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Was it worth the money?

While they were carrying this out (this, the AD 30 instruction to two women, both named Mary, from the risen Jesus to take the message to his brothers that they may go to Galilee and that there they also will see him – see him alive and risen from the dead), you – you look and see (that’s you – today’s reader), several of the guard of soldiers, returning into the city, made known to the chief priests all that had taken place (in particular that, despite their best efforts to guard his corpse as instructed, Jesus had risen from the dead and had frightened them all so much that they became like dead men themselves). And, having assembled together with the elders and reached a conclusion, they gave appropriate silver-money to the soldiers, stating, “You – all of you say, ‘His disciples, coming at night, stole him from us as we slept.’ And, if ever this is heard by the governor, we will persuade him and will make there to be no anxieties for you.” So, having taken the silver-money, they made it to have been as they had been told. And this statement has been spread abroad among Jews to this very day. Matthew 28: 8-15
When you’ve read and thought about the extract above from Matthew’s first-century biography of Jesus, I want to ask you something…..

Have you read it? If so, my question is this: “Was it worth the money?”   

Those of you who are picky will no doubt respond by saying: “To whom?” Was it worth the money to the chief priests and the elders (the great and the good in Jerusalem who with the chief priests had procured the execution of Jesus as a convicted criminal)? Or was it worth the money to the guard of soldiers who were paid to confess to serious incompetence of which they were not-guilty? 

‘A person who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.’ (Oscar Wilde, poet and playwright, 1854-1900) 
Matthew is believed to have written his biography in Greek – he was an educated man, a former taxation entrepreneur. He described the “appropriate silver-money” using two Greek words: hikana argeria. Argeria means “silver pieces”. And hikana, an adjective, primarily means “enough” – enough silver pieces. Whatever is sufficient – “whatever it takes” (to use a phrase much loved by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and used as the title of a biography of him). 

So, I think that the chief priests and elders were indeed satisfied that it was worth the money. Do you think that? After all, they had given the guard of soldiers “whatever it takes” to induce them to lie. And the soldiers did so.

So much for the value for money decision of the chief priests and the great and the good back there in AD 30 Jerusalem. It was worth the money. But what about the guard of soldiers? Was it worth the money to them?

Those soldiers had guarded the grave of Jesus for three days. Matthew reported their experience like this: “A messenger of the Lord, having come down from heaven and having come near, rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men."

Whatever it takes? What would it take to persuade them to say, ‘His disciples, coming at night, stole him from us as we slept.’? I wonder? Did you notice that the soldiers needed to be given more than money? If they had to confess to incompetence as soldiers, they needed to be absolved from the consequences of that confessed incompetence. They were given that assurance. The chief priests and elders would fix it all with Pilate, the Roman governor, if he ever came to hear of it.

That was enough. Appropriate. Whatever it takes had been supplied. But was it worth it? Was it worth it to the soldiers?

Two thousand years (almost) of hindsight may well change our perceptions. All of the chief priests and elders, all of the guard of soldiers, are long dead. 

‘As long as we live, we should more and more be turning from all that is evil to all that is good.’ (Tryon Edwards, American theologian, 1809-1894) 
What do you think of them today? Would, today, now, the Jerusalem authorities consider it was worth the money to have done what they did? Did they gain enough to satisfy themselves completely forever?

And those dear soldiers? Today, would they still think it was worth it to them to confess incompetence and to be silent about the reality that completely shook them rigid, almost to death? Would they today, now, think it was worthwhile – forever?

Sinner Syvret

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