Have you ever watched a movie and been disappointed with the ending? Or maybe there was an alternate ending in the special features section of the DVD?
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 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.
I remember going to see a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar a few years ago. It was a fantastic musical! How awesome that the story of Jesus was being proclaimed into a secular world by a musical theatre company! But it was a disappointing ending: the musical finishes with Jesus’ death (sorry – spoilers!). There was no resurrection. I wanted an alternate ending – I wanted the true ending!
I was struck by how someone who’s never heard the message of the Gospel would think of Jesus if that was all they ever heard about him. This supposed great teacher, a man of wisdom and power, but he couldn’t fulfil his final word: that he would come back from the dead.
At the end of Matthew, we read a similar kind of alternate ending to the Gospel. Up until this point, there’s been Pharisees continually fighting against Jesus and his message, but to little avail. Jesus’ confronting message has spread throughout the region. The Pharisees haven’t been able to stop it.
And now, finally, the Pharisees have a chance to silence those Jesus followers once and for all with a story that puts the message of Jesus in the ground for good: Jesus hasn’t risen – his disciples stole him away in the night! And if he hasn’t risen, then he hasn’t fulfilled what he said he’d do. And if he can’t do that, then the rest of his teaching is put into question. If Jesus can’t raise himself from the dead, what else did he say that isn’t true?
I find the soldiers’ response to the resurrection really interesting. These men were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus! But how did they respond? They “took the money and did as they were instructed” (v 15). They spread an alternate ending – one without hope.
But praise be to God that we do know the true ending. Our Hero has risen! The victory is his! Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope and assurance of our own resurrection from a life of sin into a life of righteousness through Jesus!
Get excited to read about the true ending to the Gospel story tomorrow as we finish up the Grow Dailys in Matthew. Jesus is risen and he has called us to be proclaimers of the true ending of his Gospel to those we meet as we “go and make disciples of all nations” (v 19).
Head: How would the message of the Gospel be changed if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead? What hope do we have because of his resurrection?
Heart: How does knowing the true ending – that Jesus is risen from the dead – make you feel? How do you want to respond to this amazing good news?
Hands: There are so many voices speaking alternate endings to the good news of the Gospel, warping the truth. What can you do this week to speak the true ending of the Gospel to people around you, at work, uni, school, social groups?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you that the story of your Gospel doesn’t end with your death. You have risen to bring me new life in you! Thank you that you have made known to us the true ending of the Gospel through your Word. Please give me the strength and courage to speak the truth of your Gospel to those around me this week and every week. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, amen.
A song to listen to: Christ Is Risen https://play.spotify.com/track/27q0d0DgZrcnUNr2K0kMPC