Read Matthew 27-28
A few years ago, I returned from our two weeks that we spent in Florida or South Carolina or wherever we went that year and Robert, the pastor at the First Baptist Church called to say hello. He said that someone we all knew was spreading the rumor that I had “Flown the coop” and wasn’t coming back.
I finally got to abuse a Mark Twain quote and say, “Rumors of my departure have been greatly exaggerated.”
Sometimes people have to come up with their own explanations.
Sometimes the truth doesn’t set them free. It scares them.
But, I thought that Jesus said the truth will set you free?
What he said was, If you abide in my word (if you continue in what I have taught you) then you are my disciples for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
But what if you ignore his teachings? What if you resist the teachings of our Lord? What if you just are not interested in what God has to say?
Then the truth probably scares you. Then you promote that which confuses, dilutes, or initiates rumors. You do your best to avoid the truth. You put up smokescreens. You fight hard not to have to hear the truth or let others here it.
The prophecy which the Sanhedrin and Teachers of the Law should have know so well was fulfilled right before them. They did not see. They did not want to see. They had to manipulate their basic tenants to send Jesus to the cross and now that had been accomplished, they wanted to make sure that was the end of the story.
There was this talk among his followers that Jesus said he would rise from the dead. To make sure that they didn’t have to contend with this Jesus even after they had killed him, they asked the Roman Governor to put a guard on the tomb.
He agreed. He dispatched a guard—that’s not a person but a small detachment—to guard the tomb. They were to seal it up and watch it that it was not disturbed. It should have been a simple assignment.
Orders: Nobody gets in. Nobody gets out. Got it!
There had been no major revolts for some time and the most violence that the disciples had initiated resulted in one ear being cut off from a Hebrew guard. Jesus mended that injury on the spot.
The thinking of that day was that nothing can go wrong here. Nobody would be crazy enough to mess with the Roman guard over a body in the tomb.
Understand that these are Roman soldiers. This was the best fighting force of the First Century. These were some pretty tough Hombres here.
On top of that, their commanders set some high expectations. If you were assigned to guard a tomb and you had to kill 100 Jews to do it, that would just be a day’s work. There would be no review and no second-guessing by your superior officers.
Mission accomplished. There were some casualties. Give me a few days off and I’m ready for my next assignment.
So just who would have the audacity to break the governor’s seal, roll back the stone, and take the body?
Nobody who walks this earth and is in his right mind. You are messing with Roman soldiers here.
But there was an earthquake, and an angel, and bright lights and just like that the tomb was empty.
The guards reported this to the chief priests, which might make you wonder if these were not guards from the Sanhedrin. Perhaps, but their report was such that it wouldn’t have made any difference who was guarding the tomb or by whose authority it was sealed.
This resurrection thing happened. The guards we stunned. They were helpless to do anything. It was a done deal before they knew what happened. This was Shock and Awe first century style.
What to do now? Somebody better come up with a story and somebody better motivate the story-tellers to get it right. This had to be their story and they had to stick to it.
Why? Because the religious leaders feared the truth. What occurred was exactly what they were afraid of, that they had made a big mistake. Even the Roman centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion knew that Jesus was the Son of God.
But the religious leaders were blind. They believed their own propaganda. They would not accept the truth. The truth scared them.
Money was the motivator for the First Century Fake News. And the guards spread the story as best they could. If they were Roman soldiers, they should have been glad to get the money as they would never see a promotion for the rest of their lives.
If they were soldiers dispatched by the Sanhedrin, they would have been ordered to lie in any case so the money was a bonus.
But the religious leaders of the day were afraid of the truth because the truth was that this truly was the Son of God.
The truth was that these religious leaders were responsible for his death.
Yes, Pilate the Roman governor ordered the crucifixion but he would have been content to send this faultless man home and the Jewish leaders packing. But Pilate was not a strong man and he was subject to manipulation.
The truth was that Jesus died according to scripture.
The truth was that God raised him from the dead.
The truth is, he is risen. He is risen indeed.
The truth is that the truth will set you free, unless you fear the truth and run from it, or tried to deny it, or try to throw so much confusion into the mix that you hope to obscure it from yourself and others.
For you who believe in the Christ and have committed to following him, hear these words of Jesus once again.
If you abide in my words you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set your free.
Know the truth. Don’t run from it. Don’t hide from it. Don’t believe the rumors. Don’t believe the lies.
Jesus, having the same mind as the Father, stepped out of heaven, lived the human life, having to start out just like us as a helpless baby, was about his Father’s business by age 12 and just over 20 years later was on his way to the cross to die for our sins.
That in itself is a celebration—he took away our sins, but the grave was not the end of the story. Normally when we think of a grave, we think that’s all folks. That’s our human model anyway. But we know the grave was not the end of the story. It was very much a beginning for all who step into eternity, for all who pass from death to life in professing their Savior—Jesus is Lord.
God raised him from the dead. He is the first among many. We are among that many who will follow him into eternal life.
Know the truth. Don’t settle for another perspective on the truth. Don’t believe the rumors. Don’t believe the lies.
While we as humankind were still sinners, Christ died for us—truth.
We are forgiven--truth.
God loves us more than we can comprehend--truth.
He has saved us from our sins by the blood of Jesus--truth.
He has a place reserved for us for all eternity--truth.
Because Christ arose from the dead, we will know what it is to be with God for eternity.
Don’t believe rumors. Don’t believe the lies. Don’t be trapped in senseless arguments for they are everywhere in this age that has been labeled evil.
Even in this age where nations and people move farther and farther from God, know the truth. Live in the truth.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The cross is empty. The tomb is empty. The truth is awesome. Today we celebrate truth in these simple words.
He is risen. He is risen, indeed!