I read this on Sunday and thought before we move on completely from the thought of Easter Sunday morning it might be interesting to consider the experience of the guards who found themselves caught up in the events they didn’t fully understand. These were the men who were assigned to guard the tomb where Jesus was laid. After the resurrection occurred, we read this in Matthew 28:11-15,
“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.”
Evidently the soldiers went directly to the chief priests and reported everything. The religious leaders then paid them a large sum of money to tell everyone that the disciples had come and stolen the body. Some find this far fetched. After all, would these soldiers have admitted falling asleep on the job, knowing that it was an offense that was punishable by death?
The guards were convinced the Sanhedrin would act as a shield between them and Pilate (Mt. 28:14). They were promised by the Jewish leaders that they would be kept out of trouble. Also, they had already committed an offense worthy of death by leaving their post at the tomb! I can also imagine that their fear of the supernatural appearance by this angel was greater than their fear of Pilate. Finally, these men were desperate to explain the absence of the body and this was the best explanation besides admitting that a resurrection had taken place.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about these soldiers. A “guard” usually was made up of 4 men who rotated shifts. During the night there would be four shifts of two to three hours each.
So what happened to the four who would have been present when the angel appeared? What was their reaction? I can’t help but wonder if they talked about it among themselves? How did they explain what they had seen? Did they lay awake at night, frightened on their beds, trying to make sense of the experience? They had no doubt heard of angels from the Jewish people they ruled over. Were they bothered by the religious leaders paying money to cover up the truth? We know these guards knew the body hadn’t been stolen. They knew something supernatural had occurred! How did they explain this to their families?
The bottom line is this: Would these men have continued to live a lie or would they bow before the risen Lord of heaven and earth? What did they do later on when they heard the disciples preaching that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead? I don’t know, but when I get to heaven I wouldn’t be surprised if I run into a couple of them!