It stands unique and alone across all of human history.
Many important people have come…and gone.
- Some have started religious movements
- Some have been business leaders or political touch stones
- Others have been celebrities who dominate popular culture
Yet they all have something in common – one day they all died. The time came when a decaying corpse was all that was left of them.
And then there’s Jesus. What did he leave behind?
AN EMPTY TOMB.
Contemporary Roman and Jewish history recounts the events surrounding the empty tomb.
About this time there was a wise man whose name was Jesus and he was known to be good and do works of justice. Many people among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who would become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he appeared to them on the third day returned to life. Accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians so named after him have not disappeared to the present day.
Josephus, 1st Century Roman Historian
Neither the governments of Rome nor Israel counted Jesus as a friend. They conspired to get rid of him. But they could not honestly ignore the result of their attempt.
AN EMPTY TOMB.
Some have examined the evidence and put forward “common-sense” explanations:
“His tomb was empty because…he didn’t die on the cross. He walked out of the tomb alive.”
This would be miraculous in itself, given Jesus’ expert Roman executioners whose own lives were on the line if he survived his execution. Have you ever seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”? There’s just no way he walked out of that tomb alive.
“His tomb was empty because…his disciples stole the body and disposed of it privately.”
Yet this does not fit the psychological profile of the defeated and rejected friends of Jesus…mourning his passing one day…and then suddenly becoming world changing action men the next. People who go to their graves spreading the exciting news that Jesus resurrection means hope for us all!
“His tomb was empty because the Jewish or Roman authorities stole the body and disposed of it privately.”
This is the oldest explanation – it’s mentioned in the New Testament account itself. Yet why would Jesus enemies inflame a growing legend about the troublesome Jesus? They wanted him disposed of…not proclaimed from the street corners. Any conspiracy around Jesus remains would have resulted in his corpse being produced to quell the growing excitement around his resurrection. And yet no historic account of such an event exists. Why? Because they had no body to produce.
“His tomb wasn’t empty. People just forgot where he was buried…they went to the wrong tomb.”
His friends knew very well where he was buried. There were Roman Guards posted at the tomb. And anyway – if the outpouring of grief at his death had confused his friends as to the whereabouts of his remains…the Jewish authorities would have had no such confusion. They would have hauled out his remains for all to see given the first opportunity. But they couldn’t. Because they had no body to produce.
No. Jesus’ tomb…the one loaned to him for a short while by Joseph of Arimathea…
- Contained his corpse on the first Good Friday
- Was empty by the first Easter Sunday.
- And his subsequent appearances, alive and well, during a brief window of time have been recorded for us in the pages of history.
Archaeologists have unearthed the unsettled reaction by the Roman Government at the time.
An edict from the Roman Emperor – warning that anyone found tampering with tombs in and around Jerusalem – would themselves be subject to the death penalty.
Unsettling as it was, Jesus wasn’t naturally raised from the dead. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead at that specific point in human history. There was purpose behind it. All the authorities could do in the face of such a seismic event was to pass a pointless law to prevent “bodies from ever getting stolen again”.
The Resurrection had already occurred.
And our world would never be the same again.