Matthew 28:11-20 Part 2


During the week (as I was considering this passage – verses eleven through fifteen – one last time) I heard a rabbi being interviewed on a major Dallas/Forth Worth radio talk show.  The subject of the show was “the purpose of some Christian Churches to evangelize the Jews”.  And, as he was answering questions from the host of the show, and from the listening audience, he was eloquent in his use of the language and very deliberately in his reasoning – giving the impression that he was very learned and wise.  His tone, and his demeanor, and the methods he used in speaking to the host (and to the radio audience) were designed to captivate his hearers and build confidence in them that he was speaking the truth.

I’m not going to relate any of the particulars of his comments at this point… for the most part they all had to do with our “pluralistic society” – that there are many ways to satisfy the human “yearning” for god.  And what we ought to be working for is “tolerance” between the  “faiths” for the good of all.  There was an appealing call here for Christians and Jews to view each other as having the same roots and the same god… therefore we should be side by side as “equals” in the veracity and legitimacy of our “faiths”!

As I said, it was a very appealing argument – one which probably “warmed” many hearts out there as to the need for us to love and respect each other, and live together with mutual esteem.

It was an excellent performance.  But it came right out of darkness.  It was pure deception.  And it was false testimony concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.  And those in the audience who might have been “taken in” by the smooth words and appealing reasoning were following after a “false prophet”.  As Matthew says here in verse fifteen:


“and this word (this Logos) was proclaimed among the Jews until this day”.


That statement wasn’t only true Matthew’s day… it’s also true even to today!  It is the same false testimony!

Hear what the prophet Isaiah says in chapter twenty-nine:


“Inasmuch as this people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandments of men; therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people.  A marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.  Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord, and their works are in the dark; They say, ‘Who sees us?’  And  ‘Who knows us?’  Surely you have turned things upside down…”!


“Pause and wonder!  Blind yourselves and be blind! … Drunk, but not with wine; staggering, but not intoxicating drink.  For the Lord has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep.  And has closed your eyes… and covered your heads….”


And these are the same ones against whom God instructed Ezekiel to prophecy… in chapter thirty-four.  Listen.


“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds… woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!  Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.  The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost.  So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.  My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yea, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them….

‘Therefore, as I live… surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves… therefore, behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from the mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.’”


Then Ezekiel goes on to say that God will judge between the sheep and the sheep.  And He will make a new covenant with the ones who He separates out; and establish a “Good Shepherd” Who will be a Prince among them (a Ruler).

And this (the Prince) (prophesied in Ezekiel chapter thirty-four) is the One against Whom they would bring false testimony… as we see in our text this morning.  Not only did the shepherds of Israel not “feed” the sheep the Word of Truth (thereby blinding them and leaving them broken and imprisoned and scattered), but, when they did bear witness to them, it was a false witness!  (As the text here says:  “and This Logos was spread among the Jews to this very day”!)  And that false witness was contrived and deliberate – in that those who had been blinded by the false shepherds might continue in their blindness!

The Law states that one who bears false witness against His neighbor is to receive the punishment which his neighbor would have received had he been convicted on the basis of that testimony.  And I think it no coincidence that the false witness borne against the risen Christ (here in our text) has “borne” its fruit in the continued “deadness” of the nation of Israel – thereby satisfying this Law of God!

For the soldiers, having “recovered” from being “as dead ones”, and more than likely still “terrified”, went back into the city (verse eleven).  And some of them went to the high priests who had “posted” them there at the tomb.  And they reported all that had happened.  They brought back the story, the report, the word, of what happened at the tomb of God’s Messiah (at least all that of which they were cognizant)!

And when they heard it (the priests), and recognizing that this was real trouble, there was called a formal session of the Sanhedrin.  This was still early – on the first day of the Jewish work-week….Sunday.  (Resurrection Day.)  Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all seventy of the members (and all their aids) were present… but there was certainly a quorum.  And they would have heard the report of the guards concerning what happened at the tomb.

Now, although it is not explicitly stated here, it is most certainly implied (because of the language here in the text and the history of the Sanhedrin and how it worked) that there was a formal declaration that was agreed upon.  And what they agreed to do was to deceive the people of Israel!

Because of the large numbers of people who had enthusiastically (rapidly) followed this Galilean into Jerusalem, and because He had been taken from the them and crucified, and because of the countless thousands of conversations (doubtlessly) going on about Him all over Jerusalem (and beyond), and because of (according to the soldiers) the very strange and unusual and mystifying conditions under which He had disappeared from the tomb, if it was believed that He had indeed arisen from the dead there could be a groundswell of heroic proportions in His favor!

Remember that when the Roman guard was first requested from Pilate (chapter twenty-seven, verse sixty-three), the Jews had said to him that the tomb needed to be guarded against Jesus’ disciples stealing the body and claiming that He rose again as He had said He would.  And that, if that were the case, the situation would worsen!  What they said to Pilate was, “the last error would be worse than the first”!  In other words, if the people believed that this Man who they desired to be the king of Israel had actually arisen from death, then they would truly be an emboldened and high-spirited crowd – motivated by religious zeal!

So there was great fear among the Sanhedrin of a circulated story of a resurrected Jesus Christ.  And early on the very day of His (Jesus’) resurrection the council of leaders of the nation of Israel devised and calculated a great deception of the people of Israel which is still in place to this very day (evidenced by the Rabbi)!  They deceived the people as to the resurrection of God’s Messiah!

They bribed the soldiers to bear false witness of the Christ.  They were paid to tell a completely different story… that Jesus’ body was removed from the tomb while they slept.  That’s all.  And if (since they were supposed to be “guarding” rather than sleeping)… if they got in trouble for it and came under discipline, the Jewish leaders would “fix it” with Pilate!  (See how the scheming mind works?)

The text says that they would “persuade” him, or “convince” him (verse fourteen).  That word carries no meaning that would indicate another deception.  In other words their scheme didn’t include concocting another story for Pilate.  What it probably means is that, in the event of a hearing on the soldiers’ conduct (sleeping on duty), the priests would go to Pilate and tell him what they had done.  They would persuade him that their plan was a good one – for them, for Israel, and for Pilate’s governorship!  After all, a zealous, religious uprising, consisting of many thousands of people, would most likely result in his being recalled to Rome!

So, being apprised of the situation, and knowing the truth of what actually happened, Pilate would no longer have a reason to hold a hearing!  What reason would he have to hold a hearing if he already knew what was done?  And what reason would he have of disciplining the soldiers if what they had done was beneficial to his political career?

So, you see, the Sanhedrin’s scheme of deception (although very complicated) was also very sound.  And it worked.  As verse fifteen says, the soldiers did exactly as they were instructed and paid to do.  That means that the story of “the disciples ‘making off’ with Jesus’ body while the soldiers slept” was spread abroad, or “disseminated” among all the people!  And, of course, the Jews believed what they heard.  They had no reason to disbelieve eye-witnesses (having no knowledge of the scheme of deception by their leaders).  So whenever the story came up of the resurrection of Jesus, they simply were able to say, “Nah!  That’s mythology.  The soldiers who were there tell a different story.”

And so all Israel was further blinded; and the synagogues of the Jews all over the world further became synagogues of Satan because they did not receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and the Gospel went to the Gentiles instead (as was prophesied).  (That’s you and me.)

Now, before I speak to you about the compassion of God toward the Jewish people, I want to read for you a portion of Scripture regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I’ve spoken before about the critical importance of the resurrection… about how there is no Christianity without it… that the hope of mankind rests in the work of Christ – integrally included in which is His defeat of death itself!

In our condition as mankind we certainly can’t overcome death.  If it were left to us, we would remain dead.  There’s nothing we can do about it.  We most assuredly can’t raise ourselves out of it!  So you see, death had to be defeated.  The “plague” of mankind is that he dies (because of sin, we die).  But Jesus dealt death a “death-blow”.  He had the power to take His life back again.  And He did that.  And He did it for us.  And there is no “sting” to it any more.  The “sting” of death was the fear of its “finality” (the finality because of sin)… and the fact that we couldn’t do anything about that finality (we couldn’t do anything about sin!).  But, now, Jesus has dealt with death.  He crushed it.  And “mankind in Christ” now anticipates personal resurrection because of Him.

Listen to Paul as he writes in reaction to the issue of the resurrection – as it came up in the Corinthian Church.


“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present (although some have fallen asleep).  After that He was seen by James; then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time….

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised form the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen!  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise!  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order… Christ the firstfruits… afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  For He has put all things under His feet.  But when He says, ‘All things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He Who put all things under Him is excepted.  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him Who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”


And then Paul goes on to explain the kind of body that will be resurrected.  And he quotes that great statement from Isaiah chapter twenty-five that everyone knows…


“death is swallowed up in victory”.


Now as we come to a close this morning let me say just a couple of things about God’s faithfulness and His compassion for His people Israel.  We’ve seen from the text this morning that the deception of Israel’s leadership concerning the resurrection of Christ was of fearful significance leading to Israel’s final destruction.  And it is true that Israel was then cut off of the covenant.  And it is true that the Church, made up primarily of Gentile elect from everywhere, is now the true Israel, grafted into the covenant!

But God has not forgotten the Jewish people.  He called that nation His “Son”.  Abraham, the father of Israel, was the man to whom God first spoke His covenant promises.  The Word of God was given to the Jews.  The tabernacle and the temple were built in the midst of them.  And Jesus Christ Himself was born a Jew.

In anger and wrath God cut them off for rebellion and disobedience.  But He has not forgotten them.  And He will once again have compassion on them.

He held a remnant of Jews for Himself in the “Day of the Lord”.  And there are still some who worship God now (two thousand years later) in the Name of Jesus Christ.  (He has saved a remnant of Israel.)

The apostle Paul mentions these things in chapter eleven of his letter to the Church at Rome.  And we, even though we read in places such as in our text this morning, of the utter perversion of the Jewish nation and the desperately evil nature of her leadership, we still must not forget the faithfulness and compassion of our God!  Remember, we, too, were at enmity with God and lost in our sin when He found us!  And He included us – pagan Gentiles – in His Covenant promises!  Abraham became our father in the Covenant!

And Paul then alludes to the Jews being grafted in once again to their original covenant stalk!  He says that, God is able to graft them in again.


“For if you (Gentiles) were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?”


So because of God’s apparent intent to bring the Jewish people to Himself in Christ’s Church (all Israel), we need to be praying to that effect.  He is faithful; and He is compassionate.  Therefore we need to be faithful and compassionate.  And we need to be ready to preach the Gospel to Jews each time that opportunity becomes available to us.  For, one day there will be a great gathering of Jews into the Church of Jesus Christ!

Our text this morning teaches us of the terrible wrath of God toward all who are blinded to the Truth.  But we must not forget His faithfulness and His compassion – especially as we remember our Lord and all that He did.


“He was wounded for our transgressions.

He was bruised for our iniquities,

The chastisement of our peace was upon Him,

And with His stripes we are healed.”