Reading in the book of Matthew today, I came across a note in my handwriting. This note is the title of this post.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white a snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay…. 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 this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
– Matthew 28:1-6,11-13,15
If you’re at all like me, you may have skipped reading the above quote, please go back and read it!
What an amazing story! As we have read this again and again, it may sometimes lose some of its meaning, but it is no less amazing, but perhaps simply worn out in our minds. What a day it was when a few ladies were going to visit the tomb of a dear dead friend – and as they went, a great earthquake came (if I read the timeline of this account correctly in accordance with the other gospels). Before they arrived, the Roman guards, the world’s most skilled and highly trained soldiers, fell over in fright as an angel of God came down from the sky.
Yesterday while working on some electronic parts, a friend of mine was shocked by about 60,000 volts at a low amperage. The shock caused him to drop everything and jump backwards. He is fine now, but it was quite a surprise to him. Can you imagine how much greater was the shock for these Roman guards? Just 3 days earlier, there was a great earthquake and the sun became dark when this man was killed. The events were so obvious that the centurion in charge of ensuring Jesus’ death proclaimed “truly this was the Son of God.” When the angel came, the men guarding the tomb against a possible “resurrection” attempt by Jesus’ disciples shook and “became as dead men.” They had the shock of their lives. This angel descended from heaven. The angel had a face like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow. This was obviously a being from beyond the natural world.
Put yourself in the place of the guards for a moment please. Imagine being through the earthquake and blackness for 3 hours while Jesus died. Then again, while guarding this notable man’s tomb, another earthquake and this angel show up, which left them in such fright that they acted like they were dead. What a tremendous shock! Surely they would go and become his disciples also after such compelling evidence of Jesus’ deity! Surely they would believe and go tell others!
But they did not.
They went to the Jewish leaders and told them what had happened. Now the priests and elders of the Jews had a first-hand account of Christ’s resurrection, besides having seen the thick curtain which divided between the holy-of-holies and the rest of the temple being torn in two – from top to bottom – living through the two earthquakes, the 3 hours of darkness, and now, according to Matthew 27:53, many dead saints rose from their graves and went into Jerusalem. Surely now these Jewish leaders had more evidence of Jesus’ resurrection and deity than anyone could hope to have! They wanted signs, and they were given signs. They saw the dead come to life, the lame walk, and the blind see. They heard Jesus preach with authority, they were stumped when He asked them questions they were unable to answer, and amazed when He easily answered their long-argued questions and put to silence the sect of the Sadducees with an easy answer as to the reality of resurrection. Surely the Jewish leaders would believe!
They did not.
These leaders had a meeting, determined that this would all make them look bad, and so paid the soldiers to cover the evidence. They put a story in the soldiers mouths, and so all the people with the clearest evidence of Jesus’ resurrection ignored that of which they had infallible proof!
How could they not believe? Because their hearts were hard. They were ‘religious’, but without God. How could you, as myself and most of my readers, read this passage in the Bible regularly, and yet cease to be amazed with our God? Familiarity. The Jewish leaders had God’s word, they had the prophesies of the coming Christ, they had God in person in their midst to ask questions of. Yet despite all this, they weren’t looking for evidence of who He was, their minds were bent on keeping others from believing on Jesus because His existence hurt their authority, reputation, and quality of life.
Dear friend, have you not yet trusted on Jesus as your savior? Why is it? Do you not yet have enough evidence, or are you choosing to ignore the evidence? Many have tried to disprove that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews, that He was God in the flesh, yet they generally come to faith in Him because the evidence is too great than to justly believe anything else.
Or friend, are you the saved Christian trying to win others to our Lord, yet they won’t believe? Keep trying! We as good soldiers for the Lord must not give up. However, more and more today in our present world, and especially in my country, we have great ease and many are loath to believe for fear of losing some of their comforts and pleasures, or else their position. People are presented with the evidences of Christ’s resurrection, of His deity, yet they turn a blind eye towards all and continue down the broad easy road to hell. We would win them and turn them to the narrow road to heaven, that road that leads only through Christ and the cross, yet they would not believe for it might cost them something. Surely, it may cost, but the rewards are far greater. Many have gone to horrible deaths for their faith, yet they did so knowing that to know the Lord is far sweeter than the pain of any death could be. So keep trying to win them, keep working, keep showing others the truth, yet do not be discouraged or give up when they don’t believed.
The soldiers and Jewish leaders had infallible proof right in front of their eyes and still didn’t believe. Will you believe? Or will you also ignore the evidence and continue to live for this short world?
One of my greatest encouragements to keep living for the Lord is from the mouth of a young woman named Denisa upon seeing a tortured man recant his faith in Christ, be released from his torture, and then die in agony. She said “O unhappy wretch, why would you buy a moment’s ease at the expense of a miserable eternity!” Moments later, she also was beheaded. Do you think she would wish it otherwise? No, her testimony was so great that hundreds of years later, we are still inspired to live for our Lord through the testimony of her words and life. Do not, please do not, ignore the evidence of our Lord and His physical resurrection to buy yourself a little more pleasure in the here and now. It is not worth it. I had rather have a moment’s hardship – and this life is only a moment – and have eternity with the Lord than to have a lifetime of ease here on earth and a miserable eternity!