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It is written:
Matthew 28:11-15-Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Since the beginning of Christianity, followers of Jesus have had to deal with conspiracies. One of the most popular is the belief that Jesus did not arise from the dead, but instead His disciples stole His body while the Roman soldiers were sleeping. There are, of course, numerous problems with this conspiracy theory that have easily proven it false since the beginning.
First, the disciples of Christ were demoralized and defeated by the death of their Savior. They were heartbroken, terrified, grief-stricken, and guilt-filled after turning their back onto Jesus and forsaking Him (Mark 14:50). They were hiding from the Jewish people after Jesus’ death (John 20:19), and were in no condition to take on the Roman Empire. Second, the Roman Empire had sealed the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:66). This was a form of authentication, testifying that the body of Jesus was in the tomb. It was also a warning to anyone that dared trespass, that the Roman Empire would hunt you down and crucify you. Third, there were many guards present at the tomb (somewhere between twelve and sixteen) with strict orders to protect he body of Christ (Matthew 27:62-66). With so many guards present, the well-trained soldiers would have slept in shifts. Fourth, if the Roman soldiers had all fallen asleep on duty, they would have been executed by the Roman government. Fifth, if the Roman soldiers had all fallen asleep at the same time, they would have awoken by the sound of the stone being rolled from the tomb, and from the disciples trampling through their campsite (Mark 16:1-4). Sixth, the Roman Empire would have tracked down and executed the Apostles of Christ if they believed they had stolen Jesus’ body. They clearly knew something else had happened! Seventh, the testimony of the Apostles that Jesus had arisen from the dead in face of their horrible suffering for preaching His resurrection stands as a testament to their truthfulness. Eighth, the conversion of hostile witnesses by their personally seeing Jesus resurrected from the dead (like James the half-brother of Jesus, and of the apostle Paul-1 Corinthians 15:1-8) is powerful evidence against the conspiracy theory that the Apostles stole Jesus’ body.
More could be said, but consider these words spoken by someone who was intimately involved in the “Watergate” conspiracy and how it applies to this subject. This scandal involved the administration of Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1974 that eventually led to his resignation from the presidency of the United States. It dealt with the Nixon administration attempting to cover up its’ horrific involvement in 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. There were five perpetrators arrested.
Speaking of the illustrative nature of Watergate with the Resurrection of Jesus, Colton writes:
“With the most powerful office in the world at stake, a small band of handpicked loyalists, no more than ten of us, could not hold a conspiracy together for more than two weeks. Think of what was at stake: Each of us involved—Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Mitchell, and the rest—believed passionately in President Nixon. To enter government service for him we had sacrificed very lucrative private law practices and other endeavors; we had sacrificed our family lives and privacy; we had invested our whole lives in the work, twenty-four hours a day if necessary. Only a few months earlier the President had been re-elected in a historic landslide victory; the ugly Asian war was finally over; we were riding the crest in every way. Think of the power at our fingertips: a mere command from one of us could mobilize generals and cabinet officers, even armies; we could hire or fire personnel and manage billions in agency budgets. Think of the privileges: a call to the military aide’s office would produce a limousine or jet airplane; the National Gallery delivered classic paintings to adorn our office walls; red-jacketed stewards stood in waiting to serve food and drink twenty-four hours a day; private phones appeared wherever we traveled; secret service men were always within sight—as many as we wanted. Yet even the prospect of jeopardizing the President we’d worked so hard to elect, of losing the prestige, power, and personal luxury of our offices was not enough incentive to make this group of men contain a lie. Nor, as I reflect today, was the pressure really all that great; at that point there had certainly been moral failures, criminal violations, even perjury by some. There was certain to be keen embarrassment; at the worst, some might go to prison, though that possibility was by no means certain. But no one was in grave danger; no one’s life was at stake. Yet after just a few weeks the natural human instinct for self-preservation was so overwhelming that the conspirators, one by one, deserted their leader, walked away from their cause, turned their backs on the power, prestige, and privileges. So what does all this have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ?…. So if one is to assail the historicity of the Resurrection and therefore the deity of Christ, one must conclude that there was a conspiracy—a cover-up if you will—by eleven men with the complicity of up to five hundred others. To subscribe to this argument, one must also be ready to believe that each disciple was willing to be ostracized by friends and family, live in daily fear of death, endure prisons, live penniless and hungry, sacrifice family, be tortured without mercy, and ultimately die—all without ever once renouncing that Jesus had risen from the dead! This is why the Watergate experience is so instructive for me. If John Dean and the rest of us were so panic-stricken, not by the prospect of beatings and execution, but by political disgrace and a possible prison term, one can only speculate about the emotions of the disciples. Unlike the men in the White House, the disciples were powerless people, abandoned by their leader, homeless in a conquered land. Yet they clung tenaciously to their enormously offensive story that their leader had risen from His ignoble death and was alive—and was the Lord. The Watergate cover-up reveals, I think, the true nature of humanity. None of the memoirs suggest that anyone went to the prosecutor’s office out of such noble notions as putting the Constitution above the President, or bringing rascals to justice, or even moral indignation. Instead, the writings of those involved are consistent recitations of the frailty of man. Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will save their own necks in the crunch, though it may be at the expense of the one they profess to serve so zealously. Is it really likely, then, that a deliberate cover-up, a plot to perpetuate a lie about the Resurrection, could have survived the violent persecution of the apostles, the scrutiny of early church councils, the horrendous purge of the first-century believers who were cast by the thousands to the lions for refusing to renounce the Lordship of Christ? Is it not probable that at least one of the apostles would have renounced Christ before being beheaded or stoned? Is it not likely that some “smoking gun” document might have been produced exposing the “Passover plot”? Surely one of the conspirators would have made a deal with the authorities (government and Sanhedrin probably would have welcomed such a soul with open arms and pocketbooks!). Blaise Pascal, the extraordinary mathematician, scientist, inventor, and logician of the seventeenth century, was convinced of the truth of Christ by examination of the historical record. In his classic Pensées, Pascal wrote: “The hypothesis that the apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end and imagine these twelve [sic] men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he had risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, torture and death, and they would all have been lost.” 4…. Take it from one who was inside the Watergate web looking out, who saw firsthand how vulnerable a cover-up is: Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and Lord.” (Charles W. Colson, Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian, 81-84, (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
Writing in another volume, Colton tells us:
“My personal experiences in the Watergate scandal convinces me of the historic proof of the resurrection, as I’ve written elsewhere. 4 I was charged with being part of the conspiracy to cover up the Watergate break-in. What most Watergate buffs have failed to note, however, is that the conspiracy succeeded for less than three weeks…. Think of it: the most powerful men around the president of the United States could not keep a lie for three weeks. And you’d have me believe that the twelve apostles—powerless, persecuted, exiled, many martyred, their leader Peter crucified upside down—these common men, gave their lives for a lie, without ever breathing a word to the contrary? Impossible…. For two thousand years the historicity of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection has been challenged on many grounds. But no one has ever produced evidence of the kind that brought President Nixon down—“ a smoking gun,” that is, evidence that could contradict the biblical account. Is that not evidence of its veracity? Can you think of any other event in history that has been so thoroughly examined, has not been disproved, and yet some still disbelieve it? The consistent eyewitness testimony of the apostles and earliest believers to the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, given among those hostile to the claims of Jesus, clearly points to the resurrection as a historical reality.” (Charles W. Colson, Harold Fickett III, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters, 91-93 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the great evidences that He is, indeed, the Son of God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.