The Jewish Leader’s Vain Attempts to Silence Jesus’ Resurrection.
who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’ Acts 4:25-26 .
When Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid in a tomb and a large stone rolled in front sealing the entrance (Matt. 27:57-60), a time of monumental folly and futility from the Jewish leaders ensued:
Now on the next day [the Sabbath], which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, saying ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.’ (Matt. 27:62-65–brackets added).
However, the flagitious plot of the chief priests [Sadducees] and Pharisees backfired. They were so concerned about Jesus’ disciples proclaiming to the nation “He [Jesus] has risen from the dead”, that they grossly underestimated the power of God. For after three days God raised Jesus from the dead and He appeared not only to His disciples, but to over five hundred witnesses over a forty day period, as recorded in Scripture (Acts 1:3, 1 Cor. 15:5-8). Furthermore, God made certain many more would testify to the power of the resurrection: “the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs. After His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matt. 27:52-53). God’s omnipotence was demonstrated in that supernatural event, when hundreds, if not thousands witnessed the truth of the resurrection.
Meanwhile, the women went out to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, but were astonished to see that it was empty; for an angel from heaven had rolled away the stone from the entrance revealing an empty tomb. Speaking to the women the angel said: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead…” (Matt. 28:1-2, 5b-7a). Heeding the angel’s instruction, they were fearful and joyful as they ran to report to the disciples what they had seen (Matt. 28:7-8). When they reported to the disciples Jesus’ tomb was empty and that an angel announced Jesus had risen, they disciples thought it was idle talk [Luke 24:10-11]. However, wanting to see for themselves, Peter and John ran to the tomb and found that it was indeed empty (Luke 24:12, Jn. 20:1-4).
When the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb witnessed the angels miraculous power, they were exceedingly fearful, but unlike the women they were not at all joyful–Scripture states: “The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.” (Matt. 28:4). Perhaps the soldiers feared both God and the Jewish leaders, because only some of them reported the miraculous events to the chief priest (Matt. 28:11, cf. vv. 2-3). Ironically, the soldiers stationed at the tomb to prevent anyone from “stealing” Jesus’ body, turned out to be powerful witnesses of the empty tomb, thus proving that Jesus resurrected. Tragically, the chief priests remained recalcitrant and failed to recognize their ineffectiveness in striving against the power of God. So they assembled with the elders and foolishly conspired to bribe the soldiers with a “large sum of money”, insisting that they lie about what they witnessed: “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” (Matt. 28:13, cf.14-15).
The Gospel of Matthew ends abruptly with the disciples meeting the resurrected Christ as instructed and then receiving from Him the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). The abrupt ending possibly indicates that the inspired author wanted to contrast the impotence of man with the omnipotence of God. Moreover, it highlights the utter futility of the Jewish leaders’ not so great commission of the Roman soldiers, in their nonsensical plot, when before the foundation of the world God planned to give the Great Commission through the resurrected Christ.
In conclusion, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were worried about a verbal proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection, when numerous people actually witnessed the resurrected Christ over a forty day period (Acts 1:3, 1 Cor. 15:5-8). Amazingly, God ordained numerous witnesses to see the risen Christ: “God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God…” (Acts 10:40-41a). The futility of the Jewish leaders in this momentous part of God’s redemptive plan–the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, should bring to mind what He declared to His disciples: “…I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18b-ESV). Amen!