#ConspiracyTheory - A discussion of Mathew chapter 28
The morning of the third day after Jesus was placed in the tomb of the rich man, the guards saw an actual lightning clad angel of God come down from heaven and roll away the stone...the sealed stone. The tomb contained no body! They were absolutely terrified by this. They had one job, to protect the tomb. No one told them there would be angels to contend with! They were stricken with fear because they knew they would be in trouble for this. (vs. 4) They went immediately to the chief priests to tell them what happened, who immediately began devising a plan to cover this up. Their plan was for the guards to tell everyone that the body was stolen away while they slept. This was an obvious lie, and one that would likely get the guards in serious trouble with the Governor. So to keep the guards quiet, they bribed them and assured them things would be smoothed over with the Governor. (vs. 11-15)
All signs pointed to Jesus being who He said He was. In fact, the angel pointed out things that happened exactly as Jesus had said, “He has risen, just as He said.” (vs. 6) The chief priests must have believed it too. I am convinced they did because they were not angry with the guards. They even made allowances should the lie get the guards in trouble. Why would a lie be necessary if the disciples did indeed steal the body as the cover-up story claimed? Why would the guards need to be paid off if it was not a conspiracy to cover up the truth? Matthew’s readers no doubt had heard this story line. He said the story was still being circulated to the very day that Matthew was writing. (vs. 15)
This makes me think of the movie JFK by Oliver Stone. The movie was about the conspiracy behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 60’s. Decades after the fact, the truth is still unknown. Speculation is plentiful and theories have abounded. I was fascinated with the film and longed to know what really went down. The reality is that people tend to believe the first story they hear. Even in the face of undeniable evidence that another thing is true, they cling to the first narrative they heard.
The conspiracy, though it had some popularity, was not the only narrative circulating at the time, nor was it the most prevalent. You see, the guards were not the only eye witnesses. Remember the two Marys that sat outside of Jesus’s tomb after He died? There they remained until that angelic vision on Sunday morning. They too saw the lightning clad beauty descend from heaven and roll the mighty stone away. They too saw that the tomb contained no body. They too
were afraid because Jesus was gone. The angel assured them there was no reason to fear because the Christ had risen just as He said He would. They were to go to Galilee and find Him there. (vs. 5-7)
They did not find Him in Galilee though, because He met them on the way there. The women fell to His feet in joy and began worshiping Him. (vs. 9) Let me remind you, this was a man they witnessed being executed and buried merely hours before. Now, He walked whole, alive, free from the burial clothes Joseph of Arimathea had dressed Him in. They recognized Him immediately. He was indeed alive and in color. He instructed them to run ahead and tell the disciples He would meet them in Galilee.
And that is where the 11 found Him. Though a few had some reservations, they worshipped Him. (vs. 16-17) I cannot imagine their elation at His return. Surely, they rejoiced that the man they loved was back with them. But they had given up everything to follow Him. How devastating had it been to watch Him be arrested and hear of His awful death? Many questions must have plagued them as they wondered if they had been fools. Now on a hillside in Galilee, they knew for sure what Matthew had wanted to convince his readers. Jesus was the Messiah. He had done His job. Now it was time for them to do theirs.
Jesus claimed all authority (vs. 18) in heaven and earth then commanded them to travel to all regions near and far to share with the world what they had witnessed. And that is exactly what they did. Matthew ends his tale in chapter 28, but other scriptures, such as Acts, chronicle the journeys the disciples would take. Many other people saw the risen Christ with their own eyes, and the word spread. It spread far and wide, overshadowing the false story paid for by the chief priests.
There is no doubt the disciples believed it. They continued to give their lives to Christ’s mission. In fact, almost all of them would be killed for their faith. What would convince them to sacrifice so much if they did not unwaveringly believe? And what would cause them to believe with such conviction other than the evidence they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears?
Their conviction would catapult the news around the world with so much impact that I am writing about Him, and you are reading about Him, more than 2,000 years later. John Ortberg in Who is This Man? said, “Jesus’s impact was greater a hundred years after His death than during His life; it was greater still after five hundred years; after a thousand years His legacy laid the foundation for much of Europe; after two thousand years He has more followers in more places than ever.”
Matthew rested his case. It was open and shut. The Old Testament promised a savior, and that savior was Jesus of Nazareth. He was not simply a teacher or a prophet. He was God in the flesh. In the movie The Matrix, Neo was the Christ figure, the one prophesied to come and save everyone. The plot entails him coming to believe his destiny as the One. Others believed it, but until he did, his purpose would remain unfulfilled. But in real life, the One is not plagued with an identity crisis. He is not the one that has to believe. You are.
Studying the book of Matthew has been a journey of discovery and a work of love. I found much more than I expected. I felt much more than I would have thought. I was convinced of Christ’s divinity long before embarking on this path, but now I stand on even more solid ground. I pray that as you have taken this journey with me, your love for Christ has deepened, that your faith has been strengthened, and that your heart has been inspired to learn more about this man called Christ, the Messiah, the finisher, the One long-awaited.
-Carrie Roark, an excerpt of The Messiah Prophecy: Evidence of a Savior in the Gospel of Matthew (coming soon)