One of the most God-fearing statements in the Word of God is “Do Not Be Deceived!” The fact God tells us not to be deceived reveals we “can” be deceived. What causes me to fear and love God in this whole matter is thinking I may be deceived if I think I can never be deceived. (You might want or need to read that a few times)
One definition of deceive means to convince yourself of something that is not true which is what the chief priests and Pharisees did in one of the most deceptive and bizarre scenes after the death, preparation, and burial of Jesus when a request was made to Pilate. Matthew 27:62-66 “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”
The Pharisees were deceived as evidenced when they met with Pilate about securing Jesus’ grave instead of attending their own devotions and asking for pardon from their sins for the past week. The irony is they had previously called Jesus out for healing on the Sabbath day yet now they were working on a day which, in their religious practice, should have been devoted to the Lord. Another clear sign of their deception is the respect given to Pilate in calling him “Sir” but overt disrespect to Jesus in calling him “that deceiver”. I suppose we could say they were ignorant, however, we know they had every opportunity to “believe” in Jesus because He did many signs and wonders. They were just too controlled by their own religious belief system to “hear” and “see”.
A dead body should get little attention, yet the chief priests and Pharisees were still concerned about Jesus so asked for a watch over His dead body. This is mind boggling because if they were so sure of themselves and what they believed about Jesus, they should have been breathing a sigh of relief He was finally dead. But instead they were afraid He would get more attention by deceiving their people even from His grave. The insanity in both securing and setting a guard on the tomb of a dead man is striking. They thought His disciples would come at night and steal Him away. Think about that for a moment! What good would it do for Jesus’ believers to steal His dead body? So they could go around saying “He is risen from the dead” but not be able to present Him as proof to the people? What would that gain? Nothing! But the leaders were living in such deception they did not realize how silly their suspicions were. If Christ could not be presented “alive” to the people, it would only prove the chief priests and Pharisees were correct in their assessment of Jesus as deceiver. In other words, it would help them not hurt them. The deception would not be worse than the first if His body was stolen but would have strengthened their case. We must marvel at the ramifications of deception!
It is amazing how people will simply not “give up” even when they know they should. These leaders were intelligent and should have figured out and accepted something was special about Jesus, yet they continued to refer to Him as the “deceiver”. The chief priests and Pharisees should have “noticed” the events occurring around the death of Jesus proved He was Who He said He was. Yet they remained steadfast in their own beliefs about Jesus. They feared the people were deceived, yet they themselves were the ones steeped in deception.
- There was complete darkness over the land for three hours in the middle of the day. Notice it was over the land, not just in one place.
- Jesus cried out and yielded His own spirit, determining for Himself when He would die rather than having His life taken from Him.
- Immediately when He breathed His last breath the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This was no coincidence and fear would have enveloped the leaders.
- When He died the earth quaked and rocks were split. Would this just have been another interesting coincidence? Probably Not!
- Things got more outrageous as graves were opened and the bodies of the dead saints were raised. Now if that isn’t a brilliant scene, far better than any movie made today, I don’t know what is!
The leaders would be in for an even bigger surprise after Jesus resurrected because these saints would enter the holy city appearing to people. How awesome this sight must have been!
If we think perhaps the chief priests and Pharisees might have been unaware of all of these things happening, we have only to back up and read Matthew 27:54 “So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” In all likelihood, considering how fast word traveled, everyone, including Pilate, the Pharisees, and chief priests would have heard what the guards had experienced, feared, and the words they spoke. Not to mention the earthquake would have been experienced by all. However, they were deceived therefore continued to convince themselves they were right and everything about Jesus was wrong.
Deception is a fearful thing as demonstrated through the lives of these chief priests and Pharisees. We will never know if they entertained at any point the possibility they could be wrong about Jesus. But we can learn from observing the absurdity of their behavior to humble ourselves under the Hand of Almighty God and not be deceived. It will take broken and contrite hearts, and a willingness to admit we might be wrong when our ideas do not line up with the Word of God. In the case of these leaders, all the evidence they needed was before their eyes and ears. Yet they were deceived. In our lives, all the evidence we need is before our eyes and ears. Will we be deceived? Or will we receive Truth? Will we receive Jesus as our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Friend? Will we allow Him to lead, guide, and direct our lives through surrendering our wills to His will? Or will we be like the leaders who needed to be right, and could not see past their own beliefs in order to see the Righteous One? We have a choice to live in fear as these leaders did or live in complete faith in Jesus Christ.
In the end, all their extra effort to protect their own belief system and people only proved how magnificent Jesus really was and is. When He resurrected there was another earthquake and an angel descended and rolled away the stone. The guards were eyewitnesses of both and then they became paralyzed like dead men when they beheld the most magnificent sight ever! They saw Jesus ALIVE, His countenance like lightning and His clothing as white as snow.
Deception OVER? No! As I said earlier, deception is deceptive. When the guards reported to the chief priests they had seen Jesus ALIVE, the leaders paid them off to keep it quiet. They also told the guards to lie about what they witnessed by telling the people Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body. The chief priests were going to stick to their story no matter how much evidence was stacked against them. Even though the chief priests were presented with truth their pride and deception was so great they could not admit defeat. Sad, but true! Deception will only lead to one place – away from God and true faith in Jesus Christ! May we as His children not be deceived.
Father God, thank You for showing us the depth of deception through the religious leaders. We desire to know You more, to love and fear You, and we do not want to be deceived. Holy Spirit teach us to humble ourselves before You daily. We do not want to be deceived in a world riddled with deception. Thank You for a guard on our hearts and minds. Thank You for Your Word which protects us from deception. We choose to promptly obey You, and thank You that You are the Way, and the Truth, and the Life!