Matthew 28:13
Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
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(13) His disciples came by night.—The story was on the face of it self-contradictory. How could they tell, if they had been asleep, who had stolen the body? All that they could know was that they had fallen asleep, and that when they awoke the sepulchre was open and empty.

28:11-15 What wickedness is it which men will not be brought to by the love of money! Here was large money given to the soldiers for advancing that which they knew to be a lie, yet many grudge a little money for advancing what they know to be the truth. Let us never starve a good cause, when we see bad ones so liberally supported. The priests undertook to secure them from the sword of Pilate, but could not secure these soldiers from the sword of God's justice, which hangs over the heads of those that love and make a lie. Those men promise more than they can perform, who undertake to save a man harmless in doing a wilful sin. But this falsehood disproved itself. Had the soldiers been all asleep, they could not have known what passed. If any had been awake, they would have roused the others and prevented the removal; and certainly if they had been asleep, they never would have dared to confess it; while the Jewish rulers would have been the first to call for their punishment. Again, had there been any truth in the report, the rulers would have prosecuted the apostles with severity for it. The whole shows that the story was entirely false. And we must not charge such things to the weakness of the understanding, but to the wickedness of the heart. God left them to expose their own course. The great argument to prove Christ to be the Son of God, is his resurrection; and none could have more convincing proofs of the truth of that than these soldiers; yet they took bribes to hinder others from believing. The plainest evidence will not affect men, without the work of the Holy Spirit.And when they were assembled ... - They deemed the matter of so much importance as to justify the calling together of the great council of the nation. Notwithstanding all their caution, it was plain that the body of Jesus was gone. It was further plain that the disciples would affirm that he was restored to life again. It was not improbable that Jesus would himself appear, and convince multitudes that he was the Messiah, and that the guilt of putting him to death would, after all their caution and cunning, be charged on them. They had been at great pains to procure his death. They had convinced Pilate that he was dead. They had placed a guard for the express purpose of preventing his being taken away. It would be in vain, after this, to pretend that he was not dead; that he was in a swoon; that he died in appearance only. They had shut themselves out from this, which would have been the most plausible plea, and, whatever course they might now adopt, they were obliged to proceed on the admission that he had been really dead, and that all proper measures had been taken to prevent his being stolen. They concluded, after consultation, that but one way was left - to bribe the soldiers - to induce them to tell a falsehood - and to attempt to convince the world that Jesus, in spite of themselves, and in the face of all probability, had been really stolen.

Large money - Much money. This was given to bribe them; to induce them to conceal the truth, and to affirm what they knew was false.

13. Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept—which, as we have observed, was a capital offense for soldiers on guard. See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".

Saying, say ye his disciples came by night,.... They charged them to tell every one that should ask them about this affair; and even publish it every where, that the disciples of Christ came in the dead of the night,

and stole him away while we slept: which was a very unlikely thing, and a foolish scheme this, for such a body of men to form. There is no show of probability in it, that the disciples, who were intimidated by the taking and putting Christ to death, and were now shut up in a house, for fear of the Jews, that these should venture out in the night, to take away the body of Christ, which was decently and honourably interred in a garden of one of his disciples: and when they knew it was guarded by a company of Roman soldiers; and who besides had no notion of his resurrection from the dead, nor never thought of it till he was risen, and therefore would never attempt any thing of this kind, in order to give out such a report. Moreover, had they took it away by stealth, it is not reasonable to think that they would afterwards have reported such a lie every where, that he was risen from the dead, when they were sure to obtain nothing by it, but reproach, afflictions, persecutions, and death: add to this, that this was never objected to them by their worst enemies, when they most strongly asserted his resurrection: nor was it a feasible account, or well put together, with respect to the watch. It can hardly be thought that they should be all of them asleep at once; and if they were, it is much they were not awaked by the coming up of the disciples, and the rolling away of the stone, and the bustle there must be in taking up the body, and carrying it away; and besides, if they were asleep, and continued so, what is their evidence good for? for how could they know that his disciples came and took him away? if they awaked, though too late, and saw them at a distance, why did not they pursue them, who might easily have been overtaken with such a burden? at least, why did not they search their houses for the body? and take up both the women and the disciples, and prosecute them for it? and yet nothing of this was done. Besides, how came the linen clothes to be left behind? why did they take the napkin from his head, and give themselves all that trouble to unwrap the body, and carry it away naked? It is clear the chief priests themselves were convinced in their own minds, that he was truly risen, or they would have punished the soldiers severely for their sleep and negligence, and would never have given them money to spread such a story.

Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
Matthew 28:13. εἴπατε, introducing the lie they put into the mouths of the soldiers. The report to be set abroad assumes that there is a fact to be explained, the disappearance of the body. And it is implied that the statement to be given out as to that was known by the soldiers to be false: i.e., they were perfectly aware that they had not fallen asleep at their post and that no theft had taken place. The lie for which the priests paid so much money is suicidal; one half destroys the other. Sleeping sentinels could not know what happened.

13. while we slept] The penalty for which would be death.

Matthew 28:13. Εἴπατε, κ.τ.λ., say, etc.) The priests were a great stumbling-block to the soldiers, and sinned most heinously against God.—ὅτι, κ.τ.λ., that, etc.) A specimen of Jewish perfidy and calumny.—νυκτὸς, by night) They instruct them how to lie speciously.

Verse 13. - Say ye, etc. They put the lie into the soldiers' mouth, directing them to answer inquiries in this way. The last resource of an infatuated obstinacy! If they were asleep, how could they know that the disciples stole the body? St. Chrysostom comments well on the infamous transaction, "How did they steal him? O most foolish of all men! For because of the clearness and conspicuousness of the truth, they are not even able to make up a falsehood. For indeed, what they said was highly incredible, and the falsehood had not even speciousness. For how, I ask, did the disciples steal him, men poor and unlearned, and not venturing so much as to show themselves? What? was not a seal put upon it? What? were there not many watchmen and soldiers and Jews stationed round it? What? did not those men suspect this very thing, and take thought, and break their rest, and are in anxiety about it? And wherefore, moreover, did they steal it? That they might feign the doctrine of the resurrection? And how should it enter their minds to feign such a thing - men who were well content to be hidden and to live? And how could they remove the stone that was made sure? How could they have escaped the observation of so many? Nay, though they had despised death, they would not have attempted without purpose and fruitlessly to venture in defiance of so many who were on the watch. And that moreover they were timorous, what they had done before showed clearly: at least, when they saw him seized, all rushed away from him. If, then, at that time they did not dare so much as to stand their ground when they saw him alive, how when he was dead could they but have feared such a number of soldiers?" ('Hem.,' 90.). Matthew 28:13
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