Saturday, March 31, 2018
Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise’.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate saying those words. So, give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.
As I was channel surfing late one night I saw a few minutes of a rather sick and twisted movie called “Wishmaster.” In it, a demon of a genie appears to people and gives them wishes; the only problem is that he answers their wishes in a way that’s mean and cruel. One guy asked to be rich, so the demon had his father killed in a plane crash, so the man would get his inheritance. Inevitably, these people found out that they needed to be more specific and careful with their requests - because this demon didn’t really have the best interest of the people in mind.
The wonderful thing that we know about God, as Christians who have faith in His mercy and grace, is that God doesn’t give us things that He knows will be bad for us. He teaches us to pray, “Thy will be done.” This little phrase reminds us that God knows much better than us. It teaches us that we can be bold in our prayers, and not worry that God will somehow give us something that will be bad for us spiritually just because we asked for it.
Nonetheless, our prayer life - the WAY that we pray and WHAT we pray for, these things reflect what we really believe and value in life. Even though God won’t give us what is bad for us, that doesn’t mean we should not care about what we pray for. We want to reflect the right priorities and the right attitude in what we pray and how we pray.
I would guess that one of the most prominent prayers that goes up to God is the prayer for God to “prove it” it in one way or another. When a mom’s child is on the surgery table, the prayer goes up to God - “prove to me that You really are God! Heal my son!” When an older person nears the time of death, he prays, “Lord, take away my pain! End it now! Prove yourself!” What does God make of these prayers for Him to prove it? It depends on two different ways that prayer can be prayed -
- When He gives you a promise, telling you He’s going to do something, you can demand that God prove Himself. Daniel learned from reading the Scriptures that God had said 70 years of captivity in Babylon, he realized that the time was up. So, he prayed, O Lord, in keeping with all Your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from Jerusalem, Your city, Your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and Your people an object of scorn to all those around us. “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of Your servant. For Your sake, O Lord, look with favor on Your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears Your Name. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For Your sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people bear Your Name.”
Notice how in this prayer, Daniel, still in humility, gently asks God to prove Himself, to hold good to His Name and His promise. This is good. When God promises us something, He wants us to demand Him of it in our prayers, that’s what faith is all about.
- Otherwise, the “prove it” prayer is prayed when God tells you what He will do, and you won’t believe it until He proves it. It’s prayed when God hasn’t promised you something and yet you demand that He do what you want anyway to “prove Himself.” This is a prayer of either a weak faith or of plain unbelief. Sometimes it’s spoken defiantly. Sometimes it’s out of despair. Sometimes it’s out of anger. These prayers put God to the test, testing His patience, poking God in the chest and telling Him to stand up and show Himself to be God. That’s a dangerous thing to do.
The reason I bring up the concept of this prayer is because of what happens on the “next day”, the day after Jesus was crucified. On this day, we see the aftermath of one of these “prayers” of unbelievers, for God to “prove Himself.” Before we get to the “next day”, we need to examine what was said before hand and done before hand. In order to do this, we need to go back to Matthew 12:38-40 -
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from You.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Isn’t it rather strange that the Pharisees and teachers of the law demanded a miraculous sign from Jesus? Jesus had just healed a man with a shriveled hand, but since He did it on the Sabbath, He was “working” and that work didn’t really count. What they “prayed for” was for Jesus to do something more majestic, more high and mighty, something that had never been done before, that would knock their socks off. They wanted Jesus to really “prove it” that He was the Christ. How did Jesus respond? “You are wicked and adulterous. You want a sign? I’ll give you a sign! The sign of Jonah! Just as he was in the heart of the fish, I will be in the heart of the earth, in the grave, and I’ll come out three days later!” This may have been months or even years prior to Jesus going to the cross.
However, this wasn’t the last we hear of this prediction as it comes to play in a different form during Jesus’ crucifixion. Listen to what the people then said while Jesus was on the cross in Matthew 27:39-44,
Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if You are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue Him now if he wants Him, for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with Him also heaped insults on Him.
Notice what these people and the chief priests were “praying” for Jesus to do? Come down from the cross immediately and they’d believe in Him. However, this wasn’t what Jesus predicted He’d do. He said He’d rise three days later. If Jesus had come down from the cross at this time, He would have made Himself into a false prophet. Jesus had to die and then raise from the dead, which would be a far more fantastic miracle than even coming down from the cross.
You have to wonder if these taunts that those who passed by hurled at Jesus, if these taunts struck the ears of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? Did they think about it? Did they think about what the words were actually predicting? Did they remember what Jesus had said earlier about the sign of Jonah? These are questions that come to my mind, as we are then remember, the “next day.”
Matthew 27:62-66 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
It’s amazing to me when I consider the appetite of evil. You’d think after such a gratification of seeing Jesus die that these men would back off and relax a little. Yet here we find them going to Pilate on the Sabbath to make sure to have a guard posted at the grave of Jesus. Here they were the day before not willing to enter Pilate’s place because it would make them ceremonially unclean, but as long as all of their fellow Jews were at home, they went ahead and broke the Sabbath in order to make sure Jesus would remain dead.
The thing that I wonder, which isn’t revealed, is as to whether these Pharisees and teachers of the law really posted the guard because they were afraid of this “deception.” Or was it that as they heard these taunts, they started to think about the predictions Jesus had made, about the prayer they had prayed? What do I mean? Remember that THEY ASKED Jesus to prove He was the Christ, to show them a sign. Jesus said He was going to give them a sign. When Jesus raised Lazarus, they plotted to kill Him. So, if Jesus raised from the dead, perhaps their guard could kill Him again before He appeared to anyone. Perhaps they were afraid that Jesus was actually going to answer their prayer. In this case, these men in unbelief had to aggressively try to prevent the truth that they asked for, to keep their prayer from coming true, so they wouldn’t feel pressured to believe in Him.
They knew that they didn’t have the power to stop Christ , so they went to Pilate, the man they had just got done extorting, and asked him for some more power.
Matthew 27:65-66 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So, they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
In the middle of the Sabbath, this unholy alliance seems to have the upper step on God’s people. Yet we need to remember what Psalm 121:4 says, “He who watches over Israel does not sleep.” As the disciples were resting, God was not. Our LORD is the LORD of the Sabbath. He heard what they were plotting He saw what they were doing. The One enthroned in heaven laughed. God’s plan was going to be achieved whether they wanted it or not.
Ultimately, God didn’t answer their prayer. Jesus’ resurrection would have nothing to do with what the Pharisees wanted. It had everything to do with what God wanted. God wanted to punish the world for it’s sins. Jesus came to do that. Jesus had predicted that He would rise from the dead long before the Pharisees ever asked for a sign. Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable before God. If it wasn’t, He wouldn’t have been resurrected. Knowing that Jesus, as God, never would do a half-baked job, this then is a “no-brainer” as to what would happen. This prediction, this will of God, was going to happen no matter what the Pharisees and teachers of the law tried to do to prevent it and no matter what they prayed. The truth would come out. It needed no deception. No matter how large the guard, how big the stone, it wouldn’t be big enough. No matter when or what the Pharisees and Pilate did to prevent Jesus from raising, nothing could be done, even while God was seemingly dead, because it wasn’t up to them, it was up to God.
When we “pray” to God for Him to do something, all we can do is fear that He will do it, to own condemnation. God let Satan attack Job, to Satan’s own demise. God allowed Satan to crucify Christ, to Satan’s own loss. God allowed Balaam to contact God and have God talk through him, but only as a blessing to the Israelites. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to set up a security guard to keep Jesus from rising or being deceptively stolen, they only served God as witnesses that Jesus really did rise.
It might be unsettling to you when you think about what Satan is plotting while you’re sleeping. It might bother to you think about what he is requesting God to allow him to do, maybe to sift you like wheat. Instead of losing sleep over it, rest on this Day knowing that what Satan plotted on that day couldn’t prevent God from doing what He had planned all along. God’s Will shall be done no matter what Satan and his followers want or are given, because God doesn’t rest, even on the Sabbath. The proof of this will be shown us on the very next day. Amen.