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It was Friday morning of Passion week.  The religious leaders had sought their will against Jesus and had finally obtained it the day before; He was dead.  It was a hard-won victory, and no sooner did they get what they wanted than they began to not like what they got.  There were a number of signs or omens that immediately began to gnaw at them portending that all was not right, that what seemed so clear before now left them with the sinking feeling that they had unbeknownst crossed some invisible threshold from which they could not turn back but that would plunge them to ruin: Pilate’s words to them that they themselves had spoken to Judas, the unnatural darkness, the sign upon the cross identifying Jesus as the king of the Jews, the honored burial that some from their own number had afforded Him.  And then, as they ate their Passover and sung the last of the Hallel Psalms, for just an instant before they hardened their hearts against the horror of it, their eyes were opened to see that Jesus was the promised One He claimed to be. And yet, their hearts wouldn’t have Him, and so they had murdered Him. 

All of their religion was of the flesh and political, and not real and of the heart.  They had imagined that they would be able to deal with any repercussions politically as they had always done before.  For just an instant though, they realized that all the rest of their religion to which they had only given lip-service was really true and had now come upon them.  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31), and so just as quickly as their eyes were opened did they shut them again to the awful truth.  For what else could they do?  Unlike Judas they had a life that they loved in this world and weren’t about to give it up.  Like their father the devil they were now irrevocably at odds with God and yet self-deceived by their sin that they would still somehow be able to work things out by pretending to serve Him according to their own will and understanding.  How is that not unlike so many so-called Christians today?  It was, of course, unfortunate that Jesus had to die, but they justified that it was for the good of the nation (Joh 11:48-50).  And although they had earlier scoffed that there was any truth in Him, now His words that He would rise again suddenly seemed more ominous.  Not that their hardened hearts allowed that it might be true, but they were unnerved by the portents against them and didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  What other event was also fresh in their minds that contributed to their angst about Jesus rising from the dead?  See Joh 11:43-48.  What then does Matthew say that they immediately did on the next day, although it was a high sabbath, when they ought not to have been engaged in such affairs?  See Mat 27:62-64. 

What excuse did the religious leaders give to justify their paranoia?  See Mat 27:64.  Realistically, considering how His disciples lacked even the most feeble resistance and had deserted Him when He was arrested, and He was now dead to whom was their allegiance, how likely was it that they would steal Jesus’ body in order to pretend He had risen from the dead?  Such an honored burial was more than they could have hoped for.  And what would they have to gain by doing so except possibly their own deaths for something they would know was a ruse?  And if Christ did not rise from the dead, who more than they would have felt cheated for having been taken in to believe a lie?  Do men who have been conned to believe a lie typically risk their lives to perpetuate that lie?  See Joh 20:24-25. Cf. 1Co 15:17,19.  What does the irrational fear of the religious leaders remind us about the curse that sin brings upon people so that they are led to believe things that are not objectively true, so that they are also led to respond in ways that actually contribute to their destruction?  See Lev 26:36, Deut 28:65-66, Pro 28:1, 2Th 2:11-12.  Is it possible that a similar curse has come upon people today in the form of the healthcare industrial complex as a result of their fear of sickness and death? 

What remedy did they request of Pilate to allay their fears—not just the improbable fear that Jesus’ disciples might come to steal the body and say He had risen from the dead, but their real fear that he might actually somehow come back to life as Lazarus did, so that the soldiers could make sure He stayed dead?  See Mat 27:64 and consider that in their minds they could not have imagined His rising from the dead as we understand it today to a glorified, resurrected body, but only a resuscitated body like that of Lazarus. 

Notice in Mat 27:63-64 that twice the religious leaders spoke of Jesus in terms of deceit: to them, He was a deceiver and His teachings a deception.  What do their words indicate about the abundance that filled their hearts?  See Mat 12:34-35.  And yet, who were the actual deceivers, although they had an appearance of righteousness and were the one’s God had presumably placed in authority?  What does this remind us about how Satan’s kingdom is diametrically opposed to God’s, so that in spite of appearances, what is good in one is evil in the other, and what is evil in one is good in the other?  Cf. Isa 5:20, 2Co 11:14-15.  Should we therefore be surprised if when we seek to serve God in His kingdom that we are pilloried by those in Satan’s kingdom as evildoers and deceivers, even by those in authority who have a form of godliness?  Cf. Mat 5:10-12, 10:25, Joh 16:2, 2Ti 3:12. 

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