There’s a popular fallacy, that people have been getting smarter and more knowledgeable as history has unfolded. So when some people want a reason to reject Christian belief, they tell us that those poor ignorant people of long-ago were fooled into thinking that Jesus rose from the dead. Or if not, they were wrong about him
dying in the first place. Or maybe it was his twin brother; or possibly he never existed at all, he’s just the figment of people’s longing for hope. As if no-one thought of possible explanations back then!
Matthew 28:1-15 agrees that there was indeed a conspiracy to fool Jesus’ contemporaries; and it was arranged much the way you’d arrange it now: powerful, wealthy people gave a substantial amount of money to working people who had a lot to lose by disobeying; they paid them to say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead!
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection is a little different from the others; he tells
us that two Marys went to look at Jesus’ tomb, but there was an earthquake, and an
angel opened the tomb, then sat on the stone and spoke to the startled women. He
says that the guards watching over the tomb were literally scared stiff by the angel.
The women, more intrepid, set off to pass on the angel’s message, but they were
interrupted by meeting Jesus himself on the way. Two things to notice: The angel didn’t let Jesus out of the tomb. He was already gone, before the stone was rolled away. It was us, not Jesus, who needed it to be opened, so that we could see that the tomb was already empty. So the risen Jesus is not quite like you and me; rocks and locks can’t hold him.
But the women grasp his feet when they meet him on the road; Jesus didn’t rise as
some ghostly spectre, but solid, physical, flesh and blood. That is how we know that
you and I will have life after this life, that includes body and soul; this is the reason
we can say during communion, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given
for you, preserve your body and soul to everlasting life.”