This Week's Focus Passage

Matthew 28:15 ‘This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continueth until this day.’

This Weeks Focus Passage: Matthew 28:15

‘This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continueth until this day.’


 Although the 18th verse of this 28th chapter of Matthew’s gospel account is indisputably the best-known portion of this disciple’s closing remarks, the 15th verse may be one of the most intriguing. After the resurrection of our Savior and His giving of this directive, Fear not: Go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me, we are subsequently informed that:

Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city, and told unto the chief priests all the things that were come to pass. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave much money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and rid you of care. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continueth until this day.                             —Matthew 28:11-15

This account of the behavior of both the soldiers that were employed to guard the tomb of Jesus, as well as that of the chief priests is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, attempts to promote a ‘Passover Plot.’ The primary desire of these plotters was, of course, to prevent any ‘story’ going forth that Jesus had arisen, as He said. This concern was the reason that they had requested the guards from Pilate in the first place. Pilate’s pacifying response to their request was immediate; ‘Ye have a guard: go, make it as sure as you can.’  

That Matthean account seems clear and safe from any serious equivocation about the content or its meaning. Yet one writer determined that he was going to ‘set the record straight’ about the life and death of Jesus Christ. I remember well the relative excitement of my father when he had learned of a book that had recently become a best-seller in 1965. I fear that, in my father’s case and in the case of many others that may have imagined some sort of freedom from the ‘tyranny of religion;’ they read it with the hope that this man, Jesus, was, indeed, not who He claimed to be; God manifest in the flesh. Mankind has for the entirely of its existence, been able to appease conscience by looking, not at God, but at other men as a scale for them to determine right and wrong. Of course, it is a sliding scale; one which allows them to situate themselves in a satisfactory position among their fellows. If someone could actually disprove the claims of Jesus Christ, then their resort to this sliding scale would enable them to say to themselves, ‘Nobody’s perfect,’ ‘at least I’m not as bad as that guy!’ or some other relative drivel.

The book in question was titled, ‘The Passover Plot,’ and alleged to prove that the New Testament account was not according to historical reality; that Jesus Christ was certainly not who He said He was; and that the entire gospel is a myth; that there was, in fact, no death by the hands of wicked men; there was neither any resurrection from the dead. According to the author, Hugh J. Schonfield, the actuality of these things was all simply ‘smoke and mirrors.’ This twentieth century author admitted that he was Jewish. What he failed to confess was the incredible bias that came with that ethnicity. But he proved to be every bit as biased and hateful as those Jews that had cried out, ‘Give us Barabbas.’ Schonfield was committed to proving that the entire gospel account in the New Testament was manufactured; that Jesus was just a man, albeit a devout Jew, who determined to bring prophecy to pass by ‘fulfilling’ in his own person. Therefore, he plotted to feign his death through the use of opiates, and to have his body stolen from the tomb and resuscitated to imply that the resurrection had indeed taken place.

One reviewer rebutted Schonfield’s work with the following remarks which are only a small sampling of the entire review:

‘Schonfield’s hermeneutical approach is illogical. He utilizes a hopscotch approach to the gospel accounts. Whenever a passage did not contradict his hypothesis he would use it to back up his point. However, whenever a verse contradicted his theory he rejected it. For example, he wrote, “We may dismiss the story in Matthew alone that the chief priests requested Pilate that a guard be set over the tomb, and that they posted a watch…” He does not give evidence as to why we should disregard this account but simply claims that it is not historical. There are numerous examples of this throughout the book. It is amazing that Schonfield can know more about what Jesus said and did that the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ day. Perhaps they should consider what He stated in Revelation 22:18-19 concerning anyone that tampered with His word.’

Suffice to add that this prejudiced writer referred elsewhere to the gospel accounts as ‘fairy-tales,’ and to the gift of faith as ‘fairy-dust.’

But isn’t it somewhat ironic, or very telling, that this Jewish historian who has been described as both a Hebrew Christian at one time, a Messianic Jew at another, as well as by a humanist by many, actually contributed truth to the biblical account in question by becoming one of those of whom it could be that he was himself a referent of Matthew’s closing expression, ‘and this saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continueth until this day.’? He unwittingly—we would assume—fulfilled part of the account that he so earnestly wished to overthrow. God is not mocked, but He may well mock men and most surely has on many occasions. The only response that we feel compelled to offer is to give God all the praise and glory and thanksgiving for the precious gift of ‘fairy-dust.’

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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