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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

SOLDIERS ARE BRIBED TO LIE

Matt 28:11-15 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Women that had come to the tomb of Jesus were met by angels who told them that He is risen, and proved it to them by showing them the empty grave. They also gave them this message: go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him (Matt. 28:67-7). As they went their way to His disciples, Jesus appeared to them and they fell at His feet, and worshipped Him. Jesus also told them to go to His disciples with this same message (See Matt. 28:9-10). The lesson text begins when these women obediently left the tomb to find Jesus' disciples.

At the request of the Jewish leaders, Roman soldiers were dispatched by Pilate to serve their desires to secure the tomb of Jesus and stand watch over it to assure that none of His disciples would come, take the body of Jesus from the tomb, and proclaim that He had risen on the third day of His entombment. They had stood guard for the entire time, from His burial to the present time, which was the third day since He was buried. When the grave was opened, the body of Jesus was not found in the sepulchre. These guards knew not when or how Jesus body disappeared from the tomb, but, being at the scene, they witnessed the empty tomb and knew His body was there no more.

Just how many Roman soldiers made up this watch is not given, but the lesson text says not all but, some of the watch came into the city. Since they were assigned to the Jewish leaders by Pilate, they did not return and report to him; rather they came and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. No doubt they gave a complete account, telling them of the ground quaking, the angels that descended, and the rolling away of the stone that had been sealed and covered the tomb's opening. And risking death for being accused of neglectful watching, they even told these chief priests that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb and they knew not where it could be found. Indeed, one of the greatest fears of the Jewish leaders was that the Jewish people would turn from their leadership and believe that the prophecy of Jesus had come true: After three days He would rise again (See Matt. 27:63; Mark 8:31).

Immediately after learning the disappearance of Jesus' body, these chief priests brought the news to the Sanhedrin, or at least to the leading members known as the elders of the Jews, and counseled with them. Having used bribery, false witnesses, and cunningly crafted testimony to convict Jesus and convince Pilate to issue His death penalty, these Jewish leaders thought they must not allow the Jewish people to believe that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah and had been raised from death. To cover their crimes, they thought it was necessary to prevent these Roman soldiers from revealing to the common Jews the truth about the missing body of Jesus. To accomplish this secret mission, they again resorted to bribery; they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.

This seems to be the most unbelievable story that could possibly have been conceived. First, for a guard to be found asleep while on duty meant instant death. Second, it does not seem possible for the entire watch guards to all fall asleep at once. Thirdly, if they were all asleep, how could they possibly know that it was Jesus' disciples that stole Him away? These, and many other questions could be posed that would prove their testimony to be false. However, in order to convince these soldiers to fabricate this tale and take the money bribe, these Jewish leaders assured them that, if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you, that is, they would speak to Pilate and convince him to forgo any punishment for their breach of duty. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Matthew's gospel record was written probably between ten to thirty years after this incident of bribery, and still at that time this evil conspiracy was believed and still well known. Bribery was used to capture, convict, and crucify Jesus. Bribary was also used to conceal His resurrection from the common Jewish people.