Matthew 28:11-15

Leaders Remain Incorrigibly Closed to Faith in Resurrection

Matthew 28:11-15     Chief Priests and Elders Bribe the Guard

11 As the women went back,
some of the guard had gone into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
12 They called a meeting with the elders
and came to an agreement
to give an appropriate amount of money to the guards
13 and to tell them,
“Say that his disciples came by night
while we were sleeping
and stole him.  
14 If the governor should hear about it,
we shall win him over
and ensure that you have nothing to worry about.”  
15 They took the money,
and followed their instructions.  
This word spread about among the Jews, right up to the present day.

Matthew added the incident to reassure his own community; he was not engaging in polemics with adversaries in the local synagogue.  His purpose was to highlight the deceit of the chief priests who had crucified Jesus, and ridicule their story at the same time.

It would have been highly unlikely that the stunned guards would have gone first to the chief priests.

While Jesus had been dying, the chief priests had taunted him by saying: Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him [27:42].  Confronted now with the mystery of resurrection, they still refused belief.  They asked the guards to declare what they could not have witnessed, if they had been asleep, that his disciples came while we were sleeping and stole him.

Jesus – With his Church or Absent?

Matthew encountered the same problem faced by Mark, Luke and John: how to come to terms with both the obvious physical absence of the historical Jesus and his equally obvious ongoing spiritual presence to them and influence on them.  

Mark had chosen not to address the issue directly, other than by saying that the risen Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee. He made no effort to tease out the consequences, leaving it, instead, to his readers to get in touch with their own experience.

Luke would speak in terms of the historical Jesus ascending to the Father, and continuing to be present and active in the Christian community through his Spirit whom he, together with the Father, would send. In the account of the Emmaus encounter, he had foreshadowed Jesus’ presence and action in the Church’s celebration of Eucharist.

Like Mark (and Matthew), John would not speak of ascension, but he did see Jesus continuing to be present and active in the Church, no longer physically, but through his Spirit. With the other evangelists, he understood that, in the Eucharist, disciples ate and drank the body and the blood of Christ.

Clearly, all four believed that Jesus would influence the world through the activities of the Christian community.

Next >> Matthew 28:16-20