“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” Matthew 28:11-15 [ESV]
As I read the Easter story this weekend this section stood out to me. To this day people believe Jesus’ body was whisked away by His disciples. The lie that started so long ago is still widely accepted as truth today.
Can you imagine being the guards? They carried the secret of what really happened that night to their graves. Perhaps they lay awake in the wee hours of warm Jerusalem summer nights thinking about what happened. They felt the earth shake. They saw the sealed tomb open. They remember falling to the earth–frozen like corpses and Katy’s Custard. (Katy’s is a frozen custard business in Waco, TX)
Either the disciples are demi gods or truly Jesus is the Son of God, they thought. (Or at least I’d wager they thought that)
I just finished reading “1984” by George Orwell. My mind made the connection between Matthew 28:11-15 and the words Orwell coined, ‘Party’ and ‘Big Brother.’
Perhaps the guards in the Bible are like Party intellectuals, the Jewish leaders are like the ‘Thought Police’ and the practice of ‘doublethink’ is the perpetuated lie about Christ. Hear me out.
In “1984,” the Party rewrites history–shaping it to suit the Party’s purposes. The book goes into great detail about the mutability of the past. Lies are purported as truth. History is rewritten and records are altered. And, thankfully for us, records have not been destroyed of what really happened with Jesus’ body. In this case, the truth can only be ignored, not rewritten.
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory belief’s in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.”
Doublethink is to tell intentional lies and then genuinely believe in them. It’s forgetting inconvenient facts. That’s what Jewish officials did.
“The essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty,” Orwell writes.
However, this lie, that Jesus was spirited away, is not believed by everyone. There are Party members who don’t believe the falsehoods of the Party in “1984” entirely, as Orwell’s character Winston didn’t believe in the Party. And then there are what Orwell calls ‘proles.’ Proles are outside the system, so to speak. Perhaps for the sake of this article I can call Christians proles?
Proles, as Winston writes, are the salvation of humankind. While Christians are not salvation, they do have an answer to how to find salvation.
Jesus still lives despite tries to wipe, stamp, rewrite and explain away what happened when Jesus was resurrected.
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
He lives, not just in vague memories, but in actuality. He is risen.