The leader turned to the Roman soldiers and asked, "Did you actually see this 'person' roll away the stone?"

"Yes," they answered.

"Did you actually see Jesus of Nazareth walk out of the tomb?"

"No."

"Well, then. There is your answer!" the leader said to the Sanhedrin. "He did not rise from the dead. No one saw him come out of the tomb." Then he smiled at the gathering. "The body of Jesus was stolen by his disciples while the guards lay sleeping."

"But ... ," the soldier protested.

However, before the soldiers could get the words out, they were cut off by a loud CLUNK. A bag full of coins had appeared on the table before them.

"We understand that hardworking soldiers have certain needs," the leader of the Sanhedrin said benignly. This was clearly more money than the soldiers had seen in a long time.

No one in the room dared say what they all were thinking, for it was a serious offense to bribe a Roman official. It was also against Jewish law to offer a bribe. So the word "bribe" was never mentioned.

A chief priest finally broke the silence. "This money is simply a token of our appreciation for your diligence. Consider it a reward for information that will lead to the destruction of a criminal conspiracy."

"But . . . we will be punished for sleeping on our watch," a soldier protested.

"Pilate is our friend," the leader of the Sanhedrin said, dismissing his concerns. "If this report gets to the governor, we will talk to Pilate and keep you out of trouble. You will not be punished."

Once the ruling council reached agreement on their fictitious account of the disappearance of the body of Jesus, they quickly spread word throughout Jerusalem that his disciples had robbed the sepulchre during the night and had stolen the body of Jesus.

Those who had rejected Jesus in the Temple were quick to believe the lie, but others were not so sure.

"So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day." -- Matthew 28:15

 

Excerpted from The Son, by Elmer Towns. Copyright © 1999. Regal Books. Ventura, California 93003. Used by permission.