When we talk about witnesses to the resurrection, we almost always—and only—talk about the women. The faithful women were the ones who heard the angel message, saw the empty tomb, and went to tell people that Christ was risen.
But, according to Matthew, there were guards who also heard the angel message, saw the empty tomb, and went to tell people that Christ was risen.
Of course, the results of their resurrection reports turn out quite different. The Mary’s pass along Jesus’ message for the disciples to meet him in Galilee, and six verses later “the disciples went to Galilee.”
The guards tell the chief priests “everything that had happened,” and the religious leaders pay the guards to change their story. “’You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’”
The women did as Jesus told them—they went forth and proclaimed the truth. The truth of love; the truth of peace; the truth of life—the truth about real power. That truth is in our world.
But the guards also did as the authorities told them—they went forth and proclaimed the lie. The lie of animosity; the lie of violence; the lie of death—the lie about real power. Those lies are also in our world.
- The lie that dropping bombs is helpful and will make us safe.
- The lie that building a wall will keep out the bad guys and make us safe.
- The lie that letting police departments continue with racist practices will improve morale and make us safe.
- The lie that executing criminals will deter crime and make us safe.
- The lie that churches need armed security forces to make us safe.
The lies are often about keeping us safe. Which really means keeping those in power safe. Maintaining the Pax Romana. The Pax Americana.
The Resurrection is Good News. It is truth. And human lies cannot change the truth. Human lies cannot change the ultimate reality of God as manifest in the risen Christ. But human lies can change how the resurrection affects our lives and our world in this moment.
It matters if we take the money—or security, or comfort—from the powers that be and join the guards in their lies:
- We must sacrifice the few for the many.
- We should trust the power of the authorities.
- Violence keeps us safe.
- Death wins.
It matters if we worship Jesus and join the women in proclaiming the truth:
- All are beloved and must be cared for.
- We should trust in the power of God.
- Violence begets more violence.
- Divine life is more powerful than death.
The call of Easter is at once simple and difficult: to tell the truth of the Resurrection in a world obsessed with death.
Even when they offer money or status or comfort or safety if we would only repeat their version of the story—we tell the truth.
Even when people look at us like we’re crazy, and we start to feel a little crazy—we tell the truth.
Even when the lies are so loud they seem to drown out our tired voices—we tell the truth.
There we no sleeping guards. No sneaky disciples.
There was an earthquake and an angel and a risen savior.
There is the power of God in this world that has overcome, is overcoming, will overcome all the forces of death.
We tell the truth: Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.