The response of the religious leaders after Jesus’ death reveals a curious phenomenon that takes place in those who do not believe what Jesus said. The day following Jesus’ death and after he was buried, the religious leaders went to Pilate requesting that the tomb be guarded and sealed. Their reason? They remembered that Jesus had earlier said that he would rise from the dead after three days. Although they didn’t believe Jesus’ words, they understood them and remembered them, so that they took action. They feared the disciples would come and steal Jesus’ body in order to make it look like Jesus had risen from the dead. The leaders also feared that the disciples then would go and preach his resurrection to the people to deceive them. The religious leaders took action in order to prevent this from happening.
The irony is that those who didn’t believe Jesus took to heart his words and took action, while those who did believe in Jesus completely forgot the words that Jesus had given them, to give them hope, and instead wallowed in despair and unbelief. What turned out, in spite of all the religious leaders’ precautions, was that Jesus did rise from the dead; he changed the disciples’ despair and mourning into joy. Then they went out and preached Jesus’ resurrection and turned the Roman world upside down. For the first time to that point in history, the powerless in the world’s eyes prevailed and transformed the powerful. Even today those who advocate for the rights of minorities and powerless groups reveal that they have been influenced by Jesus’ message, even though they may deny believing him. Up until Jesus, no religion or society advocated for women, children or minority groups. After Jesus, those cultures impacted by his message have seen some people in power advocating for the weak, rather than abusing them.
What this story reveals is that opposition to God’s kingdom cannot stop it any more than the religious leaders’ efforts to guard the tomb could prevent Jesus’ resurrection. On the other hand, unbelief in believers does not stop the advance of the kingdom either. However, when believers do take to heart what Jesus said, they are spared great despair and are empowered to encourage others while they see God’s kingdom expand.