Matthew 28:11-15 gives us a very intriguing account, one that we should all look into. In this passage we read of the religious leaders of Jerusalem doing something noteworthy:
They bribed the soldiers that guarded the tomb of Christ.
Why did they do such a thing, knowing that they were religious leaders, and what can we learn from this?
Hiding the truth
Matthew 27 opens with the account of the Lord Jesus Christ as having resurrected from the dead. Some women followers, along with Mary Magdalene, went to see the tomb, but they were surprised to see something spectacular:
An angel went down from heaven to roll the stone that sealed the tomb, and told them that Christ's body was not there in the tomb because He was alive.
Some soldiers, who were guarding the tomb, saw the angel and responded by fainting:
"And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men." (Matthew 28:4)
As for the women followers, the angel told them to announce Christ's resurrection to other believers.
Matthew 28:11-15 tells us what happened next.
"While [Mary Magdalene and the others] 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."
What do we find in that passage?
- That the guards, after regaining consciousness, quickly reported the incident to the chief priests;
- That the chief priests, consulting with the elders, decided to bribe the soldiers so that they wouldn't tell the real story; rather they'd spread a fabricated lie;
- That the lie the chief priests fabricated spread among many anyway.
Now why did the chief priests bribe the soldiers and instruct them to spread a lie?
It's because they envied Christ and did not want Him to be glorified.
They envied Him - and how the people praised Him:
"And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."" (Luke 19:36-40)
They were envious of Christ because the people followed Him:
"So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him."" (John 12:19)
Pilate himself knew that they were envious of Him:
"For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Him up." (see Mark 14:10)
The chief priests wanted their place of recognition and prominence among the people, but Christ was a thorn in their side. He showed the people who God really is, and effectively exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders during that time (see Matthew 23).
The religious leaders wanted the praise and the glory, as well as the tithes, for themselves. They loved the place of honor they had among the people. They wanted followers. They wanted the people to ignore Christ and follow them instead.
Because of this, they bribed the soldiers -- so that they could hide the truth of Christ's resurrection and keep the followers and the glory to themselves.
Let's not be like that, friends. Let us desire Christ, and let us also desire that all men will know Him, even if it costs us ourselves.