“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.” -Matthew 28:11-15
Hidden away in a few verses at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, this is likely the most dastardly bribe in the history of the world. However, because the Bible is the most read book in history, this act of despicable lying does not escape the notice of the saints or of those few who truly desire to search out the truth.
The soldier-guards stationed at Jesus’ tomb by the governor, Pilate, were in jeopardy of losing their lives. They had failed to keep Jesus in His tomb or under their constant watch. The tomb had been sealed, which means the huge rock over its entrance had been made secure against any attempts to dislodge it. Yet, even with all their weapons and authority, the guards were unable to accomplish what seemed like a simple task.
Not only were they completely smitten in terror by what had miraculously occurred in their very presence, they were now at a total loss to explain their utter failure to Pilate. The laws of their failure were clear; their own lives hung in the balance. The real perpetrators of Jesus’ crucifixion from a human point of view – the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews – came to the soldiers’ salvation. They paid the guards handsomely to lie, even though they had received the truth themselves from the petrified soldiers.
Jesus’ true prophecy that He would be raised up to life after three days could not be allowed to stand. These committed enemies of Jesus had already scorned His words, spit in His face, tortured Him mercilessly, and put Him to a cruel death, and now they were proven by His resurrection to be liars and sham judges of the truth. Their very lives and reputations were about to be destroyed. Any amount of money was worth covering up the truth!
The soldiers were not only saved from Pilate’s wrath and penalty of death but were also made rich with a generous reward for their conspiracy to lie. Their lies were then spread abroad throughout the populace. Even centuries later, books are still being written about various theories that attempt to verify the lies of the Pharisees told by the bribed soldiers – that is, that Jesus never rose from the dead.
One of the givens in a world corrupted by sin is that money very regularly trumps character. This is always the tempter’s snare. The Evil One’s sworn purpose is to erode and eventually destroy your character. All of us face numerous efforts to cut away the foundation of our integrity. The reward is often something to benefit your pocketbook at the expense of your soul.
Soul vigilance is necessary against Satan’s daily attempts to break down your heart’s commitment to the Savior. Each particular piece of the Christian’s armor (Ephesians 6) is absolutely necessary to deflect his well-placed arrows. In any case, do not accept gifts as a trade for your personal integrity. Jesus has fully described, especially in His Sermon on the Mount, what Christian character is. There is no valid excuse to say, “I just did not know.”
Expect money or other aggrandizements to most regularly be remuneration for breaking your character, while the personal praise of your Savior will always be the reward for your obedience, indeed, your ardent love of His every word. Love always wins over bribes, even the most lucrative. The preservation of your character will simply never be regretted.
“My Jesus, I love Thee. I know Thou art mine; for Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”
(First verse of William Featherstone’s hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” 1864)
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