Last night at our service of Evening Prayer we read Matthew 28:1-16. It’s Matthew’s version of the Easter story with a few verses that never get read on Easter Sunday added in for good measure. But, those verses are seriously interesting.
You see right after the Easter story, there’s an Ian Fleming level conspiracy that takes place. There’s this little cloak and dagger episode appended on the end of the resurrection. You see, after the chief priests get actionable intelligence about Jesus’ resurrection, they immediately lay out a plan for a cover-up. Gathering their advisors, they deliberate and decide to pay off the soldiers who were guarding the tomb. The soldiers who received the cash we’re then expected to lie about the resurrection, telling everyone, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.”
OK, I get that it’s not quite X-files, the Bourne Identity, or even Scandal, but still it’s a conspiracy.
And, we’re told, the misinformation scheme seems to work like clockwork. As Matthew put it, “So the [soldiers] took the money and did as they were directed. And [the story about a disciple stealing the body] is still told among the Jews to this day.”
This is a brilliant cover-up. It’s airtight. No doubt the story that the high priests and their advisors concocted is a plausible one. It’s actually pretty compelling. Right? It’s a story that, for most, would have put the whole resurrection thing to rest. I mean, what’s more believable that a man was raised from the dead or that one of his disciples stole the body from the tomb so the disciples could claim Jesus had been raised by the dead? Elementary, my dear reader.
But, here’s the seriously interesting part: the story that Jesus had been resurrected just couldn’t be put to rest. It couldn’t be buried. When they covered it up, it just resurfaced again. Matthew suggests that the chief priests basically put the story of the resurrection in concrete boots and dropped in a black abyss. But, despite their best-laid plans for the resurrection story to never see the light of day, well, it’s been told over and over and over and over again. Every time that power has attempted to suppress the Resurrected Word, it has escaped that in which it was entombed…
Such much so that here we are literally millennia later still talking about the resurrection.
Now, if you ask me, that’s seriously interesting.