After the death of Jesus, the Sanhedrin (Council of the Jews) led by the High Priest, were relieved. They thought that everything about Jesus and His disciples was over and forgotten, just like every other "claimed Messiah" that came before Him. In the first place, the person and the ministry of Christ shook them a lot. They were afraid to lose the people to His ministry. They were highly disturbed that they were going to lose their value and respect before the people, which they believed that Jesus and His ministry would cost them. In fact, they did everything possible to ensure that the people will never believe in Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. This was why they were very happy to hand Him over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified. When Jesus was on the cross, it was like a dream come through for them,
"Finally, we will regain our glory, the peoples' trust, fear and respect", they believed.
In the midst of this relief, they realized that Jesus said He would rise from the dead three days after He was killed and buried. This remembrance cut short their happiness and short left their celebration of victory over Jesus and His disturbing ministry; the toughest of all others before Him. Quickly, they resolved to do something, to prevent the possibility of His resurrection. Immediately, they sent great and influential men of the Sanhedrin to Pilate to make a special request. Soon the men clustered the palace of Pontius Pilate like soldier ants clustering on a dead snake. Their Pharisaic garment-gown flopping around in the direction of the wind-breeze. With their jaw-full mustache dangling in the rhythmical drumming of their movement, and their heads decorated with a highly exalted canopy-like black, white and red cap as they drag the road for others to give way.
"Sir (perhaps) they said, "You must listen to what we have to say".
"What is it again this time? I have put your king to death the way you wanted. So why can't I still rest in my palace?" Pilate asked with a red-white wrinkled, tired face.
"That false prophet, that blasphemer who called Himself 'The Son of God', who is dead and rotting in the grave right now, claimed that He will come back to life..." They were interrupted by Pilate's ridiculous laughter.
"Ha! Ha!! Ha...!" Pilate laughed ridiculously, with little relief, "Is that why you are here? Have you seen anyone who was killed and buried that came back to life? Why are you so concerned about that? Do you believe He is the Son of God and has the power to come back to life from the grave?" Pilate asked.
"Never! He is not the Son of God and not our Messiah. When the Messiah comes, the whole Israel will know. Certainly, we are not here because we fear He will resurrect. But we are here because we believe that the naive disciples he had deceived will go and steal His body and claim that He has resurrected the way He predicted. This will make a great multitude to believe that liar and will cause another trouble to your peaceful rule in our land". They said.
"Okay, so, what is it that you want me to do?" Pilate asked.
"We want you to place a seal over His tomb and guard the tomb with your soldiers for three days, we will also assist by sending some of our temple guards to guard the tomb with your soldiers. Let them ensure that no one goes near the tomb till three days are over" they requested.
"That is settled, I will do as you've said. However, after this, let none of you disturb me again with this matter"
Pilate warned and they bowed and left half happy and half troubled, swaying their loosely garment-gown the same way they came.
Very funny that they did not know that they were confirming the prophecy, and will become authentic evidence to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pontius Pilate did as they have requested, he sent some armed soldiers to guard the tomb where Jesus was buried. To ensure that Pilate did not trick them, the Sanhedrin also sent some of their temple guards to assist the Roman soldiers and to ensure that the tomb was properly sealed and guarded. They were there all day, from the first to the second day. On the third day, early in the morning, which was the first day of the week, something unusual happened. This took place before all the soldiers and the temple guards guarding the tomb where Jesus was buried. What was this that happened? God Almighty sent an angel from His heaven to where Jesus was buried. The coming down of this angel caused a great earthquake. The quake broke the seal place over or around the tomb of Jesus and the angel rolled away the big stone used in covering the tomb of Jesus and sat on it. Before all the soldiers and the temple guards who were paralyzed by the glory of Jesus Christ, but were allowed with full consciousness to see and understand everything that was happening; Jesus Christ, the King of glory, the Lord of lords, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Saviour of the world, resurrected from the dead as He said He would. He stepped out of the tomb with mighty and radiating glory that paralyzed those sent to prevent His disciples from stealing His "Dead" body. Instead of His body being stolen, He that was actually dead, His death confirmed, buried and forgotten, came back to life on the third day He was killed, confirmed dead and buried as He consciously said would happen.
This is another great shock to the Sanhedrin, they should not hear this, but unfortunately, the news must get to them. Still, on the morning of the first day of the week, the sun has however risen, and the day brightened. The Sanhedrin had gathered and Caiaphas the High Priest was already seated.
"Today is the day He said He will resurrect"
Caiaphas said to the people, referring to Jesus.
"Today will determine the next step to take. The news reaching us yesterday said that the tomb was completely sealed up and the Roman soldiers, well equipped with some of our temple guards are ceaselessly guarding the tomb. Surely, it will be very difficult for His disciples to steal His body. Glory be to Yahweh, finally, we have put this heresy and that blasphemer in place"
Caiaphas concluded. While trying to raise another issue for discussion, behold the three temple guards sent to assist the Roman soldiers to guard the tomb of Jesus, running into the house of Caiaphas, which was in the temple, dragging the door and panting for breath. Seeing them that way, Caiaphas jumped from his seat to his feet, and the whole Counsel of the Jews (Sanhedrin) was troubled with him.
"What is the matter? Why are you running and panting as if a ghost is after you?"
Caiaphas asked, worried.
"Something worse than a ghost has happened, Rabbi!"
One of the temple guards spoke out after much panting and struggling for breath.
"It would have been better if we were running from a ghost"
said another guard.
"I charge you in the name of the LORD to tell us why you are so much terrified and panting in the holy temple of the LORD and before His holy people"
Caiaphas ordered, his finger waved around at the people seated with him in "U" shape (the Sanhedrin), his face clustered with wrinkles in an anxious-angrily-eager to hear why they were in that mood.
"Early this morning Rabbi, before the sunrise, he fell like a mighty thunder giant star, lightning and burning like a fierce furnace. From the sky, within a twinkle of an eye, he was already on the earth. At his arrival, the earth quaked and the ground rumpled in great fear and terror, as it tore wide open. He was right before us, we could see him clearly, and was sure he was the angel of the LORD, but our entire beings were without life or strength, however, our full consciousness was very much awake. We were all powerless before him. Like a weightless toy, he rolled out the big stone used in covering His (Jesus') tomb, with the seal broken and sat on the stone. Before our conscious eyes, minds and powerless bodies, behold Him (Jesus) walking out of the tomb alive, majestically, with resplendent glory beyond comprehension, with head and hands held high above us and the tomb. Rabbi, He has risen, He looked at us, His face covered with glory, brighter than the noon sun and His eyes burned like lightning flames of fire. He smiled and walked away gallantly until He was taken from our sight. At that moment, our bodies came back to life and we could feel the strength in our bones again. Everybody took to his heels, the Roman soldiers on their path, and we on our path. So, we ran into the temple, Rabbi, to inform you that, that Jesus of Nazareth has risen",
narrated one of the temple guards, as the other two with him nodded their heads in agreement with every sentence he made.
"This can't be. What manner of man is that man Jesus to defile death and its power? No, this can't be. The people must not hear this. They will accuse us of killing the Son of God, the Messiah who is to come. If this should happen, it then means that we will lose our people to this man and His teachings. We will lose our respect before the people, our religion, customs, and traditions as handed over to us by our fathers will be in great jeopardy." Caiaphas the high priest grumbled. Turning to the temple guards he asked, "Are you certain of this you said? Did you really see this man resurrect?"
"Yes, we are certain, Rabbi," the temple guards replied.
"Have you said this that you saw to anyone?" The high priest asked.
"No, Rabbi. As soon as we regained our strength, we ran directly here to tell you, Rabbi."
"Very well, the three of you should wait outside, let's deliberate on this matter," Caiaphas instructed the men.
When the men left, Caiaphas the high priest asked members of the Sanhedrin, "Men and brethren, what do we do about this matter?"
"This must not be heard among the people. We must stop it from escalating, and getting into people's ears. Because, if this should escalate, the effect will be disastrous". Said a member of the Sanhedrin.
"How then do we stop this from escalating? We already have witnesses of both the temple guards and the Roman soldiers. And according to our tradition, any witness involving three people is established as truth. Sadly enough, the witnesses are more than three. If the people hear this, nothing will stop them from believing it since both the Jews and Romans have the same testimony of the risen Jesus, the son of Mary the wife of Joseph the carpenter". Caiaphas asked worriedly in agreement with members of the Sanhedrin.
After much deliberation, the Sanhedrin led by Caiaphas the high priest resolved to persuade the temple guards to testify that the body of Jesus was stolen by His disciples while they and the Roman Soldiers who were supposed to guard the tomb where Jesus was buried were asleep. The three men were called in by the Sanhedrin and were warned never to tell anyone that Jesus resurrected from the dead, rather, they must say that His disciples came when they were asleep and stole His body. After the warning, the Sanhedrin sent spies over them, and when they discovered that these men cannot keep the secret, they sent against them assassins who assassinated them.
"My brothers, we have taken care of the temple guards who cannot keep their mouths short for the greater good, however, how do we ensure the Roman soldiers involved will not disclose the news?" Caiaphas the high priest asked.
"Every man has a price, let's invite them and know what their prices are," said a member of the Pharisee.
The Sanhedrin invites the Roman soldiers who guarded the tomb where Jesus was buried. And pleaded with them to testify falsely about the resurrection of Jesus. They were to say that Jesus' disciples stole His body. The Roman soldiers presented their fears to the Sanhedrin. They made them know that if Pilate hears that Jesus' body was stolen by His disciples under their guard, even if they use sleep as an excuse, Pilate will still demand their lives, in line with the military code. But the Sanhedrin assured them that they will intercede on their behalf before Pilate. The agreement was reached and they were happy, thinking that the news about the resurrection of Christ had been silenced. Little did they know that Jesus will appear Himself and present Himself to many in Jerusalem, including to His disciples.
To be continued.
Nwoko Solomon Ikechukwu (Pastor)