Who’s the Real Imposter and Fraud?

In September 2013 the Huffington Post reported:

“A New York art dealer admitted Monday she took part in a 15-year scam that fooled art enthusiasts into buying more than $80 million of counterfeits imitating famous artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

Glafira Rosales, 57, of Sands Point, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, telling Judge Katherine P. Failla that for parts of two decades she teamed with others to sell counterfeits of various expressionist artists including Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell.” [1]

My point in bringing up this old news story is to demonstrate the reality of fakes, and specifically how it relates to two groups of people in Matthew 27. The passage reads, “The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:62–66, ESV)

Each one makes the claim to be true. The religious leaders set themselves up against Jesus and his disciples. Even in death these men are still slinging mud. But who is the fake? Who are the imposters? In this article I want to examine each one, the chief priests and the Pharisees versus Jesus. Each one claimed to speak for God. Each one claimed to be righteous. Each one desired to have the hearts of the people follow them. But who was truly worthy? Let’s investigate.

Who Had Righteous Courage? (v. 63)

“Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’” (Matthew 27:63, ESV)

Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”Jesus had been publicly humiliated, beaten, and crucified. His disciples hid themselves and were nowhere to protest his arrest or death. Then came a request by the chief priests and Pharisees that must have seemed humorous to Pontius Pilate. He knew these men were jealous of Jesus’ ministry. He knew that this was why they forced his hand to put him to death. And now he is dead. So why are they so fearful still? They may not be fearful of Jesus himself, but they are clearly still fearful that his teaching and influence has not died with him. They are fearful that he would be remembered and that his disciples would not scatter. And I think there is added fear here. I think that in the back of their minds they are fearful that Jesus just might truly rise from the dead. The disciples seem to have forgotten Jesus many words about his resurrection, but the religious leaders did not. And he had done so many miracles that clearly showed that he had power. They even claimed that it was power from the devil himself.

And then of course, there was Lazarus. Hadn’t he died in nearby Bethany? But now he was raised from the dead by Jesus. They had plans to kill him and put him back in the grave. But if Jesus had the power to raise him, could he possibly raise himself from the dead as well? They wouldn’t wait to see. Their fear drove them.

Compare the chief priests’ and scribes’ fear to the courage of Jesus who committed himself to the Father all the way to his death on that bloody cross. Look with me at his righteous courage in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”” (Matthew 26:36–46, ESV).

Look at his boldness as he is being arrested in vv. 55-56 of this same chapter: “At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.” (Matthew 26:55–56, ESV). Over and over again Jesus showed that he has nothing to hide. He committed himself to follow God the Father throughout his life.

So, who is the fraud? Who is the imposter? Is it Jesus or is it this gang of false teachers? You decide!

Who Spoke Unvarnished Truth? (vv. 63-64)

“Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.’” (Matthew 27:63–64, ESV)

This time, let us start with Jesus in this comparison. In verses 63-64, the chief priests and Pharisees refer to Jesus’ words. They call them lies. They call him an imposter and his disciples are thieves and liars–ready to steal his body to promote his lies.

But Jesus’ words are only lies and deceit if they don’t prove to be true. Jesus would be a liar and a deceiver if he didn’t rise from the dead as he claimed he would. He would be a false prophet. He would not be all that he claimed. And notice the reference to his first fraud in verse 64? What was that? It was his claim to be the Messiah! The chief priests and scribes are telling Pilate that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and he actually was able to fool people into believing him. But to them, his death proved that it was a lie. Now, if the disciples stole the body the people would be fooled again. They would think he had actually risen from the dead.

But Jesus had never been shown to be anything but 100% truthful. He was never shown to have lied, ever. He was never shown in any way to have sinned, ever. And you know that they checked with everyone to dig up some dirt. But nothing. Jesus was always truthful. Look at their claim a little closer. Notice that they have heard of Jesus’ claim to rise from the dead. If you go back and check all of the times that Jesus spoke of his death and resurrection, he did it secretly, only before his disciples. When he did speak of it openly, he did so with veiled references.

For example, look at Matt 26:61 where it says, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” (Matthew 26:61, ESV). Notice the claim. Did the chief priests and scribes know he was referring to his death and resurrection? If they did, they didn’t say anything at the trial. And the only other times Jesus spoke to these men about his resurrection was when they asked for a sign to prove he was the Messiah. Do you remember his answer? The only sign they would receive was the sign of Jonah, three days in the belly of the fish. That’s a veiled reference to his death and resurrection.

Perhaps Judas told them. Judas, the one they had bribed to betray Jesus. You see, everywhere we turn we find evidence of their deception and duplicity. What had Jesus said of them? Look at John 8:39-47. Again Jesus’ truthfulness shines against the darkness of their souls. He called them out not only as liars, but as murderers. And he connected them to their father–Satan.

Who was the imposter and fraud? Was it the Son of Man who has never been proven to ever have sinned or spoken any lies, or these religious leaders who are implicated in bribery, lying, murder, coercion and blasphemy?

Who Demonstrated Heavenly Power? (vv. 65-66)

“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:65–66, ESV)

Once again, let’s begin with the chief priests and Pharisees in our comparison to find out who is the fraud and who is genuine. The chief priests and Pharisees are the most powerful men in Judaism at the time. But notice that they need to go before Pilate to ask for soldiers and permission. They must have hated doing this because they hated Rome. Pilate was a constant reminder to the Jews that they were not truly a free people, but were subjects of Caesar. And they needed his permission for any military action, as we see here. And we also see their weakness in what they are doing. In John 20:19 we find the disciples hiding behind locked doors for fear of their lives. But the Jews put up Roman soldiers and a seal of Rome in addition to the large stone door, to stop these supposed grave-robbers.

There is no hint that they are trusting God in this. As a matter of fact, these men never seem to seek for power from God to accomplish their goals. They only know human force. Which isn’t surprising since they are carnal in their thinking. So, they do their human best. “Go make it as secure as you can” are Pilate’s words. And they do. They put a seal on the door of the tomb. They set Roman guards on a rotation. How would Galilean peasants get through that?

Like thread exposed to fire, that’s what this was to Jesus. A Roman seal and a couple of guards? Was this a joke? Every human being on earth could have pressed against that rock and it wouldn’t have made a difference. If Jesus was sent from God as the Messiah-King, and if he could conquer death by rising again from the dead, how could a sword or spear stop him? Jesus can’t be stopped. Not then and not now!!

Who had righteous courage, who spoke unvarnished truth and who demonstrated heavenly power? The chief priests and Pharisees claimed to have these virtues, but they didn’t.

Jesus does. He is righteously courageous like the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. He is unvarnished truth. Jesus is the TRUTH. HE embodies truth. Heavenly power. The grave could not stop him. He conquered sin on that cross. And he did it for us. So, who is the imposter and fraud? Clearly it was not Jesus! Rejoice, rejoice, O saints! Rejoice in Jesus our risen Lord!

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/glafira-rosales_n_3940559.html; accessed Nov. 29, 2013

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