Fake news isn’t a new thing. One particular piece of fake news has circled the globe for two thousand years. Let’s begin with this factoid. Jesus tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers. Trained warriors that knew how to stand guard. To fall asleep or deviate from their duties meant severe punishment.
What really happened
Jesus was buried. He was dead, the spear thrust and the resulting flood of water and blood testified to that. His body was hastily laid in a borrowed tomb. Knowing what Jesus had taught in the Temple concerning His death and resurrection, the Jewish religious leaders pressed Pilate for a Roman guard. Jesus tomb was shut with a heavy stone, sealed, and guarded.
Matthew records, “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:1–4, NASB95) Matthew goes on to record the good news of Christ’s resurrection and the angel’s instructions to the women.
So how did the soldiers explain this one? For whatever reason some of the guards reported the events they witnessed to the Jewish religious leaders (vs 11). At that point, some fake news was created to explain what happened and to maybe keep the soldiers out of trouble with Pilate. Matthew records, “And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:12–14, NASB95) Two accounts, one verified by the empty tomb and visitations by a risen Jesus to over 500 folks altogether (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8), the other made up out of nothing.
This fake news story propagated by the Chief Priest and religious leaders is still often cited as one possibility to explain the empty tomb. Matthew observes, “And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.” (Matthew 28:15, NASB95)
Fake news can be a failed attempt at satire, a well-designed piece of mockery, a “spin” to change the meaning of known facts, or a blatant lie to cover up the real truth.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish leaders didn’t argue with the soldiers about the empty tomb. They believed the soldier’s account of earthquakes and bright angels. On the other hand, they knew that news about Jesus was explosive and dangerous to their status and power.
Some truth is a matter of perspective, some truth isn’t. You can’t hold a truth that someone is pregnant while also proclaiming that she isn’t. Wait a few months and truth will be evident. In the same way, the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive. If you doubt it just wait, there will be a day when you’ll know for sure. Although it may be too late to change your mind.
Jesus followers around the world know the truth. They may have never seen the empty tomb or seen the resurrected Christ, but their lives have been changed. They have been reborn, and the change in their hearts and life are valuable and important witnesses.
Believing the real news from over 500 eye witnesses or the fake news propagated by some religious leaders and some frightened soldiers is totally up to you. But to know the truth, all you need to do is ask God.