Beyond Easter Free Sample
Day 8 (Sunday)
When people make bad news of your good news
Reading: Matthew 28:11-15
In those early days following the resurrection of Jesus, various threats assailed the fledgling faith of His first followers. Some of these were internal: initial unbelief and astonishment at the resurrection; a lack of understanding of all that had happened; the struggle to no longer rely on Jesus’ physical presence. Other threats, however, were external, and Matthew cites one of these. It was the most subtle, yet powerful, attempt to undermine the confidence of Jesus’ disciples and sow seeds of general confusion in the public domain. It was a strategy to make bad news of the good news. It was the power of rumour.
Even before the women had returned with their good news to the other disciples, the tomb-guards had become involved in a plot to discredit them. They claimed that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples who were then claiming He had risen. Bad news was spreading even before the good news had been publicly announced. The result was that all kinds of obstacles and misconceptions had to be overcome.
Have you encountered issues such as these? Battling against the regiments of rumour? They are everywhere, twisting truths and playing endless games of Chinese Whispers down the years to turn authenticity in one generation into speculation in the next. I remember, for example, as a teenager, what happened during the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. The Argentinian military junta repeatedly fed false information to their people that they were winning great victories. The depth of deception was only fully revealed to the populace when the reality of their defeat became known. It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth.
What makes rumours so dangerous? First of all, there is a great subtlety about them – the bedrock of truth can soon be covered by dirty spadefuls of small untruths. It doesn’t take much to twist a decent truth into a distorted travesty. It only takes one division to make a half-truth from a whole one.
Secondly, rumours get more out of the control as they are passed from person to person. In the case of the resurrection, the guards told the chief priests, the chief priests turn to the elders and then the report goes out to the public.
Thirdly, rumours can be very destructive to others. Motivated for their own ends, some people can use rumour to bully and harass. It doesn’t take much innuendo or gossip to ruin someone’s character or reputation.
Fourthly, rumours can perpetrate untruth down the years. Matthew records that the rumour spread by the guards was still circulating at the time his gospel was written. That was some 30 years after the event, yet still the report was being actively propagated. A whole generation had grown up since the resurrection, exposed to a lie. I wonder how many people were taken in by it, never to believe in a risen Jesus. How important it is for us to recognise we have a responsibility to uphold truth for the next generation to inherit.
For whom do we have responsibility? What truths can we pass on to them? We must remember that it is possible for rumours to be active even among the very people who should most easily dismiss them. The guards’ report flourished among the Jews, who should have known the prophecy about the resurrection of the Messiah (Psalm 16:9-10), but did not recognise it, and so were open to other theories.
How do we respond to rumour, that places us in a bad light? Are we outwitted and outsmarted by it? What happens when bad news threatens to sweep away our good news? The disciples would have had to battle against overcoming this opposition to the truth of the resurrection, especially as the guards’ report had the added credulity of official support. However, when we look at the story of the early Church, we do not find reference to this rumour at all. Matthew alone as a gospel writer reports the guards’ rumour to us. One thing seems clear: it did not discourage the disciples from preaching the resurrection. However strong the rumour was, we find that by the time the Day of Pentecost had come, stronger still was the belief of the disciples that Jesus was alive and that this had to be proclaimed. All kinds of opposition were experienced during the preaching of the gospel in those early days, but preach they did with determination and passion. No amount of rumour was going to stop them. They were heeding the counsel God gave long ago to His people through Jeremiah: “Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumours are heard in the land; one rumour comes this year, another the next” (Jeremiah 51:46).
The Apostle Paul was himself a rumourmonger against Christianity, but became a great proclaimer of the truth of the resurrection. After his conversion, he also struggled with opposition from rumours. In 2 Corinthians he describes his determination to pursue his ministry, “through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report” (2 Corinthians 6:8). He knew what it was to have people trying to discredit him, and yet he also knew the God whom he served.
It is easy to be discouraged when rumours abound, even before we have had a chance to state our case. Minds seem to have been poisoned already with an insidious twisting of truth. How do we gain confidence to speak for what’s right?
It is God Himself who is our confidence. He not only shows us truth; He is Truth. Therefore, our confidence to stand up for truth depends not so much on a reliance on abstract facts, but on an authentic person. The word “authentic” comes from the Latin phrase meaning “originating from the author”. God is the author of reality – and He has the final say.
We can stand in God’s truth by standing in Him. Do not be diverted by bad news cutting in on your good news. Do not be discouraged when you set your face against rumours. For Jesus indicated that they would be a constant feature of our society (Matthew 24:6). Instead, let us stand in God’s truth and proclaim it boldly. Let reality triumph over rumour!
For further reflection
Psalm 112 describes the benefits of trusting the Lord. One of these is outlined in verse 7: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Read the whole Psalm and seek to identify as many ways as you can in which we may learn to trust God more. Pray that you will come to trust Him increasingly and so be more firmly grounded in His truth.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world . . . The reality, however, is found in Christ (Colossians 2:8,17). Think of different opinions, help by people you know, which display a misunderstanding of the Christian faith. Pray that there will be opportunities for you to show the truth of what you believe, particularly in the light of your own personal relationship with Jesus. Pray for your friends to come to a fresh understanding of Him.
Lord of all truth, ground me in the same. Protect me from attempts to twist that truth into something that is not from you. Embolden me to stand in your truth and to confront rumour and lies. Lord of all truth, I place my trust in you. Amen.