Did Jesus really rise from the dead? The original argument both for and against Jesus’ resurrection can actually be found within the context of Matthew’s book. This allows us to investigate the case from that time.
Does Matthew Provide an Honest Account?
Matthew’s writing tends to put honesty above persuasion. He places a woman as the first witness at the empty tomb, (Matthew 28), which in that time and culture women were not seen as credible witnesses. He also makes reference that Jesus appeared to several disciples in Galilee and he makes the statement, “but some doubted”. (Matthew 28:17) It would not have benefited Matthew’s case to make the statement about those there who doubted. Matthew makes honest statements regardless of how it may be received. Whether you believe Matthew to be one who suffers post dramatic hallucinations, or one who actually witnessed the risen Jesus, we can consider he is being honest in his witness. With that, let’s journey into Matthew’s account of the guard at the tomb.
The First Witnesses
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
Matthew 28:11 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.
Although Matthew does put honesty above persuasion, his hope is that his readers would come to faith in Christ. He states that it what was "commonly reported". The reading audience of his day are witnesses of the politics and the daily talk. Can you find any reason why he would say it was "commonly reported..until this day" if it wasn't? If that was a bogus statement, his audience would probably stop reading. Let's take a closer look...
The verse says, "until this day". What was the common report at the time Matthew wrote this?
The report among the Jews:
His disciples came by night and stole him away while the soldiers were asleep.
Furthermore, it confirms that in that first century Jesus was crucified, placed in a tomb and there indeed was a guard at the tomb! At this time in history, there is no argument about this.
Now imagine you’re in a courtroom. The trial is about to begin, and today you’re the Judge.
If you were to call the guards to the stand to ask them what happened, according to the common report they may say:
We accuse these disciples, they stole the body as we were sleeping.
We were tired.
We didn’t think anyone would actually come.
We conspired together to get some much-needed sleep.
We didn’t wake up nor did we hear or see a thing.
What would the Disciples say?:
We did not steal the body, Jesus is the son of God, He has risen. In the state of fear that we were in, there’s no way any of us would come out of hiding let alone approach these soldiers.
We have no interest stealing the body, if he couldn’t rise on his own, why would we follow. Christianity has never been popular…we are being killed.
How would we roll this massive boulder away from the tomb opening without at least 1 soldier waking up?
Believers generally do not go out of their way to disprove and falsify their own belief system. Stealing the body would do this.
and there's more...
Where would we take this body without anyone seeing?
Would these guards really conspire to sleep on the job, if caught they wouldn’t be fired – they’d be executed, these are Romans!
Peter himself in fear denied Jesus 3x, just a day ago. We all scattered. There’s no way! We were not even the first to check out the tomb on Sunday. We didn’t check it out until after the women checked it out, and came back with their report.
Finally, if they were asleep, how would they know who took the body? And if they did see some disciples carry a body, why wouldn't they stop them? It doesn't add up.
I could imagine at this moment Matthew standing up with the other disciples behind him. He looks at you, and says:
We all witnessed the risen Lord at the same time, we believed to the point of death. Most of us original 11 who witnessed seeing him after the cross died by martyrdom. The evidence was so thick that 1000’s of us early Christians could not ignore the evidence and were heavily persecuted by our own people, many of us losing family and friends because of what we witnessed, what we could not deny.
You now have a freewill choice that you will make today.
You'll decide in your heart that either this is all just superstition - or it's the truth. Consider what it is that you believe in this moment, and how convinced are you of that belief? This is just one of several proofs that there actually is a God, and that there truly is a risen Savior, his name is Jesus.
“Who do you say that I am?” ~ JesusYou will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
If you would like to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior today, I'd like to encourage you to find a quiet place and just speak to him from your heart. Let him know your heart and that you want his free gift of salvation. Turn from sin, and turn to him.
I'd like to encourage you to find a good Bible-based Christian church and begin your journey today. If you have any questions or thoughts, or would like to let me know you've accepted Christ, please feel free to connect with me at facebook.com/beginfresh