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It's A Lie - April 22, 2018

Matthew 28:11-15

While the women were on the way, SOME of the guards went into the city and reported everything that had happened. Some of the guards. More than one. More than two, at least 3, maybe more, of the guards went to the city to tell what had happened. That means something. There are multiple witnesses. It's not just some random guard who had too much to drink or had a crazy dream. And it's not just two guys colluding. It's at least 3

guards all telling the same story. In Jewish law, you needed at least two witnesses to have legal status for truth. They had that, and more. And for most of us, if we see something crazy...something odd, something out of sorts, we look to another person to see if we imagined it, or if it was real. Right? Say you're watching something on TV with a friend or a family member, and something crazy unbelievable happens, what do you do? (look right) Did you see that?!! You look for confirmation. Did you imagine it or was it real? And, with the beauty of modern TV, it doesn't even matter if they were paying attention because you can just rewind and show them again. Then you can verify what you saw and they can verify what you saw. It's what we do.

These men had this unbelievable experience that they shared together and they knew something had to be told. Now, look at who they talked to. It wasn't their bosses....it wasn't anyone Roman. They weren't trying to get themselves out of trouble for losing the guy they were guarding. Instead, they went to the Jewish leaders...they knew they would want to know. So they told them, "look, we don't really understand what happened, but we were at the tomb guarding your guy and suddenly there was an earthquake....did you feel it?! There was an earthquake and then an angel appeared and moved the stone, but himself. And then he just sat on it, like it was no big thing. And he was so bright we could barely look at him. It was crazy and scary."

And then what happened?
"Ummm....we don't really know."
What do you mean you don't know?
Well, it was scary and bright and we passed out.
All of you?!
Yeah...
Unbelievable.
Yeah, it was crazy.
It is crazy. And no one will believe you. But they'll believe you fell asleep. They'll believe you failed. They'll believe his friends stole the body to make it look like something incredible happened. So that's what we'll tell them. Better yet, that's what you'll tell them. You'll tell them you fell asleep and the body was stolen.
But that's not what happened...
And you think people will believe you? You'll tell them this version instead. And on the days you dare to resort to your version, remember us. (handling money). Remember this.

There was a truth that threatened the government.
There was a truth that threatened the norm.
There was a truth that dared the impossible.
There was a truth that could change everything.

And there were those who tried to quash it. They didn't want that kind of truth. They didn't want a truth that would challenge them or that would give others the courage to challenge them. They wanted their way. Regardless of what that meant they might exclude, deny, or miss.
The chief priests sought to undermine the message of hope, of life, of possibility in the midst of impossibility. And they were convincing. Think about it. The message of Jesus and the resurrection persisted but there are plenty of people who still believe this version: It's a lie. They made it up. It didn't happen. And people stand solidly behind that. Not because they're sheep or they fell for some intricate lie. But because it's easy to believe. After all dead means dead. So when people say Jesus died and he stayed dead. He never resurrected. No one struggles to believe it. That's how things go. That's the way things are. Of course, he's still dead. That's the believable version. You ask people which version makes sense which one will they say? That he's dead. It's the only logical answer.

Sadly, hopelessness makes sense. Lifelessness makes sense. Death makes sense. Even a god who has limited power makes sense. And if we're not careful we end up putting our stock in what makes sense instead of in God. Instead of believing and trusting, we deny hope.
But just because something looks logical or makes sense, doesn't mean it's the truth. The truth is something miraculous happened that morning and the guards saw it. The earth shook. An angel came and moved the stone, and sat before them in dazzling white and they were so overcome, they passed out. And that's the story they shared. That was their truth. Something magnificent happened. Did it make sense? No! Was it logical? No. Was it believable? Not at all. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
And, despite the money they received, someone talked. Someone told the truth. Someone shared what really happened and we have it here in the Bible. Think about it, if they had really kept it to themselves, we'd never see, or read, or hear this story. It would have disappeared as they touted the lie they were paid to tell. But somewhere in there the truth took a stand and they had to tell their story. They had to fix things. After all, if they really had fallen asleep on the job and really had allowed this man's body to be stolen...they would have been killed for it. Failure to perform duties, especially falling asleep on the job, was punishable by death. Do you think they were going to risk that?
So the truth came out. The truth was they felt the earthquake and saw the angel, and the stone was rolled away, and it was so darn impressive, that they passed out. They didn't see Jesus walkabout of the tomb. They didn't see him resurrected. But you can bet with what they did see, with what they did experience that it wasn't so hard to believe the other version....the one where he was alive....the one where he was able to walk and talk and eat and touch people.
The resurrection story can be a hard one to believe. It makes no logical sense. It breaks all the rules. And it is much easier to believe dead means dead and Jesus' body was stolen and nothing miraculous took place that day. But somehow the story has persisted....not just as a story, but as a truth....something real and tangible and concrete. Something worthy of sharing.
The truth of the matter is...there are a lot of stories out there. And gossip can go a long way. But inevitably the truth rises to the top. Someone ends up having to tell the story of what they saw and heard and experienced. No matter who says it's a lie. And no matter who wants to keep the truth a secret.
There are plenty of people today who will still tell us this story about a resurrected Jesus is just a story, or maybe it's even a lie. And if that's what you chose to believe, not many people could blame you. After all, dead means dead. But there's another story out there...one that is highly impossible, crazy unbelievable, and persistently hopeful....and that story is that Jesus is alive. He died and was buried and yet he is alive. He rose from the grave, talked to his disciples, shared a meal with them, and lived despite his death.
What will you believe?

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