Have you ever cooked something up that didn’t exactly, auhh… pan out?  (Pardon the pun…)

Same here. Today, we can have a fresh shot of lasting encouragement because of a plan with strong support and impressive implementation that didn’t work out. It just thrills me to pieces every time I read it, although the background leading up to it always breaks my heart.

Of course, it has to do with Jesus.

The plan which failed miserably was hatched by the chief priests and the Pharisees, who shared a hatred of Jesus of Nazareth.

This Jewish Rabbi had become a problem for Israel’s spiritual leaders. He often contradicted them and enthusiastic crowds were hanging on His every word. He was teaching things about God which were shocking to everyone. And He spoke with such authority!  He had picked embarrassingly common men as His disciples and was performing every kind of miracle imaginable. Worse yet, Jesus was calling Jehovah God His Father!

He’d become the people’s hero.

And they needed to find a way to get rid of Him!

If one wasn’t in tune with all of Jesus’ teachings and the Old Testament prophecies about Him, it would seem the chief priests and Pharisees succeeded in destroying Him.  They bought off Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples. Jesus didn’t put up a fight when they came by night to arrest Him. And their hope of seeing Him ridiculed and put to death was realized.

Jesus died, having been crucified outside Jerusalem. It was confirmed and they saw it with their own eyes. Their hated enemy was dead.

But inexplicable and frightening things happened in the process. At the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple which had barred entrance from the Holy of Holies was instantly torn in two, from top to bottom.  And the earth shook. The rocks were split.  The Roman centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus during His crucifixion, upon seeing the earthquake and the things that were happening, became terrified and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (see Matthew 27:50-54)

When it was evening, a rich man named Joseph asked the Roman authority, Pilate, for the body of Jesus. He took it and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb. A large stone, most likely on a ramp and held in place by a timber, was rolled into place against the entrance of the tomb.

The chief priests and Pharisees should have been fully satisfied with their “success”. Jesus was dead and buried. His disciples were scattered.

It was over.

* * *

Until they got to thinking, that is.

Perhaps they were nervous about the earthquake and the rocks splitting, which would have been understandably traumatic.  And how, they may have wondered, could it be the temple veil between mankind and Jehovah’s Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom? It was a thick, tight, intricate weaving. It just wasn’t possible!

The shocked cry of the tough, seasoned centurion—absolutely terrified—may also have continued ringing through their minds: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

* * *

The chief priests and Pharisees began to worry. Specific words spoken by Jesus were poignantly recalled and apparently discussed together, as a group.

Ahhh… then came The Plan!

You know, the one that failed.

* * *

“Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.”

Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away, and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first.’

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”

Matthew 27:62-66

* * *

Even as a child, I remember listening to this passage of Scripture and thinking, “Well that wasn’t going to do any good!”

Can you imagine an eyebrow raising in quiet disbelief from the highly trained, tactical expert in charge of the elite Roman guard when he heard the order?

“You’re to set a guard at the tomb of Jesus. He was the one with the sign on His cross yesterday, ‘The King of the Jews’.”

“And why?”

“Well, He said that after His death He was going to rise again three days later.”

“And?”

“Well, of course we don’t believe that will happen…”

“And so?”

“Well, you know. His disciples might come and try to steal the body. And then tell everybody that He rose from the dead.”

“Ahhh. Like He said He would, you mean?”

“Yes. We just can’t let that happen.”

“So, I’m supposed to take my highly trained, special ops men and be ready to die with them, if necessary, protecting… a dead man’s tomb?”

“Yes. It’s very important.”

“We’re to protect it from whom, again?”

“Well, Jesus’ disciples.”

“I see. The ones who disappeared? Those cowards? The fishermen and misfits, from what I understand?”

“Yes.”

“Well… okay then. There you have it!”

* * *

Matthew 28:1-11:

“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 lightening, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.’

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them,

‘Do not be afraid; go and take word to my brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.’

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.”

* * *

Perhaps you’ve noticed there are individuals today still trying to bury Jesus. It even appears they are succeeding.

Plans to remove Him from schools and universities have met with strong support followed by well-orchestrated implementation.

Jesus appears to be buried in a lot of homes and even churches. Many pulpits, books, and discourses seek to bury the Way, the Truth, and the Life which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

However, the efforts to keep Jesus buried the first time around didn’t work.

And the massive efforts to bury Him again will prove wholly unsuccessful.

* * *

Jesus’ response to the hatred and brutality of those seeking to put Him in the ground is as counter-cultural today as it was when He prayed over them from the cross:

“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)

To those of us who are Christ’s adopted children, saved and forgiven of our own sins, how can we love and pray any differently?

* * *

If you find yourself distressed by the apparent success of others to bury Jesus a second time, please be encouraged.

Those efforts are not going to pan out.

I Thessalonians 4:15-18 assures Christ’s followers:

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”

* * *

And, dear friend, please do not beat up on yourself if you’ve been trying to bury the truth of Jesus Christ in your own heart and life. Today—right now—you can acknowledge, like the centurion: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Would you like to know more about what it means to place your faith in Christ? Or just want to drop us a line? We’d love to hear from you because…

He’s alive, we’re grateful, and you are loved!

(june@encouragementthatlasts.org)

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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