145: Two responses to the resurrection
The women were hurrying back to Jerusalem with the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Who was this that they suddenly saw before them on the road? His voice was so friendly and familiar. "Greetings!"
It was Jesus, their Master, who had just arisen from the dead!
They hurried over to Him, fell on their knees, and worshiped Him. In great love they wrapped their arms around His legs and stroked the feet that had been pierced by nails.
From His mouth they heard the same message that the angels had given them: "Don't be afraid. Go and tell My brothers that they are to go to Galilee. They will see Me there."
When they looked up, He was gone. He had disappeared just as quietly and mysteriously as He had come.
Was it a dream? Had they seen Jesus in a vision?
No, it was not a dream. They had really seen Him! All the women were sure of it. They had touched His feet and heard His voice. And they had felt His holy gaze resting on them!
Now they hurried even more to get to the disciples as quickly as possible. When they found a couple of disciples, they surrounded them with their excitement and joy and told them jubilantly about the empty tomb and about the angels. The Master Himself had met them along the way!
The men stared at them in amazement and dismay. They shook their heads compassionately. "Nonsense!" they said to each other. "Foolishness! Sorrow has overwhelmed these poor women. In their overwrought state, their imagination is playing tricks on them."
Those disciples simply didn't believe it. It was too much for them to think that there could be a sudden end to all their sorrow and disappointment. The miracle that their beloved Master had risen from the dead was too much for them.
But the chief priests who had put Jesus to death did believe it when they heard the news. They trembled in deep fear.
They had hardly arrived at the temple that morning when some soldiers came up to them, trembling and white as sheets. They were the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding Jesus' grave.
Their story made a deep impression on the priests. Hastily they called their council together to consider what move to make next.
They did not doubt the soldiers' word for a moment. Still, although they believed, they did not repent. At this point they would stop at nothing.
In their fear they thought up a wicked plan to make sure that the news about Jesus' resurrection did not go any farther. They took some money from the temple treasury and put it down before the soldiers. They said, "All of this is for you. Just don't tell anyone what happened. Say that the disciples came during the night and stole Jesus' body while you were sleeping. If this report comes to the governor, we will talk to him and take care of his fears. Don't worry! Nothing will happen to you."
The soldiers accepted that deal. What did they care? Those prominent Jews who had sent them out there to stand guard were welcome to have things their own way.
The soldiers took the money. Wherever they went, they told people the story that the rabbis instructed them to use.
But it was an awkward story that made little sense. If the soldiers were asleep, how did they know that the disciples stole the body? And if they really had fallen asleep on duty, wouldn't they have paid for it with their lives?
The people who heard their story, however, did not stop to ask such questions. The story about the disciples was circulated widely among the people. To this day there are Jews who believe that the disciples stole Jesus' body and hid it somewhere to make it appear that Jesus had risen from the grave.