When His birth could not be prevented and His living could not be denied, the enemy worked out His death. When Jesus died, the enemy, not knowing that He died by His own choice, felt he had conquered. Death celebrated the assumed victory over Christ, but the celebration, which the pit of hell thought would be eternal, lasted only three days. Vainly they watched His bed; vainly they sealed the dead.
The breath of life interrupted the victory dance at the enemy’s camp. Before they could understand what was going on, they saw an angel rolling off the stone covering the tomb of Jesus. If death could not hold Him down, surely, you wouldn’t expect that a mere stone, no matter the size, would. At the end, death could no longer keep his prey and thus, the victory dance came to a premature end. “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph over His foes. He arose a Victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
The Proclaimers: Mat. 28:1-10
If shepherds were engaged in the proclamation of the Saviour’s birth, then some people should also be engaged to proclaim His resurrection. In both, you would consider yourself privileged to be so chosen. Reading through Matthew 28:1-10, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to get to the tomb of Jesus that blessed morning. When they saw that the Lord was no longer in the grave, the angel commissioned them to go and announce His resurrection to His disciples. As they proceeded to carry out this rare assignment, the Lord Himself showed up. “Then said Jesus unto them, ‘Be not afraid; go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”’ Mat. 28:10.
However, apart from the women, another set of people was there. Members of this set were firsthand witnesses of the resurrection experience. They witnessed everything even before the arrival of the women at the tomb. Right in their very eyes, they, the soldiers guarding the Lord’s tomb, saw the angel rolling back the stone and sitting on it. They saw it first and they saw it all!
The soldiers, experiencing the angel commissioning the women to announce the good news, waited to see if the angel would commission them as well. When the angel, however, turned the other way, they felt it was alright to commission themselves. We are talking about the biggest news in the history of the world and you do not want to experience it without desiring to share it.
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.” Mat. 28:11.
If the angel thought otherwise, the soldiers were ready and willing to give their masters the report of the day’s event. What was their motive? Were they truly happy to see Christ raised from the death so much that they were happy to spread the news or were they just hitching to spread the news of an occurrence that meant nothing to them? Let me quickly point out that eventually, the true motive behind every seemingly zealous spread of the gospel shall be tested and revealed.
Although they had no real attachment with what they experienced at the grave, yet they also ran. They ran to the chief priests, just as the women ran to the disciples. However, since they had no personal relationship with Jesus when He was alive, you could feel the dryness in their message. They weren’t in any sense enthusiastic about the news. Since they didn’t even know what it meant, they found it difficult to express the joy of the moment. You could say they spoke as men routinely giving the day’s report to their masters. While on the other side of town; the women shared the same message with life and vigour; with joy and happiness.
The story is usually in this form when a man lacks a personal experience of Jesus, the central figure of the gospel. This man may have a firm grip on the language, but it doesn’t take long before something he truly believes takes over him. For the sake of what truly drives him, the gospel is soon going to be distorted in his hands. You cannot compare men who preach Christ as a routine or as a duty with those who preach Him based on their cordial relationship with Him. What relationship would you say the soldiers had with Christ?
The Elders understood many things:
Sad to say that those who delivered the message were not in tune with the great privilege God gave them to witness the resurrection of Christ firsthand. Although they delivered the resurrection message casually, the elders believed and understood its implication. The chief priests knew what it meant for the entire world to know that Jesus eventually overcame death. They knew that death, being the last agent sent and set to keep Jesus away forever, had failed for the first time over a life. By this, they understood that Jesus must now live forever. Hallelujah!
If almost the entire town witnessed the death of Jesus and we now have only a few knowing about His resurrection, then it should be easier to still keep Jesus dead to the people. To achieve this, the elders would need the soldiers to either keep quiet or change their message. The soldiers must be re-motivated to counter the message of hope the women had gone spreading about. They would have to act fast to stop this true story from spreading and touching the hearts of men. The people must continue to believe that death overpowered Jesus and to effectively achieve this, another agent known to be so powerful among men must be engaged.
“12And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave LARGE MONEY unto the soldiers… Mat. 28:12
Since death had failed to keep Jesus in the grave, another powerful agent must get to work to rubbish and distort the news of His resurrection. Doubts must be created in the hearts of men concerning this great phenomenon and the only agent left and powerful enough to handle this emergency, is no other than MONEY! The elders concluded from their meeting that the services of money must URGENTLY be contracted.
They must have seen that the soldiers were not committed to the message they came proclaiming. They knew the soldiers were not truly bothered about the life, death or resurrection of Jesus – they were just reporting what they saw as a matter of giving the report of the day’s event. If the true news must, therefore, be countered, those who truly witnessed the occurrence of the day must be sent, but with a distorted version of the true message.
In the wisdom of the elders, (you don’t call them elders for the fun of it o), they knew the soldiers would need a chariot/carriage that would assist their new found ministry to travel far and wide. Having read in their own Bible that money is the chariot of the gospel, they offered the soldiers a large sum of it for their ministry to ride upon. They knew that with money, the soldiers would easily thrash their convictions and compose a new song. With money, large amount of it for that matter, a man of their kind, will dance naked. The elders knew it would be useless intimidating the soldiers with an official order to keep quiet. In some quarters, nothing stays official at the introduction of money. The moment money is involved, true colours and intentions are revealed. Rules and regulations get twisted and impunity takes over. You can verify this among the political and religious leaders. Sadly, this same nature that wakes up at the sound or sight of money may be resident in you. So, why not forget about the leaders and check yourself as an individual.
“Saying, ‘Say ye, His disciples came by nigh, and stole him away while we slept’. Mat. 28:13
Did you see that? Say ye… That’s what the love for money does. It orders you to say its own and not God’s own. Quite a lot of ministries and ministers are now singing differently from their true calling. The moment money introduced its tune; they stopped listening and dancing to heavenly tunes. The true experiences they had in Christ before the advent of the passion for money now meant nothing to them. Money, their newly found chariot, now drives their ministries into so many unspeakable things. Although the Holy Spirit used to drive these ministers and the work He committed into their hands, but since the day they reported their vision before the BISHOPS’ COUNCIL and not in the midst of like-minded disciples, their messages changed.
This beast and dictator now dictates what to preach. Religious programmes are organized out of the inspiration to make more money. Projects are initiated, not to alleviate the problems of the public, but because they are means of syphoning money. When a man refuses to be driven by the Spirit of God, he gets driven to damnation by money. If not for money, I am sure you wouldn’t have had any reason to soil your name and integrity as we now know of you.
These elders even told the soldiers to lie against themselves by saying they slept while on duty when they didn’t. Can you beat that! Why would the passion for money drive a man to injure his own body, lie against his own soul, expose his family, destroy his future and set up an eternal unrest for himself? The soldiers took the risk of saying they slept when they didn’t. Our judges and leaders now lie against their convictions. Consciences are now smeared. We now have the blood of the innocent flowing than we have water in the rivers. Look behind the maiming for leadership; behind court cases; behind fake ministries and ministers; behind broken homes and shattered lives – the love of money is behind them all.
“And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and secure you”. Mat. 28:14.
I know that the love to possess money is already driving you against your peace and I know that you are already putting your eternity at a great risk. It’s amazing how you now lie so cheaply against your conscience. It’s even hard to imagine that you’re relying on the elders’ promise to defend you before the governor. Are you also among the deceived aiming to rely on grace when their deliberate acts of sin get to the earing of God? Will grace throw up an excuse to set you free? The truth is, while the elders may be able to persuade the governor not to punish the soldiers for sleeping on duty (though they didn’t sleep), I cannot assure you that grace is capable of persuading the LORD if you should choose to continually and deliberately lie against your own soul.
“So they took the money, and DID AS THEY WERE TAUGHT: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” Mat. 28:15.
The soldiers eventually denied their personal experience at the grave of Jesus. At last, money succeeded in giving them a strange unction. How much would you have paid Mary to deny the resurrection of her Lord? The women, who did not even see as much as the soldiers saw that glorious resurrection morning, held on to the truth; while those who saw it all, distorted the truth. It is, therefore, true that the Holy Spirit teaches and so does money. God gives messages and so does money. How long are we going to see and make money the chariot on which God’s ministry must ride? If you continue to allow God’s work in your care to ride on the chariot of money, you will surely lose control of this chariot one day and it will dawn on you that you cannot serve both God and Mammon. (Mat. 6:24)
Owo ko ni keke ihinrere. Emi Mimo ni. The Holy Spirit is the chariot of the gospel and not money. When the work needs money, He knows how to send it in without compromising His integrity. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts”. Haggai 2:8