Summary: We respond to the resurrection in one of three ways – denial, disbelief, or belief.
A new form of TV program has taken both the airways and us by storm - reality TV. Shows such as Survivor, The Batchelor, The Batchelorette, Married By America, The Mole, and Fear Factor, have created thousands and even millions of loyal fans.
Survivor seems to have started the trend, but I suggest this morning that another reality show, which happens to be one of my favorite TV shows, is the one that got it all started. It has been on the air for at least ten years. And it is truly a reality show because it deals with life and death and conflict in everyday life as experienced by law enforcement officers everywhere. The show is COPS.
(“Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do, when they come for you?”)
It never ceases to amaze me that so many people use denial in their attempt to escape the very real possibility of arrest. So many episodes have officers in either on foot or in a car chase of people who, after they are caught, admit to running because they have violated parole and they are wanted. Or they deny that they have a warrant for their arrest.
Denial is as old as human history. Denial is part of the opening chapters of the Bible. After doing what they are forbidden by God to do, Adam and Eve use denial and blame to minimize their guilt. “She gave it to me.” “The serpent deceived me.” And it continues to this day.
Denial was a part of the Resurrection that first Easter morning as well. And it still is a response to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ today.
In the Resurrection story the denial takes place in those who were threatened by it as Matthew records in chapter 28 and verses 11 through 15:
“As 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. A meeting of all the religious leaders was called, and they decided to bribe the soldiers. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you and everything will be all right.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say.“ (NLT)
What motivated this denial? Fear. They feared that they would lose something of great value and importance if the word got out that the tomb was empty.
Isn’t it interesting that the soldiers who had personally witnessed the Resurrection went to the religious leaders instead of their commanding officers to tell what happened? Why was that? Did they understand the spiritual and religious significance of what they had just experienced far more than perhaps they were given credit for? Or maybe they understood the political implications as evidenced by the decision described in Matthew 27:62-66 between Pilate and the religious leaders.
The next day—on the first day of the Passover ceremonies —the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They 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.’ So 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.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.”
A major motive for denial is the fear of losing something - a relationship, power, influence, or the ability to choose. We become fearful of losing something of great value and importance to us so denial becomes a means to keep fear of loss at bay.
What is the thing that you fear the most? Take a piece of paper and pen and write it down. Now, what is it that you fear you will lose in this situation? Write that down.
Can we then understand the fear in the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers? I think that we can. For if Jesus had come back from the dead, (and he did!) and the people would have found out about the empty tomb, (which they did via the disciples) then their whole world would come crashing down. (which happened as we read in the early chapters of church history.) There would have been riots and accusations and incriminations. Their power and their authority would have come under siege.
But, just as denial has been, and continues to be a part of the human story, and the Resurrection story, so does disbelief. Now what is disbelief?