The Roman soldiers guarding the tomb fell asleep at their posts. That’s what Matthew 28 says the Pharisees paid the soldiers who witnessed the angel opening the tomb to say.
And they did.
In Jesus’s day, for a Roman soldier to fall asleep on watch meant he would be killed. There were no second chances. The Roman army was ruthless and efficient, and no soldier would dare to admit falling asleep. They’d rather admit to being beaten – and beat each other to provide the injuries – before they’d admit being asleep. Especially if they hadn’t been.
The other Gospels don’t mention the soldiers. It’s possible, I suppose, that they were added for dramatic reasons by Matthew, but there seems little point. The drama is the Resurrection itself.
The Gospels were not written to amuse or provide drama for the readers. They were aimed at specific groups, certainly. Matthew’s was almost certainly aimed at the Jews. It is the longest of the synoptic accounts and goes deepest into Jewish Law. Luke’s Gospel on the other hand was most likely written for gentiles. Luke was probably the physician who travelled with Paul on his journeys and the man who penned Acts as well. Mark’s Gospel has the feel of an eyewitness testimony in a court. While living in England I served on jury duty several times and heard many testimonies from eye witnesses. It is possible that Mark’s Gospel may even have been written down by Mark based on what he was told by Peter.
John’s Gospel has a different feel to it. He wants us to recognise the enormity of the full meaning of what Jesus accomplished. It has the feel of an epic from classical times. John may have been familiar with the Iliad or the stories of Ulysses. Clearly he was well educated, his writing sophisticated and aimed at all believers, referring to Old Testament issues where necessary, but constantly showing that Jesus was about something completely new. His central theme is set out in the very first chapter. He chooses “In the beginning” as his opening. Any Jewish reader would instantly recognise that as the opening to Genesis. He seeks to demonstrate the full humanity and full deity of Jesus in one figure.
The one thing all four Gospels share beyond anything else is that they build up to a crescendo in the Resurrection of Jesus, and the rest of the writing is merely there to show what that event means for all humanity following them.
What it means for us.
The level of intimacy. The nature of compassion. Forgiveness.
God reuniting His Family by taking the judgement for us on Himself.
I’m not a father. I hope to be one day, but for now I can only imagine the passion, the ferocity with which I would fight to defend my children. I’d protect my wife with my last breath and I can’t imagine I’d do less for my child.
Easter has nothing to do with rabbits or eggs. The Last Supper didn’t include a chocolate mousse dessert as far as we know.
It is simply about God completing a work He began when He told the Serpent in Eden that while the serpent may bruise man’s heel, a Man would crush his head.
It is the father of the Prodigal Son running to welcome him home. To welcome all of us home.
I could write for ever about what Easter means hypothetically, hermeneutically and philosophically and it would mean nothing.
But I can also write and talk about what the Life of Jesus in me has done for me as a direct result of the Resurrection.
Look at any of my posts. I’m decidedly human and not trying to hide that behind politically correct phrases or pseudo-progressive attitudes is part of that.
Jesus changed my life, and what I see from the Gospels – the entire Bible in fact – is that He is a God who would have gone through all that He did even if I were the only soul that would ever be recovered by those actions and that sacrifice.
Or if you were.
If you’ve stumbled into this blog and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus but something has touched you then just ask Him in. Invite Him to come into your heart as Lord and Saviour today.
Find a local church that runs an “Alpha” group and go along. That course helps explain the Gospel in a way differently than I do here. I’ve been involved in Alpha and Youth Alpha courses several times as a leader and even people who have attended church their whole life have realised they needed more.
Jesus died for the sake of our relationship with God, and He rose again to seal it for eternity.
Don’t throw away that gift.