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STAND STILL! The Escape
The Case of the past Exodus with
and of Our Coming Exodus with Christ!
One of the most monumental,
vital and epochal happenings in the whole Bible occurred in the Exodus, that
tramp out of Egypt, that massive, milling surge of a people out of slavery,
into liberty. The people of
Confronted by Moses in the
NAME of the Lord God, Pharaoh had wilted after many
hardenings of his heart, many equivocations, many offers, yes, but no episodes
in which he actually allowed their departure. Each time, he revoked the
decision to liberate them when a plague was stilled. THIS TIME, with the heir
Gleason Archer, the
distinguished author of Old Testament works, points out that the records show a
surprising lack of Egyptian military movements into Palestine and surrounding
areas in the period starting shortly after 1447, the death date assigned for
Thutmose III; and this in great contrast to the military expansiveness and
scale of action of Thutmose himself. That, says Archer, is precisely what you
would expect when such a massive disaster as the destruction of the army which
pursued the Israelites into the
He also notes that the son
of this Pharaoh, 18th dynasty Amenhotep II, namely Thutmose IV, is notable in archeology
for a dream, recorded in the "Dream Stela".
In this, he believes himself to receive from a god, assurance that he would
ascend to the throne of
With the eldest gone, this son might well be encouraged in a dream in the HOPE that MAYBE he could come to the throne: indeed, the dream would be to lead him on to the DUBIOUS becoming SURE. Uncertainty about succession would be encouraged into certainty, BY the dream. That of course would precisely fit the Biblical narrative.
Again, Archer further
indicates that ONLY Thutmose III fits the Biblical data BEFORE the Exodus. That
is, in Exodus and we find that the Pharaoh who had been in power when Moses was in trouble
over the killing of an Egyptian, had died shortly before Moses confronted the
It appears that the Pharaoh of the "oppression", when the Israelites
had their harsh brick-making time in
Now it is relevant to
observe that this Thutmose was regarded as perhaps the "greatest" of
the kings of
Year by year this Thutmose
made expeditions into
is his son, Amenhotep II, who then appears as Moses'
man - the Pharaoh whom he confronted just before the
Exodus of Israel from
As to Amenhotep II (op.cit. p. 91), at the outset we find him carrying on with his father's force: for learning that tributary princes were rising up, at the news of his father's death, he marched into Asiatic territory, up to the Euphrates River, returning with "over five hundred north Syrian lords as captives". He boasts of his physical strength, in that he claimed no man could draw his bow.
These early exploits however, as also the constant work of his father abroad, come into sharp contrast with the evidence of his later times, as Archer (op.cit. p. 198) notes, only minor campaigns proceeding for many years. As Archer observes in his "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction", p. 217, Amenhotep was "unable to carry out any invasions or extensive military operations after his fifth year" in 1445 B.C., and even in his 9th year it was a small affair.
What a confirmation of the Exodus, that this STRONG MAN with rule over an army accustomed to constant and continual victories, exploits, expeditions, almost yearly, with such a stunning series of subjugations as to earn the title "Napoleon of Egypt" as a far roving and mighty ruler, should have so short a period, following the change of rulership period of Thutmose's death, with his very notable victory exploit, and then? Then he seems to have become so meek, or weak, or inactive, or unsuccessful! It is rather like a business tycoon after a motor accident. It was however no accident that his army was lost. Yet it had results, as indeed one might expect: including some relief from that quarter as the Israelites made their way over the years to their new land.
In passing, we might note the grand consequences which can come when a person departs from the clear leading of the Lord. Thus because Israel FAILED to enter the promised land when the time came and opportunity offered, therefore the period to their settlement was extended for 40 years in a divine discipline. That in turn might further expose them, and reduce the value of the settling in period, so marvellously and miraculously, indeed, obtained fro them by the Lord! Let us however return to young Amenhotep II.
For the new ruler, after such a short beginning to his reign, the calamity would be humiliating in the extreme, making future action a matter of extreme care! And this is what fits the historical evidence.
In addition, we have yet
another impressive confirmation of these exact events. The Reader's
Digest, December 1967, had an article of great interest. Ronald Shiller, on pp. 157-170 traces
evidence for the ancient Atlantis, long notable for sinking into the sea, being
the island, Stronghyli. Now it appears that we
have the Santorini island group only, as far as
residue is concerned! The earlier large island, some 70 miles
Comparing the one foot of
ash left from Krakatoa's eruption in the
proceeds to note that this date coincides with the fifteenth century B.C.
Exodus date, which of course agrees with the specific statement in I Kings 6:1
that it was 480 years after this Exodus that Solomon began to reign.
1) The Fact
The tidal eruptions and
recessions which resulted must have been truly enormous in the maritime
As far as their child-system is concerned, it is something ELSE. It is unpredictable, powerful, and will have RESULTS. Some of these are necessary, the express purpose of the intervention. Others however, unless there be still more intervention, will merely follow. If then an adult were to drag one child away from the blows of the other, then heel marks might be left on the ground, and a drag mark. That is not the 'miracle' in this illustration; it is a RESULT of it.
then we have what fit snugly as associated events in the epoch. Massive water
movements might well have been associated with such splitting of the seas, may
have been partly natural, partly utilised, but in any
case they would have significant maritime effects. Similarly, the chariots that
sank in their hundreds (600 are noted as sent after the Israelites) would leave
substantial debris. Again, a path which led to this sort of shutting in at the
2) The Procedure
Finally, it is worth noting that Exodus does NOT say that the Lord divided the sea by a mighty East Wind. Keil and Delitzsch in their Commentaries on the Old Testament, Vol.2, produce the translation here:
The Lord "made the water go (flow away) by a strong east wind the whole night, and made the sea into dry (ground), and the water split itself."
The events are an East Wind which moves the waters; a making of the sea into dry ground by the Lord; and a splitting of the waters. The three divinely controlled and initiated movements are these:
a) The wind MOVES the waters
b) the LORD makes the ground dry, and
c) so acts that the waters split! In the first, a medium, wind, is noted.
In the others, none is stated.
It is not that, in the first action, the Lord made the waters to "go back" as the NKJV has it; for as that very translation shows, the word "back" being in italics, that is merely added by the translators.. The word in the text is: FLOW. It comes from WALK, or GO, and is used of the movements of a snake (CRAWL) and in similar ways SIMPLY to indicate relevant styles of procedure or motion (cf. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, Archer, Waltke). It does NOT specify recession at all, merely action.
The Lord turned it into dry land and He used an East Wind to move it. Whether this was a sufficient condition or a contributory cause is not stated. It moved the sea, and the Lord made the land dry, so acting in whatever way, that the waters split. It is entirely within the possibilities of this statement that the wind merely contributed. If so, the maritime disaster to the North may well have been a major player in the divine action.
Miraculous? Entirely. But with results, and with whatever contributory forces the Lord chose, as He brought the vast Israelite mass of people with precise timing through the sea, at His pleasure, and allowed and indeed caused the sea to return at the precise time needed to ruin the Egyptians. In fact, increasing 'leakage' from the sea wall, perhaps as the initial forces assuaged, may have been the cause in slush developing fast, and hence of the Egyptians chariot wheels coming off; for the strain on them would then be so considerable as to make rupture from the chariot bodies likely.
As to the miraculous, let us be very explicit. GOD works what He will, how He will, and intervenes WHEN He will with WHAT He will - either simple supernatural force and work, or with means and elements which He chooses to deploy in the process.
In a sense, it can be a
miracle even if ONLY natural forces are used: for if He moves the one to be
delivered to be WHERE what is to happen will deliver him/her, at the right
time, and uses surrounding natural events entirely, this is still deliverance
with guidance and placement as the case requires*1.
In that case, it is as if I shouted to a child about to fall into a trap, so
that he did not; but took no other action. In this
In Exodus 15 6-8, we read:
fascinating to notice that not only did the Lord Himself actively intervene
physically, but He did so in the minds of the adversaries of
Our Coming Exodus in Christ -
for those in whom
He Now Is or Will Be!
It is time finally to reflect. God DOES sustain His honour, the honour of His name, and He does exalt His word above all His name (Psalm 138:2).
· Indeed let us hear the Psalmist in this place: "I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth:
For You have magnified Your word
above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out,
You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul."
THIS is precisely what you and I should do, fellow Christian. GOD IS GOOD, and what He says is reliable to the last detail. He will use miracle if He wills, but asks us to use patience at all times and for a forbearing spirit in difficult circumstances. We recall how little He liked the endless moaning of the Israelites in their desert wandering experience. Again and again they wanted Egypt, or variety or something else, and provoked the Lord by letting their minds and wills wander.
Indeed, when it came to the point, not only did they have a golden calf constructed while Moses was in the very act of receiving the law from the Lord, which we have to this day in the 10 commandments, but what they did was a harking back to Egypt and its idols!How provocative can you get against the Lord who DELIVERED them from SLAVERY by an epochal miracle of gigantic proportions and enormous results for the whole world: for Egypt in its military might and religious complacency, for the Middle East, for the Jews and for geology and archeology!
· To FAIL to understand accept this deliverance;
· or, having accepted it, to stray from seeing the need of grace from such grace, of being transformed from grace to grace; of pity, courtesy, boldness in the faith, faith to move mountains in the light of all this...
· or indeed, to GRUMBLE in the face of such marvellous lovingkindness towards the whole human race (Titus 2:11, 3:4), and that which resides in our hearts when Christ IS there;
· to fail to rejoice in this deliverance, in our case, from the slavery of sin and its squalor spiritually: what is this?
· Is it not to demean, however unintentionally, the magnitude of the miracle wrought for deliverance in Christ, or to degrade its cost, significance and power. This, His action, is vastly more epochal, both spiritually and physically, than was the Red Sea deliverance racially and militarily! Each is miraculous; but this, our Gospel itself, is founded on miracle in concept and substance, as well as in plan and power. THIS is PERSONAL from God (I John 1:1-4, 1:1-14, -23, ).
Let us then REJOICE EVERMORE and be STRONG IN FAITH, growing constantly in love and tenderness, in pity and compassion, in understanding and in co-operation as a family of God as we spread the GOSPEL, itself predicted for thousands of years, before it came, and for many hundreds, in such great detail that it is able to be preached in DEPTH from the Old Testament alone! Thank God however that what was predicted is now fulfilled (see Creating Waves, in That Magnificent Rock); and the return of the Lord will likewise be fulfilled as shown in Acts 1:11, and Matthew 24, I Thessalonians 4.
As to that, has it occurred to you that here, in His return for His people, to be delivered not just from Egypt this time but from the world in its squalid, squalling downhill slither, is a deliverance of a whole international assemblage of people from all over the earth. This is in one mighty INTERVENTION from the Lord, in which not through the sea, but through the air, He will REMOVE HIS PEOPLE and set them free from a world predicted to become so horrible in crime, morals and unbelief, folly and scorn, curse and international contrivance, compulsion and control, that unless the Lord DID intervene NO HUMAN BEINGS COULD LIVE IN IT! (cf. Revelation 9:13ff., 13:11ff.., Matthew 24:14, 21,25-31).
Now that, it will be the EXODUS of ALL TIME! Are you to be
part of it! Ensure that you are. Come to the Christ who came for the world, that it might believe, not to condemn but to save.
Receive HIM, and as it is His, HIS WORD, and follow it.
What ? How could anyone receive any authority and NOT receive the words! (cf. Isaiah 8:20). To be sure, through Him the world will indeed be judged, since it plays light with His mercy, and refuses, like Israel of old, despite the deliverance, to enter INTO the PROMISED LAND of His presence, now invisible but keenly experienced, then manifest on His return (John 12:48-50, Luke 11:27-28, Matthew 24:27, Revelation 1:7).
· Not sentiment and adoration of saints but believing and THEREFORE acting on the truth is critical; and those whom HE has received, entered and transformed are renewed in nature to delight in Him (Colossians 3:9-10, Matthew 7:21-29). Those who are His come to Him and walk with Him: even those who by faith receive Him as He is. Imperfect, they are yet categorically His, and live for Him (I John 1:7-2:1, 3:1-7 - v.6 saying "does not practise sin" - i.e. it is not the manner of procedure as a bond).
· This time it is not a race that will be judged for its selfishness, false gods and immoral ways; but it is the whole world. Nor is it a race that will be delivered - but rather it is chosen children of God from all peoples (I Peter 2:6-10,22-25).
As for believers in Him: OUR promised land is Christ. He said: "I am the door. By Me, if any man enter, he shall be saved and go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:9). His people, then, are safe; for they are where they belong. Are you?
Heed Hebrews (12:1):
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is et before us, looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God."
A Personal Note
What we now need to realise is this: that ESCAPE such as the
1. First the believer ESCAPES from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7-9, Hebrews 2:3): and what is to terrible about this, is that it is just!
2. Secondly, for those who have repented, realised the redemption in Christ and believed in Him and His completed work for their salvation (II Corinthians 7:10, 5:19-21): there is a GUARANTEE that there will NOT be a situation which is too difficult for you to bear. This is actually phrased in terms of escape as follows (I Corinthians 10:13):
"There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man;
but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able;
but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it."
What a world of Biblical blessing is here! LIVE in that world and be wise!
In the case of the Israelites before us, actually GOD LED THEM to the Red Sea where they COULD be SHUT IN and besieged. The Egyptians swarmed in like hungry locusts, or angry bees. Victory, triumph for power and lust were before them like millions from the Stock Exchange grabbed from some slump.
Now they could stomp on the Israelites and end once for all what they doubtless deemed their ridiculous pretensions and aggressive religious freedoms. The SEA itself was on their side. Circumstances presented a platter of nice slaves to resume their economically desirable activities on the side of the Egyptians. All was right with their little world, and their gods, so devastatingly humiliated in the 10 plagues which openly mocked them, for they used some of the very religious symbols in the devastation of their very own land, would at least be avenged!
Not so! God LED the Israelites into a trap so that it could be sprung by the Egyptians as the Israelites distanced themselves from the furious scene - just in the very nick of time. He actually mocked the fury of the incensed Egyptians whose gods were not God, and whose lusts were domineering, unjust and cruel. Their trap became their doom; their 'destiny' became their death, and God was glorified in them, honoured in those who declined... majestically, continually and with much dishonest breaking of commitment, declined to liberate the nation which God labelled as like a son to Him.
This is escape par excellence - you AVOID the carefully prepared FATE held out to you by the oppressor, and HE is smashed in the lusts of his own anti-godly pretensions - RELIGIOUS anti-God pretensions indeed. So the Christian need not fear. He/she may suffer, may be pursued, pushed and aggressively assaulted; but the end is triumph in the Lord as we WAIT on Him! Imagine now, for an instant, if the Israelites, to whose 'moaning' God was so averse in the very act of His delivering them: imagine if they had gone further and even there REFUSED MOSES! But they did not, with so many astounding miracles already there. The PLAN for the waters was precise, and the operations with which it was enmeshed were prodigious. It is wise to obey God in ALL things, for He is very deep.
To be sure, the Lord who foreknows all things, can easily make advance provision for some delay, but there will be times when the faith of the believer is to be operative, and the result of stumbling may simply be this: that such and such good things which were in store, are now aborted (cf. II Samuel 12:8). A child of God? yes, and always His, but able to be disciplined. Recall how this was precisely how King David was rebuked when he lusted. Meanwhile, the ESCAPE, prodigious as God elects to make it, is a fact of history and an illustration of the many such escapes which God provides, always as the case makes good in His eyes.
3. Finally, this escape has a parable in it, for our salvation. Notice as we saw before, that there are the two commands: a) DO NOT FEAR - STAND STILL AND SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD, and b) GO FORWARD! (Exodus 14:13,15).
The first reminds us of two great features - for the vast and mighty deliverances of God often carry an exemplary display of vital principles, for our Shepherd also teaches us.
A) As to salvation, the recognition that the person now has the status of a child of God, the justification from all that moral works cannot in themselves achieve, the free pardon for sins: this is a matter of STANDING STILL. We must BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD! There is no provision in mercy for our contribution. It is a case of "BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED THROUGH FAITH AND THAT IS NOT OF OURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD" (Eph. 2:8).
It is "NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST" (Ephesians 2:9); and it is "APART FROM THE DEEDS OF THE LAW" (Romans ). Indeed, this salvation comes through another law entirely: "THE LAW OF FAITH". We are hence "JUSTIFIED FREELY" (Romans )? BY doing something? Not at all - "BY GRACE" - what by some graciousness? Not at all: THROUGH THE REDEMPTION WHICH IS CHRIST JESUS. If YOU were Christ Jesus, then you might boast, but as for Him, He humbled Himself, though He did the works none other could do, and it is His Father who has exalted His name above every name, since also He came at the first from being in the form of God, so that equality with Him was no prize. He had it already (Philippians 2, John -23).
BE STILL and RECEIVE HIM, WHICH IS NOT YOURSELF, NO, NEITHER IN PRINCIPLE, IN PRACTICE, IN POWER OR IN PERFORMANCE!
B) That is the first part. Let us now look at the second, the other: GO FORWARD! You recall this divine word when all was ready and God had done those dynamics needful for the case. Go forward reminds us of this: that now that JUSTIFICATION is complete, we are in the way of SANCTIFICATION! I Thessalonians makes clear just what the proposal is in store:
"And may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserve blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY! We find the word of God declaring. Let the children grow in the likeness of their heavenly Father.
However even there: they WENT FORWARD into what appeared an abysmal depth, a hopeless danger, an appalling risk. The waters could COLLAPSE, and just for the moment appeared a more terrifying prospect perhaps than the Egyptians who after all might not kill so valuable a prized, but rather merely imprison or enslave them. So the world makes its counter-offer: Come to me and I will give you some sort of a proposal, some kind of a life! It may be ratty, but still you might be able to grab this or that! Have a go!
From all that servitude they were escaping*1. From this the Christian escapes, as from the judgments which are its special lot for presumption and self-love, self-centredness and appalling littleness of spirit before the God who is beautiful in holiness, and celestial in countenance. Do not therefore let anyone think that NON-sanctification has anything to do with Christian grace and walk. Errors and failures here or there, yes; but the WALK is in the Spirit of God, and the ONE within the Christian is CHRIST, indeed - CHRIST IN YOU THE HOPE OF GLORY, ESSENTIALISES ONE ASPECT OF PAUL'S ENTIRE MESSAGE! (Colossians 1:27). WHICH Christ however? Christ crucified, yea rather risen (Romans ). The very actualising wonder in sanctification itself, though in this case there be co-operation, is of God, for it is "God who works in you both to will and to do" (Philippians 2:12-13). It is for that very reason that you may, having been saved, justified and received into His kingdom, you peaceably and with assurance "work out your own salvation".
It is granted,
so find its wonders and His presence and move to the mark of the high calling
with the beauty of His presence, yes, and the majesty of His power. The denial
of His power is one of the criteria of a fallen substitute for Christianity
which Paul predicts for the last times, in which we are in terms of the
Biblical parameters (Matthew 24 - see SMR Ch.8).
It is the USE of this power which is one of the dominating features of the man
and the woman, yes and the child of God. Let us therefore learn from this
startling episode of the children of
What then? Go forward!
*1 It needs to be considered that thus the Lord might lead any one of us, so
that in an APPARENT impossibility, reached through legitimate faith, we could
be delivered in an EVIDENT miracle, so that He is glorified. Put differently:
where divine direction from His word, according to provided wisdom, would have
us act in such a style that escape seems impossible, this makes it the more
interesting; for with the TEST, the trial, we are promised, just as we see
here, THE WAY OF ESCAPE (I Corinthians 10:13). It is SURE to happen in terms of
godly living and the completion of what is our due duty. HOW He does it, as at
The TREADING of that way, by faith, the way which He supplies however daunting may seem the situation, it is this which can honour the Lord, sometimes in a spectacular way. How important it is, therefore, to follow this word:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:4-5).
Of intense interest is the timing here. Thus in Exodus 14:13-14, the complaining people are told to STAND STILL, and not to be afraid. "Stand still, he said, "and see the salvation of the Lord." "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace!"
"Be still and know that I am God," the Psalmist writes in Psalm 46.
Then, this being in place, the NEXT, the second command is in order:
the children of
your hand ..."
Moses had to act on the
little matter of the sea; it needed to act as presumably it had never acted
before; and it was a little matter for the Master of the servant, Moses;
for HE had made it. He then directed that creation by the power with which He
had made it; and delivered the people. As to them: they first STOPPED in their
tracks for HIS instructions, and then speedily, STARTED in the action decreed.
TIME can indeed be of the essence, when the FIRST step is to be still before
the Lord; and WHEN He is ready, one proceeds to take the NEXT step at His
There is a
bevy of parallels here. Thus the
The leading by the cloud, light at night, in sharp contrast with surrounding uncertainty and peril on the one hand, and darkness on the other, for the Egyptians, symbolises the walk in Christ, the light of the world, and His compassionate guidance in life for His people - NOT to escape suffering, but futility and meaningless misdirection. The surrounding of the LED Israelis, shortly afterwards, the hemming of them in to the Red Sea, like a massive trap, as if for all the divine intervention they were merely the greater fools, is like the temptations and tests in this world, with its artful glamour and well-prepared self-love, self-esteem and self-will, blotting out Christianity as it can or will, within the limits set by God.
The opening of the Red Sea is like the resurrection of Christ: for it delivers, and shows, even ENACTS the deliverance from death by a miraculous intervention, one nevertheless which stoops to the ACTUAL body of Christ, not despising the realities of the situation that He CAME to our place to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. It is not an airlift, but a division of the waters. The arrival on the other side and the movement to the promised land is like pilgrimage. The refusal to enter the promised land is like church people and others of some interest, who merely oscillate these things, but have no faith (cf. Numbers 14). Afterwards their forlorn endeavour to enter into the promised land (Numbers 14:39ff.), one which now was both forbidden and followed by predicted defeat, is like the sects and the foolish religious philosophies of man: it is an endeavour, perhaps even in some illegitimate sense, in the name of the Lord, to circumvent the ONLY way He has provided, with witty inventions that are in fact folly.
The eventual entry with Joshua is like revival and reformation both, restoration to reality and action in faith. Of course the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is just as real and practically presented (Matthew 24, I Thessalonians 4) as the crucifixion, and has a supplementary aim, not to secure salvation but to import its results in common view, and rule the earth before its removal in righteousness (cf. II Peter 3:7-13, Matthew 24:35), now that the day of freedom is past: this regal return of Christ could be symbolised in the Red Sea crossing likewise, for then, at that day, the forces of evil will be far more than those invisible sins or that unseen sinfulness of nature or disposition today. That situation will be far closer to actual physical force of oppression in the world, as we saw; and hence more closely parallel the escape from Pharaoh.
THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
AND THE DRAMA THERE
Now that we have dwelt on the resurrection of Christ's body however, let us for a moment in parallel, consider the dramatic realities which can then be meditated on, like the Exodus from Egypt. Let us look this time at Palestine in the day of that bodily resurrection of Christ which authenticated Him to the uttermost, and ended the contest between the Lord and His accusers.
One can see the women (Luke 23:55) seeing carefully where the crucified "Lamb", Jesus Christ is laid in His tomb. Defilement by moving bodies results in a 7 day uncleanness (Numbers 19:11-20), and the Roman soldiers, normally with their lives at stake, would not help acts such as that! Of course, 'normally' - this implies fact. Who wants to die for a few pence ? Who would connive when Rome and priesthood alike were at maximal stretch in terms of the propaganda and the popularity of the victim!
But when we turn to fiction, official fiction to cover up the resurrection, bribery may work, after the removal of the body by Christ Himself, since after all, it was His own, and this is part of the resurrection.
If this Man who raised the dead, were to be silenced, it was not enough to murder Him. Even to Lazarus the religious officials, keen on their name and the appearance of victory rather than something far worse than a mere public relations disaster, plotted to put Lazarus to death (John 12:9-11), just as they actually did make of Christ a victim for their own survival as a nation and as rulers in it (John 11:49ff., Matthew 27:17-18). How much more must they find the evil constraint to suppress the news of Christ's resurrection, the inexplicable event that the guards, facing death if their 'prisoner' the corpse escaped, wer so overwhelmed that they were stricken with some kind of sleep as the staggering escape happened.
Bribery was the way chosen as so often in the history of this debased race. Make up the story of disciples taking the body, even though in their sleep, as attested to clear themselves, they COULD not know this! Make up the impossible but anything seemed better than facing the impossible, as it would be, unless that aweful fact were to be faced, that from first to last Christ ALWAYS did what He said, whether in word or rapid healing before men's eyes or raising the dead, and that He had said NOT ONLY that He would be raised, but WHEN; and this, it was that very third day so often affirmed by Him for that event.
Powerless before such overwhelming power, the newly hewn tomb of Joseph Arithmathea, one made from rock, specially upon his application, commanded by Governor Pilate for the interment (Matthew 27:57-61), this soap opera story the priestly officials concocted, despite its self-contradiction. Is truth to be a consideration when the needs of the enemies of Christ were in view ? Was a leadership which denied the obvious and assaulted the Lord to be stopped by mere fact ?
Neither before nor afterwards did the inevitable impact of such power as that of Christ, such words, such combination of deed and word by His own repeated statements, constant tests and verifications at will, fail to have two results. People believed Him, who had for so long been predicted, and the priesthood at the top level opposed Him, with tricky questions, vehement denunciations, reams of probing questions in public, repeatedly plotting what at last with the authority of the High Priest, they effected, using a traitor (Luke 11:52-54, Matthew 9:11ff., 12:1-14, 22, John 11:47-53).
The methods of corrupted power, whether in that phase of degraded Judaism, the tradition more important than the basis for it (Mark 7:7ff.), as Christ exposed and denounced it, or in Communism as in the USSR, where they even manufactured the propaganda that they had freedom of religion while killing, wounding, closing down, assaulting, imprisoning, is part of the deadly devices of the devil in any clothes, angel of light or product of the pit, in any Age. Lies are the companions of violence, the one doing violence to the body, the other to the truth, and both are sections of the same system.
Why then did they use a traitor, Judas as of course long predicted (Psalm 69:17ff. with 109, Zechariah 11), the exact sum to be used to seduce the traitor being named by the prophet, and the irony of the price of the sale duly weighed many centuries before the event ? It let them arrest Christ in night, when the clear light of the facts were suppressed by darkness, those who sought Him for help might be absent, and He could be rushed through a denunciation program without the full force of public opinion ready to react. It was a coup.
Such is as common as dirt in the annals of power and pollution. The difference here was this, that this nation, Israel, freely (Joshua 24) serving God, with a massive and magnificent temple raised by divinely given specifications, a people whose history had been sketched in advance (Deuteronomy 32, Amos 3:7, Leviticus 26) in much and in little things alike, as this sale price for Christ, whom God had placed as an exponent of His will for mankind (Isaiah 43:21), whom He had brought from slavery in Egypt (Exodus, Psalm 77,105-106), and placed in their land (Joshua), despite their rumblings and mumblings and lack of faith at crucial times (cf. Numbers 14), was appointed to receive the Lord in human form (Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 52-53, Micah 5). What would happen was traced carefully, from His power and healings to His crucifixion and resurrection (cf. SMR Ch. 9), and what would happen to Israel likewise had been shown in advance (Isaiah 49:7, 65:13-15).
Thus when THIS misuse of power and justice, truth and reality occurred in THIS nation at THAT time, an epoch opened and another closed. The normal power and pride of evil this time met not yielding flesh and avid mind for the lie, the pretence, the barrage of contra-factual propaganda such as power often uses to disguise truth while it murders it, but the predicted resurrection of the Lord on the predicted day, after the predicted death by the predicted means for the predicted price in the predicted place.
Hence the lie had to be brought to bear. Is it another tomb ? ask some, is there some mistake ? Mistake! When the new-hewn tomb from rock of the rich man (involved in Christ's death as predicted (Isaiah 53) is COMMANDED by the guilty Governor to be the recipient of the result of his own failure to meet even his conscience (John 18:38, 19:7-16), when the most important person in Israel's history is so viewed by many, and realised (Matthew 16) by His disciples, are they going to ignore the place ? Is this the spirit even of a football crowd to their hero ? Is this insanity even to ask ? But of course, the tender delight of His followers cherishes the site as man so often does, of its leaders; but this was more, it was the Lord!
Hence they marked it well, it being a most notable premises with its own garden (John 19:41-42, Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:46-47, Luke 23:55-56). How else ? Did not custom require spices, and how anoint a shadow in the unknown!
But what of the conspirators ? What of the priesthood ? What of those set against Christ with such vehemence, with such denunciations, with such blind traditionalism, with such entrenched power in the land, for so long and exhibited publicly as such so often ? What if Pilate tried to stop the Sanhedrin's power to act corruptly, how could they then use their authority as a power base which Rome permitted ? Why, then the priests could threaten the Governor, as if Christ were some kind of competitor king for Caesar, and he could then be relied on to be saving his neck, or averting the danger to it ... He could be MADE to co-operate, as he did.
Some things are most aptly done, if deeds of dark character, by others, making the power greater and the dangers less. Why not stir up the crowd in their excitement and veneration of authority ? This was duly done. Public manipulation of the crowd, in blood lust, excitement and the habit of listening to their religious authorities, this could be accomplished as it was, if there arose any difficulty, as it did. Blood lust, authority, pride of religion, saving face, all could be used, as they were (Matthew 27:19-24, Mark 15:10-11).
Normally, then, guards letting their prisoner escape, could simply be killed. It helped to instruct others. If however the unthinkable had happened, the awesomely consistent action of the Man of Power, and He had been raised, so that the guards COULD not stop it, being in a supernaturally induced, and naturally reinforced stupour of horror, we re they to be blamed ? Would their story not make the worst of their plot ? Such could be stopped by mere money. Temple treasuries were deep, before the Temple as Christ kindly foretold (Matthew 24:1ff.), was destroyed. For the nonce, they were interested in destroying both Christ and truth.
Hence they paid. It was not just that you could not entirely blame the guards, who were amazed and bewildered, and gave no appearance of mere slackness; it was that the truth MUST not be out. A story must be made; for after all, the foretold PRICE of the betrayal was already a nuisance. So the enormity of pretending the disciples STOLE the body while the poor soldiers stood back powerless - indeed slept through it and yet knew it: this was concocted.
Why however was the story so ludicrous ? There was the need for haste, since the truth is dangerous to deceit, and the truth about God is most dangerous because of who He is, and because of the fact that ostensibly the nation was actually serving Him. Yet gross distortion of reality is normal in Mafia type deeds, for which you do not need the Mafia as exemplar. They pock-mark history for many occasions!
Secondly, when God is your enemy, a lack of finesse is to be expected, and utter failure is the only option. What can you DO when the man refuses to be duly murdered and despatched!
Bribery or corrupt money change had been normal enough, since it could even buy the high priesthood! That then was the sickening way; just as others imagine the disicples were ignorant of the tomb of their desire, and the woman of the site for the embalment. Make up anything, for anything must do when truth will not do, for extraneous reasons.
Thus since there was a connivance officially, a sort of Olympic games bribery or corruption, as is reputed, for some formal gain, then the SOLDIERS, GUARDS, might not be killed, even if their charge 'escaped! What an idea! Blacken truth and live life! Excellent, this is the theme of the lost.
After all (Matthew 27:19-26, John 11:38-48 cf. Acts 4:10), it was well known that Jesus' had mighty powers, and that His role and realm of action included a claim He would rise from the dead, as implied in His answering challenge to the high priest (Matthew 26:64), and as spoken often enough (Matthew 16:31). He statements on his appointed role from His Father, to be the judge all men (John 5:19-23) did not sit well with final desolation for Himself!
When He HAD risen, then, this was not a time for punishment for the guards; for HOW on earth or above it, could soldiers allow with no sign of molestation, people to come in and remove their charge! If they slept, it was negligence, but how would they know what happened, then! (Matthew 28:12-13). If they did not sleep, by what means did the body go, with themselves unharmed?
Were they killed in the effort to prevent it! Scarcely. Or maimed? What then was the account? Paralysed with fear at the onset of supernatural force, they were indeed overcome, but not by man; and reporting the occurrence to the priests, they were advised not to relate it abroad (Matthew 28:4). The priests themselves, however, feared what MIGHT NOW happen, since their victim was just as free as His words always made so clear, He would be.
He was gone. So too was any natural reason for the occurrence, and the testimony of the guards could fit ONLY with men aghast in horror at the imperial power of God Almighty, incapable of action, frozen in awe at the onset of what was far worse than a lightning flash, perhaps even thrust into sleep in the midst of it, so that an incoherent and gabbled account proceeds, irrational and absurd, and yet explicable only on the testimony that He had risen.
Hence neither death for the soldiers would serve for them, nor truth: an absurd self-contradictory statement that the disciples stole Him away while the guards slept would, they must have thought, simply have to do. Rome was thwarted, for what of the danger of Caesar 'misunderstanding' this king (cf. John 19:12). The Jewish leadership was thwarted, for who wanted 'loose' the One whose powers had already reached to the removal of death for Lazarus, with enormous popular appeal and result, as well might be imagined (cf. John 11:48-50)! Who would want Him, among the deleters of truth, to be threatening their position and authority, as well as their strategy. It had been deemed ''expedient" to have Him - removed, by the ecclesiastical mafia.
Yet HE WAS GONE, the power of God from His mouth fulfilled, now as always. Let us return from the machinations of the Machiavellian to the reality of truth.
Gone ? The women having traced His tomb, the soldiers having ensured its safety, the zeal of the Jewish leaders having seen to that, on the all important third day (inclusive counting, hence Sunday as the first break of day drew close, as the evangelists make clear in the Gospel), they come near.
Mary sets out in the last of darkness (John 20:1), and the women together arrive as dawn is flushing the sky, and day loomed (Matthew 28:1): then the moment came. As the sun begins to peep (Mark 16:1), so does the angel act (Matthew 28:2). With an earthquake in attendance, the angel removes the tomb's boulder which guards it, thus removing the problem of how to displace it, which had faced the women (Mark 16:3). Sitting on the boulder in conquest, the angel is resplendent. Then two angels make an announcement (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4). Christ is not here, they are advised. It is vain to seek the living among the dead (Luke 24:5, Matthew 28:6). He is risen.
It is like Christ's statement, indicating that God is God of the living, not of the dead, and that as the God of Abraham He was in operation with that eternally alive man (Matthew 22:32). As He said, as always, so He did. HE in His Person has nothing to do with the dead, except in sacrifice. In reality, He is life eternal (I John 1:1-4), and none and nothing can daunt this infinitude of vitality.
They are amazed, told that He is to meet them in Galilee, just as He had prior to all this, announced He would do after He accomplished His death for sins (Matthew 28:7, 26:32). Without turning to the right or the left, as if in a vice with this staggering revelation, the women surge to the disciples (Mark 16:8, Matthew 28:8). There their revelation is greeted with frank disbelief (Luke 24:11, 22-23). However, this was by no means universal, and Peter and John decide to investigate, running in their enthusiasm, young John outrunning Peter, looking into the now vacant tomb and believing. Peter lumbers in, too, seeing the neatly arranged cloths that had once swathed Christ's body.
He was to see the Lord later in that day, and then doubtless, there was much to talk about! (cf. Luke 22:54-62, Mark 14:66-72; Luke 24:34). Let us then look back on the events.
· Meanwhile, the women were going about
(the tense in the Greek verb used in this part of the Bible is imperfect, suggesting a continuing itinerary, a moving about in their goings - Matthew 28:11, as indeed is seen in the case of Mary explicitly, in John 19:11-17, for she had left the tomb and was now back there, naturally enough!)
· and perhaps had followed Mary back there. Only after Mary had been met by the Lord first (Mark 16:9), and had clung to His feet
(John 20:17 - a present imperative, signifying continuing action, explaining His request that she cease clinging to Him)
· did they also meet Him, they also clasping His feet (Matthew 26:9). Then too they were told to go to Galilee, and to tell the brethren this, for "there they will see Me" (Matthew 26:10).
· And there they did! We can imagine with what combined astonishment and delight the two streams of joy, Mary and the other women, now reinforced by a personal meeting and grasping of the risen Messiah, would converge on the disciples. But more was to come.
As the day advanced, Jesus appeared to the disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24:28ff.), with that delightful irony, asking what they were talking about as they walked to it. They outlined the exploits of the One they had thought to be the Messiah, and the fact that the third day had come since the crucifixion (His prediction of rising on the third day was presumably throbbing in their hearts, and warring with their hopes). THIS was the third day!
In this way, Christ was told enough for Him to respond by explaining in detail to them that the scriptures had abundantly predicted the necessary suffering of the Messiah, before the glory which should follow, so that they should indeed expect His appearance: and then, as He broke bread for their sorrowing spirits and needy bodies, they realised from their dimness of anguish, that it had happened. He HAD risen already. This, it was HE. Their clouded brains, dimmed spirits and grieving eyes were opened. Their sorrow was met by fact!
As to those who had been on the road to Emmaus, they were amazed, their hearts burning as the simple sovereign realities of God's power and prophecies which Christ had shown them in some detail were exposed to their delighted minds. As to the women, having met Christ near the tomb, they were told that He would meet them in Galilee, just as He had prior to all this, announced He would do after dying for sins (Matthew 28:7, 26:32).
Let us see it graphically.
Without turning to the right or the left, as if in a vice with this staggering revelation, these same women surge to the disciples (Mark 16:8, Matthew 28:8). There their revelation is greeted with frank disbelief (Luke 24:11, 22-23). However, this was by no means universal, and Peter and John decide to investigate, running in their enthusiasm, young John outrunning Peter, looking into the now vacant tomb and believing. Peter lumbers in, too, seeing the neatly arranged cloths that had once swathed Christ's body. He would see the Lord later in that day, and then there is to be much to talk about! (cf. Luke 22:54-62, Mark 14:66-72; Luke 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5).
Meanwhile, the Emmaus group, moving fast to tell the disciples, hidden away in their upper room, find the Lord has met with Peter; and then, as they narrate and share with the others following their journey, in this time of exposure of reality, Christ now again and at once appears to them all (Luke 24:33-35). "Peace to you," He says to them, but they are terrified, imagining He must be a Spirit.
"Does a spirit have flesh and bones as you see Me to have?" He expostulates.
"Handle Me and see!" (Luke 24:36ff.).
Then in this substantiating sequence to their amazed minds, He eats with them.
So we move to the next week.
Thomas the enquirer, missing on that day, came the next Lord's day at normal worship, for when better than on the day of His being "declared the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness" (Romans 1:4); and he likewise was invited to prod the body of the Lord, putting His fingers where the wounds were, as he had indicated he would NEED to do, before believing. Thomas capitulated, declared,
"My Lord and my God!"
TO the Lord, even literally, "THE GOD OF ME!"
So THAT Red Sea was passed, a far greater one; and the next is the time of His return as King and Lord of Lords, when the world itself will be the site of escape, and the end triumphs will replace the turgid follies of the final Pharaoh, the world ruler who will exalt himself as if mad (cf. John 14:30-31, II Thessalonians 2:6ff.).