Dis/Misinformation – Disciples Steal Body

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Today we are going to start a 3 part series. I tell you how many parts to start with, mainly to hold myself to it! This topic we are going to cover is so vast, there is so much material we could point to, I have to stop at three. If the Holy Spirit decides we need to do more, we will, but so far I’ve got three messages, three passages to look at. The topic is simply this: Fake News in the Bible(?.) For the next three messages we will explore 3 examples of deception in the bible.

When we look at the bible, we rightfully call it “The Word of God.” The writings of historical events from the beginning of time to the early first century. The poetry, the prophetic, the record books accounting for people, land, location and possessions. A story of love is interwoven in the pages of the Old and New Testaments. The Story of Grace, forgiveness, redemption, holiness, sacrifice, and restoration. 

And also, in the pages of the bible…you will find…deception, lies, and doubt. 

You’re waiting for the catch, aren’t you?

Well it will become apparent as we move through each message. There is no denying that these things are in the bible. But will we conclude that the bible is fake news just because there is “fake news” in it? Have I confused you enough yet?

Let’s start with this week’s headline: “Disciples Steal Jesus’ Body!” from Matt 28:11-15


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11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Matt 28:11-15 NIV

I’ll give you a little insight. I was reading some scripture earlier this week and came across this one. The idea of Fake News in the Bible came to me. Here we have a record, (in the BIBLE of all things!) …of what is now commonly known as disinformation or misinformation. Intentional lies to obscure or combat the truth. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. 

Disinformation or Misinformation

Intentional lies to obscure or combat the truth.

Any good journalistic venture begins by simple information gathering. The info comes from interviews and observations. When you’ve got a reporter at the scene of a car crash or building fire, they are observing with their own senses and then relaying what they are experiencing, what info they pull from those observations. So we need to start with the most basic of things: the observation.

The Observation

The main action, the problem before the chief priests, is that on the third day, Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. The stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was missing. That’s the key observation. No spin. No context. No Commentary. Just a simple, verifiable fact. Look in the tomb: the body is gone. 

A Testimony to this observation is that neither side debated whether it was reality or not. Soldiers and disciples saw and knew: The Tomb was empty. 

Lies and Disinformation

This observation would be akin to someone reporting the recent sports scores. There is not much story by relaying the most simple of detail, until something additional is done with that information. 

“…some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.”

Let’s presume they reported at the very least what is recorded in Matt 28:2-4.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”

Matt 28:2-4 NIV

Matthew gives us this level of detail and spiritual insight, but the report to the chief priests who wanted armed military to guard a tomb probably received a basic report like this: 

  • There was a BIG Earthquake (I don’t need to tell you this…you guys felt it, right?)
  • Something (an angel) came from the sky and rolled away the stone and sat down on it!
  • They fessed up that they had gotten scared and possibly had a seizure or passed out at the very least.

The chief priests took in this information. However, this story could not be the “party line.” Even if the silly soldiers were given the chance to confess to having these bizarre experiences, this report takes control and power away from the religious. It makes them look bad. Spin must occur. Misinformation/Disinformation or as they said back in the day, LIEING. That’s what the chief priest came up with. 

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To save face they concocted a story that wasn’t true, but unfortunately it persisted into the time of Matthew’s writing of the Gospel. The Lie? While they were sleeping, Jesus’ Disciples stole and hid his body. The soldiers were paid handsomely to help make this story float.

What’s more, this lie is still one that people who try and refute the resurrection claim as the logical conclusion for what had happened. Clearly that’s not the case, but they must believe something and it certainly is not going to be that Jesus was raised from the dead. They need to push the stolen body narrative. 

So what is the truth? How can we know? Let’s explore that for just a little bit. 

The Truth

And each week as we dive into the lies in the bible, we will uncover the TRUTH. And in this story where the observation is: Jesus’ body missing from the tomb. The Lie being: The disciples stole the body.

The truth is that Jesus is alive! Was Resurrected.

This is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. There are many additional, anecdotal reasons but first and foremost is the verifiable testimonies of people. 

How do we know? 

The Proof

Evidence #1

Immediate witnesses of the Resurrected Jesus. (Matt 28:9-10)

Women. Not immediately believed, but Matthew retells their detailed account, as if he was there. Which begs the question, how did he get those details? The only possible answer is from the only ones who could have given it. The women who saw Jesus, touched his feet, were sent to tell the brothers to meet him in Galilee.

Is this evidence trustworthy?

In those days, the testimony of a woman was not sufficient or could be considered trustworthy. Then why would the gospel writers leave this record in? Because it actually happened

And because of what happened later that also corroborated their report. What happened later? 

Multiple accounts of Jesus sightings after the resurrection.

Jesus showed himself to disciples soon after the Resurrection.

 In Luke 28:13-35 we have the Road to Emmaus story. Two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus are joined by another man walking alongside them. Luke clues us in that this is Jesus, but the disciples don’t “get it” yet. They discuss Jesus’ death, the high hopes they had for him, and the astonishing report from their women (previous witness statements). The statement the women brought was that they had seen the empty tomb and had an angelic experience claiming Jesus was alive. Other disciples went, saw the empty tomb but didn’t find Jesus anywhere.

This story is very intimate. The detail had to have come from one of the three in this conversation. Either Jesus later relayed all this to his disciples, or perhaps one or both of these disciples reported these details. Nothing against Jesus, but He consistently has wanted people to be his witnesses, not Him be his own witness. So my intuition is saying the reporting came from these two disciples.

What evidence is there that this report is trustworthy?

  1. It made the disciples look bad. They had no motivation to make up this level of detail to show how much they lost faith in Jesus. They were corrected by what they thought was a total stranger, who turns out to be Jesus. Upon self-reflection, they knew this was true.
  2. Not only is there this evidence, but again, cooperating information from the other sources – The women’s reports at the tomb, the small group of disciples who went to the tomb to substantiate the women’s report. These disciples must have been close enough to Peter and the others to know all about this right when it happened. According to Luke 24:13, the walk to Emmaus happened the same day as the resurrection. 

Another occurrence of Jesus showing himself to people is found at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew.

Great Commission Matt 28:16-20

Jesus’ instructions, given to the women, were followed. And there in Galilee the eleven encounter Jesus on a mountain. Some worshiped. Some doubted. At some point Jesus gives the disciples their matching orders.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”               

Matt 28:19-20 NIV

Luke brings in another post resurrection encounter. Right after the Emmaus road disciples returned and talked with the other disciples, Jesus “stood among them.” Luke records that the disciples were scared, once again believing he was a ghost.

He gives more evidence to the real, physical nature of himself, his body. He invites any who want to do so, to see and touch his hands and feet. 

He also ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence. The implication being Ghosts don’t eat. He is real, in a real physical body. A resurrected body.

40 days of Jesus

in Acts 1:1-4, Luke is writing to someone (presumably the same someone who was the original audience for Luke’s gospel.) 

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

Acts 1:1-4 NIV

More records of proof, evidence.

Conclusion

With every piece of evidence, uncovering the deception – the misinformation or disinformation, there is always a rebuttal. And God’s word can handle it. 

Disciples stole the body!

  • If the Disciples stole the body, then why would the chief priests need to bribe the soldiers?They wouldn’t.
    • Follow up – how do we, Bible readers, know the soldiers were bribed? The only ones in that scene were the soldiers and the priests. 
      • Did some crossover and tell the truth or did Matthew just understand the politics well enough? My strongest feeling is the first one.

Women testimonies not to be believed?

Another rebuttal is that the testimony of the women that started the whole thing was preposterous. No one would believe the word of women alone in that day and age.

Maybe so… but what about the 40 days of multiple people seeing and experiencing Jesus? 

What about the disciples verifying at least that the tomb was empty?!

The problem when you show a lie for what it is, the liars will begin to attack you or your thoughts and beliefs. They will come up with wild new theories that you will have to rebut. But for this one today, I think we’ve finally come to the Truth. The disciples did not steal Jesus’ body. He was and is alive. He was resurrected. Evidence and testimony show the correct headline: Jesus of Nazarene is Alive!

For you and I today, life is more than mere intellectual gymnastics. We not only have to believe and understand what we believe, but we need to BE the testimony that Jesus is risen indeed! People may not believe the bible is true, but when you and I live out the truth of it, they will start to wonder more and more if Jesus is for real. If we live the resurrected life. 

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