The first gospel reading after Easter (Mt 28:8-15) picks up right after Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” go away from the tomb after the angel tells them that Jesus is risen and that they are to go and tell His disciples. Now they encounter Jesus and give Him homage. He also tells them to go to His disciples. Meanwhile, those who had “guarded” the tomb tell the chief priests everything that went on. After the chief priests took counsel with the elders they settled on the line above to relay to the guards. In addition, they tell the guards they will appease the governor if there is any trouble for them on that end. The soldiers do as they are told, starting a false story that persisted to the day of the writing of the gospel.
Not only did the story endure for a few decades, in some circles it persists to this day, twenty centuries later. More important for our reflection, consider the action of the Sanhedrin. They had witnessed Jesus in action for three years, noting all the good He did, hearing Him preach, witnessing His miracles. Nevertheless, they knowingly put Him to death unjustly. Then, when He rises as He foretold, instead of finally coming around upon hearing this awesome, never before heard of, news, they double down and after taking counsel — this was not a hasty or knee jerk reaction but a well thought out plan — pay off witnesses to the event. Their hearts only hardened as did their ancestors time and time again as we read in the Old Testament.
Unlike these Jewish religious leaders, may any hardness in our hearts soften upon the news of the risen Christ, transforming us into “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). That Jesus is alive is not news to hide or deny but to proclaim boldly to the world! The Lord has defeated death and He “was raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25).
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