– by A.G Gann
“Truth is so precious that it is often protected by a bodyguard of lies” – Winston Churchill
It’s often mentioned that lies are much easier believed than the truth and history has indeed demonstrated this. Hitler understood how lies are believed more rapidly than the truth and he used this as means of convincing the German people to accept Nazism and socialism. Resulting in the deaths of millions of people, including the Jews who had died in his concentration camps throughout World War II, Hitler convinced a nation that in order to have a perfect society it would have to come by the elimination of what he deemed a ‘lesser’ race. Sadly his lies were believed and nothing but human suffering resulted from it. In her book, The Borrowed House, Hilda Van Stockum, opens us up to the reality of believing such lies. Set during World War II, Hilda who is a member of Hitler’s Youth, gradually becomes disenchanted with the Nazi propaganda she was taught in school and said: “It is much easier to believe lies than the truth. Because lies are manufactured to satisfy the emotions. A mother would rather believe her pretty girl is lazy than accept the fact that she’s a dumb cluck. Germans would rather believe they were stabbed in the back than that they lost a fair fight. And anyone would rather blame someone else for his misfortunes. The truth is hard. Don’t fool with it unless you realise that.”
The effects of propagating lies are not always restricted to the political agendas of insidious leaders. It stretches across many different extents of our human existence. Lies therefore have a cruel versatility and have not neglected to impact the face of religion as well. In 1978, over 900 cult followers felt the effects of that cruelty when they drank cyanide-laced punch and fell to their graves in a mass suicide. Known as the Jonestown massacre, Jim Jones managed to convince his followers to end their lives whilst believing his vision. According to Time Magazine, Teri Buford O’Shea, who had escaped just a few weeks before the murder, said that Jim Jones’ religious movement was one of racial harmony and equality. This self-proclaimed messiah lied to his followers, all the while feeding on their fears and destroyed a community in a pile of bodies.
Recorded in the book of Matthew is another major manufactured lie concerning the resurrection of Jesus.
While the women were on their way to the tomb, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had transpired. When this news finally got to the authorities, they devised a plan and gave the soldiers a large sum of money and forced them to spread a lie concerning the resurrection of Jesus. “You are to say His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep” – Matt 28:11-15. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed and this made up story has been widely circulated amongst the Jews to this very day. Jacob Kremer, an Austrian specialist in the resurrection, reassures us the stolen body theory is never supported by even some of the greatest skeptics of Christianity and states that: “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the Biblical statements concerning the empty tomb.” Matthew wrote his Gospel account probably around A.D. 63, and still approximately thirty years later the theory that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body was prevalent among the Jewish people. A recent study by psychologists Dr Stephan Lewandowsky and Dr Ullrich Eckerat from the University of Western Australia revealed that: “Misinformation is especially likely to stick when it conforms to our pre-existing political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome”. The report also notes, “efforts to retract misinformation often backfire and actually lead to the strengthening of an erroneous belief.” The soldiers who were guarding the tomb knew the truth and what exactly had happened. They would have experienced this miraculous resurrection and as was their duty, they reported exactly what had happened but their testimony was traded for a bribe. To the Pharisees, a resurrected Jesus would mean He was indeed the Son of God and to the Roman Empire, Jesus would now be the greatest threat to their hunger for power and glory – Too much was at stake to risk telling the truth!
In addition, we are given reason enough to believe that Pilot had some inclination of Jesus’ ability to conquer death. When the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said: “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, after three days I will rise again”. When the chief priests and Pharisees asked that ‘the sepulchre be made sure,’ the Greek word sphragidzo is used. This word described a legal seal that was placed on documents, letters, possessions, or, in this case, a tomb. Its purpose was to authenticate that the sealed item had been properly inspected before sealing it and that all the contents were in order. As long as the seal remained unbroken, it guaranteed that the contents inside were safe and sound. With regards to the tomb, the word sphragidzo is used to signify the sealing of the tomb ensuring that the contents were checked and is thoroughly secure. We are left to believe that there was then a mood of anticipation that Jesus would rise from the dead felt by His executioners that they were threatened by that possibility and even stationed a guard outside sealed tomb.
The Romans knew for certain how to kill a man, especially the kind that Jesus proclaimed to be. It would be the greatest insult in the history of the Roman Empire if they attempted to kill a criminal by crucifixion and failed to do so. Remember Pilate himself “was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph of Arimathea” – Mark 15:44-45. If that be the case then the obvious questions are: what was your expectation after having demonstrated such brutality over the execution of Jesus and had confirmation that He was indeed dead?
And why on earth are you guarding a dead man?
A.G. GANN is a pastor and author. He leads the New Heart Ministries SA. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org