An Easter Conspiracy!

Conspiracy theories have a way of grabbing our attention.

Joe Carter defines a conspiracy as something that “…explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot, usually by powerful conspirators.” Whether it’s a fake moon landing, flat-earthers, the illuminati, or the reptilian elite (yes, you read that correctly), there is something simultaneously sensational, humorous, and pathetic about these claims.

But here’s the thing: not all conspiracy theories are false. For example, during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, there was a report that Cleveland had undergone a secret surgery while at sea and that the government was covering it up—something the government vociferously denied! Until Cleveland’s doctor finally admitted that the nautical surgery had happened… twenty-four years after the fact!

The Good Friday Conspiracy

One of the things that stands out to me when reading The Gospel of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the conspiratorial nature of the events. First, there is the conspiracy to put Jesus to death. The Jewish leaders conspire together to arrest Jesus and put him to death.

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him” (Matthew 26:3-4).

Skulking backroom dealings move intention to action. The Jewish leaders purchase the treachery of Judas (Matthew 26:14-15). They sought out ‘false testimony’ from ‘many false witnesses’ for their sham trial against Jesus (Matthew 26:59-60). They incite the crowd to call for Jesus’ crucifixion:

“Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus” (Matthew 27:20).

The chief priests and company are successful in their machinations and Jesus is sentenced to die a criminal’s death. Good Friday is a carefully coordinated conspiracy against Jesus.

The Easter Conspiracy

But perhaps the most conspiratorial scene in Matthew’s gospel is reserved for after Jesus’ death. The conspirators fear being conspired against and so they ask Pilate to put an armed guard at Jesus’s tomb. They are worried that Jesus’s disciples (ironically, they call Jesus an ‘imposter’!) steal the body and claim a resurrection had occurred (Matthew 27:62-64).

But on the first day of the week, Jesus is raised bodily from the dead. He leaves the tomb. It is just as he prophesied. He appears in the flesh to individuals and large crowds (1 Cor. 15:5-6). His resurrected body bore the marks identifying him as the one crucified (John 20:24-28).

Rather than marvel that Jesus had been raised as he said he would be, the religious leaders conspire to cover it up. They pay off the guards and direct them to say, “‘[Jesus’] disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble” (Matthew 28:13-14).

Try as they might, just as they couldn’t keep Jesus in the tomb, they couldn’t keep the secret from getting out: Jesus has risen! Of all the wondrous things about Easter, this is a detail of the story that I relish: God laughs at the puny plots of wicked men. Rage as they might, the enemies of God could not stop or silence God’s plan of salvation.

Their attempts to eliminate the Messiah? They were part of God’s definite plan as unwitting instruments (Acts 2:23). Their attempts to silence the message of the empty tomb and the risen Christ? A miserable failure! For Matthew goes on to immediately highlight Jesus’ commission to his disciples whereby the gospel is spread to the ends of the earth.

Matthew’s exposé on the failed easter conspiracy is a poke in the eye of God’s enemies. And it’s a reminder to God’s people: despite the worst efforts of devils and men, God wins. And it’s a victory that we—united with him by faith—get to share in today, but also forever.

I look forward to celebrating that victory with you on Sunday, Harvest.

Pastor Wayne

Prayer Requests:

  • We are about two months away from the due date for Veenstra baby #4. Please pray for health for Suzanne and our child.
  • I’m focusing on reading through the Psalms this month and focusing on what aspects of God and his work I can be thankful for. Please pray that the Lord would help me to grow in thankfulness.

What I’m Reading and Listening To: 

  • His Heart Beats” by Andrew Peterson – Peterson’s song is such a vivid celebration of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Take a listen as you celebrate Easter this weekend!
  • The Sabbath as Rest and Hope for the People of God by Guy Prentiss Waters - Waters argues successfully for the abiding nature of the Sabbath--keeping in mind the change which the resurrection instigates--and for the fact that the Sabbath is not an incidental theme in Scripture. This would be a very profitably book for Christians to spend reading over a couple Sunday afternoons.
  • C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen Nichols – An enjoyable look at the life of R. C. Sproul. Sproul was an instrumental figure in promoting Reformed theology in the 20th century. The book also looks at Sproul’s stand for biblical inerrancy, justification, and the person of Christ.
  • The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink by William Inboden – Inboden examines the foreign policy of the Reagan presidency and Reagan’s visionary leadership. You can listen to an interview about the book here.