Matthew 28:11-15 – The One With The Morning After…

Posted: May 7, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 28:11-15

The Religious Leaders Bribe the Guards

Two of the most serious episodes of “Friends”, one of my favorite shows of all time (that is still as popular today as it was when it the first run episodes of the show ended 12 years ago), is “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” (Season 3, Episode 15) and “The One With Morning After (Season 3, Episode 16) when Ross has one-night stand with “the girl from the copy place” after he and Rachel had this major fight. Rachel told him that “we need to take a break from us”. Ross is angry and hurt and proceeds to go to a bar and ends up taking this girl home for the night. The next morning, Ross checks his answering machine (yes, people still had those in the late 90s – when these two episodes were filmed – before the cell phone explosion). Rachel had left a message saying that the big fight was a mistake and that she did not want to break up and that she wanted them to get back together and work through their problems and that she was going to drop by around 8:30 that morning to see him. He notices that it is like 8:25 am at this point and Rachel would be there any moment and he still has the other girl in the apartment. Rachel appears and the other girl must hide behind the door as Ross and Rachel make up. After that, we see Ross at Chandler and Joey’s apartment asking them to keep quiet about the girl from the copy place. But Joey, the ladies’ man that he is, asks Ross if he remembered “the trail.” Ross doesn’t know what “the trail” is. So, Joey explains that “the trail” is the chain of people that you must consider when you do not want the girl you are in a relationship with to find out about the girl you had a one-night stand with. Chandler chimes in, “you gotta remember ‘the trail’, man!” Then Chandler figures out the chain of people that connects the copy girl to Rachel and he is oh so proud of himself. Then, the horror of the situation settles on the three of them. If Chandler can figure out the trail that easily then it is a high probability that Rachel will find out about the one-night stand. Ross then spends about half of Episode 16 following the trail going from one person in the chain to the next, each of them already having heard the news. Finally, he gets to Gunter, the barista at the coffee house where the friends all hang out and who has a secret crush on Rachel. Ross pleads with him not to say anything to Rachel. Gunter then says, “was I not supposed to?” and then Ross turns around and sees heartbroken Rachel sitting on a couch by the window. The remainder of the episode takes place in Rachel and Monica’s apartment where Ross and Rachel have a fight that changes the course of both their lives for the remainder of the series. It is not until the final episode of the series that Ross and Rachel get back together. One night, one fight, six years are changed. You gotta remember the trail, man!

It is that idea of trying to cover up the truth, like Ross was trying to do in that Friends episode, that came to mind when reading today’s passage. Trying to stop the truth from coming out is like trying to stop a freight train by stepping in front of it. The power of the truth is that it is reality and lies are fabrications that require high maintenance. That fact becomes particular cumbersome when you have to involve many people in a lie. Just like Ross trying to keep a lid on the truth required a lot of work, so, too, was the task of the religious leaders trying to keep the news, the good news, of Jesus Christ’s resurrection a secret. Let’s read today’s passage, Matthew 28:11-15, together:

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The religious leaders wanted to hide the fact that there was no body in the tomb. They wanted to explain away the empty tomb. Admitting to the empty tomb publicly would have meant that they were wrong about Jesus. They knew that not all of the guards would be sleeping. Someone would have been awake during their time at their post. It is just common military practice “to keep watch!” So, even the fabrication they came up with had holes in it from the beginning. They tried to cover up the truth. By their cover-up, they are admitting to an empty tomb. They are at a loss to explain it. They are so wrapped up in trying to cover it up that they fail to see connection between this Jesus fellow and the prophesied Messiah. They are so wrapped up in making sure that they maintain their hold on power that they fail to understand that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah. Their arrogance and greed caused them to lead the people of Israel far from God and Jesus called them on it. That arrogance and greed killed Jesus. That arrogance and creed blinded them to the truth. Just as Ross was training to create this fiction that a life-changing event had not happened just so he could go back to the way things were with Rachel, so too are these religious leaders. A history-altering event had occurred and they just wanted to get things back to the way they were.

As the old saying goes, “The truth don’t need no alibi!” It was too hard to maintain the lie. The women at the tomb rushed to see the disciples. Peter and John rushed to see the empty tomb – and then it was on! Jesus appeared to as many as 5,000 people during the time after his resurrection and before his ascension back into heaven. The truth cannot be held back. The empty tomb is one thing but the Risen Christ is a whole nutha level. The truth rolls on and rushes over lies and crushes them. The truth of the resurrection was worth dying for to His disciples and their disciples. People would not have died throughout the centuries for a lie. The truth of the resurrection is powerful. The truth of the resurrection was maintained because it really happened. The truth of the resurrection did “not need no alibi!” The resurrection survived the centuries between us and those days in the first century because it is the truth.

The physical truth of the resurrection leads us to its spiritual truth. The resurrection was not only a promise made by Jesus and a promise kept but it is also much more. The resurrection proves to us that Jesus is and was God in the flesh, that He and the Father are of one and the same essence. It is also a reminder of the fact that through Jesus we can have victory over sin. Daniel B. Lewis, in his article, “The Resurrection of Christ: The Theological Implications” (see https://bible.org/article/resurrection-christ-theological-implications), says it this way:

Jesus’ cry from the cross is “It is finished.” This the Greek word tetelestai. This word was used in commerce at the time. It was often written across a bill to indicate that the bill was paid in full. The resurrection is the receipt that God gave humanity that Jesus’ death did, indeed, pay the full price of our sins (The world’s sins are not enough to keep Christ in the grave! His resurrection is proof that our sins are forgiven!)

His resurrection gives us physical proof that our sins have been conquered in Jesus. All sins of all time was not enough to keep Jesus in the grave. His resurrection means that we are no longer condemned by our sins. Jesus took them to the grave and his resurrection means they were defeated and died there in that tomb. The resurrection means that we arise anew in Christ. That is amazingly powerful truth. That is the amazing reality of the resurrection.

Because of the power of this truth, Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire and has survived the centuries since because of its powerful truth. You can’t keep the truth down. It always wins out. The morning after his time in the tomb, the morning of the resurrection changed the world forever. There was no going back to the ways things were after that! The truth of the resurrection was too powerful for the world to ever be the same again. The truth could not be covered up. That morning after the resurrection occurred the world was different and forever changed. That morning Jesus arose from the grave and we are forever changed, never to be the same again. There’s no going back to the way things were because it happened. Jesus arose from the grave. He defeated sin and death and you and I have this wonderful hope and joy in that victory. The morning after the resurrection – world changed forever, no going back, the truth cannot be hidden, Jesus is RISEN!

Amen and Amen.

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