And what became of the soldiers at the tomb of Jesus?
Before we move on beyond the events of Easter Sunday morning it would be instructive to consider the experience of the soldiers who found themselves swept up in events they didn’t fully grasp. Continue reading . . .
Before we move on beyond the events of Easter Sunday morning it would be instructive to consider the experience of the soldiers who found themselves swept up in events they didn’t fully grasp. These were the men who were assigned to guard the tomb where Jesus was laid. After the resurrection occurred, we read this in Matthew 28:11-15,
“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we wills satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.”
Evidently the soldiers went directly to the chief priests and reported everything. The religious leaders in turn paid them a large sum of money to tell everyone that the disciples had come and stolen the body. Some find this implausible. After all, would these soldiers have admitted falling asleep on the job, knowing that it was an offense punishable by death?
However, they were convinced the Sanhedrin would act as a buffer between them and Pilate (Mt. 28:14). They were promised by the Jewish leaders that they would be kept out of trouble. Furthermore, they had already committed an offense worthy of death by leaving their post at the tomb! I can also imagine that their fear of the supernatural visitation by this angel was greater than their fear of Pilate. Finally, these men were desperate to explain the absence of the body and this was the best explanation short of admitting that a resurrection had taken place.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about these soldiers. A “guard” usually consisted of 4 men who rotated shifts. During the night there would be four shifts of two to three hours each.
So what happened to the four who would have been present when the angel appeared? What was their reaction? I can’t help but wonder if they talked about it among themselves? What explanation did they give for what they saw? Did they like awake at night, terrified on their beds, trying to make sense of the experience? They had no doubt heard of “angels” from the Jewish people over whom they ruled. Were they bothered by the religious leaders paying money to cover up the truth? After all, these guards knew the body hadn’t been stolen. They knew something supernatural had occurred! What explanation did they give their families?
“Hi honey! How did your watch go? Boring as usual I’m sure. Be quiet, though, the kids are sound asleep. Honey, you look a little shook up. Are you OK? You didn’t lose your job did you?”
“Uh, no, in fact I got a bonus tonight. Uh, you’ll never believe this, but we were standing our guard when this huge white angel, as bright as a bolt of lightning, suddenly appeared and moved the stone from in front of that tomb; you know, the stone that it took several of us to put in place. Well, you see, this big angel showed up and caused this massive earthquake, and well, . . .”
“Honey, sit down and relax. Let me get you something to drink. You obviously need it. And then I’m going to call the doctor to give you a thorough examination. Did you get hit on the head with something?”
The bottom line is this: Would these men have continued to live a lie or would they bow before the risen Lord of heaven and earth? What did they do later on when they heard the disciples preaching that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead? I don’t know, but when I get to heaven I wouldn’t be surprised if I run into a couple of them!