance.''
There was much mumbling and small discussions as the assembly was taking their places in their seats. No doubt, someone had already developed the idea of paying off the soldiers and telling a lie. Someone, we do not know who, spoke up quickly when the question was asked, “What shall we do?” It must have been a common opinion from the Sanhedrin Court that what had happened was not of God, but was a misfortunate opportunity of circumstances.
The guards reported the earthquake, being knocked off their feet and being powerless to respond. They were witness to the women showing up and finding the empty tomb. They must have seen the men in sparkling white robes speak to the women. They must have, after things quieted, searched the tomb themselves to find it empty.
Their reporting to the court should have raised some spiritual questions in the council. But instead, they decided to pay the guards off, plant a lie, and blame the disciples. Matthew records that occasionally when he was witnessing to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, this story sometimes comes up, that the disciples stole the body. It is doubtful that the guards repeated it often because it would mean their certain death. You see, if a guard in those days allowed a mission to fail because he fell asleep, it would cost him his life. That is why the Sanhedrin court members told the guards that they would smooth over the issue with the governor.
I. Captive by Fallenness
Those who stayed behind guarded the empty tomb. These probably felt silly, and as grandpa would say, “You closed the gate after the calves got out.”
They, undoubtedly, were uncomfortable in their post. They had no good explanation as to what had happened or how it happened. Their duty now was to stand there and look at the open mouth of the tomb. Every look reminded them that they failed their mission. The ones who went to report at least did not have to stand there looking at a constant reminder of their failure. However, this scene did not move them to the truth.