In one of our recent excursions in the text of the Gospel of Matthew, we encountered Jesus preparing His disciples for the near-term future when He would die and rise again. Clearly, in that discussion, the part He spoke of Himself rising again was ignored by His friends, as they were more concerned with ensuring Him of their loyalty.
Later in Matthew’s account, we read this:
The next day, following the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered before Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that deceiver saying while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ The last deception will be worse than the first.”Matthew 27:62–64 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
The chief priests and Pharisees listened keenly to Jesus. They knew He was teaching that He would rise again. It is difficult to read the texts of the four Gospels and find that the disciples actually expected the resurrection. Yet here we see one of those very men setting to pen. Those set against Jesus clearly understood—even expected it to happen.
I know how the skeptics would want us to read the Gospels… Thinking that such were penned to make a new religion. They want you to believe Jesus was just a man and died as just a man. That He was buried and somehow in the middle of the night, His friends took the body away and hid it. Then these men would lie saying He rose again.
I have difficulty even entertaining that farcical point of view. If what the skeptics say were entertainable, why would Matthew abase himself as not understanding the coming resurrection with which they would allegedly attempt to deceive others?
Furthermore… How is it the chief priests and Pharisees did expect what the disciples did not?
It really is the resurrection that sets Christianity miles apart from any other religion. Think about it. God came to His created humans as a human. He died as a Human. He rose again as a human. He did this to defeat the enemy of all of us… Death. We don’t have to die and be separated from the external God. He wants us to be with Him for eternity and made a sure Way for that to be.
The last thought to consider: For almost 2,000 years it’s recorded plainly, the leaders had their alternate story set. “His disciples came by night and stole the body away.” Today that thinking still circles in the fringes. The Pharisees anticipated the resurrection and crafted an alternate explanation. Why do you think that legend of stealing Jesus’ body was recorded by Matthew?