In our first Resurrection post I ended by quoting Paul from 1 Corinthians 15: If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. Well luckily for that little 4th grade boy 25 years ago who wanted to be the best Peter he could be, this is not the case!
I passed on to you what was most important…Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.1 Cor 15:1-9
Note that Paul says the Resurrection is the ‘most important’ of all things. Indeed it’s true, for two reasons. First, if Christ was not raised, then our faith in Him is tragically and comically misplaced. But second, since Christ was raised, we can know with assurance that He was all He said He was. In the verses above Paul lists several facts about the Resurrection, and I’ll be addressing each of them throughout my posts. But let’s begin with the first item in his list: Jesus was buried, and was raised from the dead.
Let’s leave aside for the moment questions of the Bible’s inspiration and assume for argument’s sake merely that the New Testament is a basically trustworthy document. In reality the New Testament is by far the most accurate and trustworthy document in all of ancient history. For our purposes today, though, you don’t have to believe it’s the Word of God, divinely inspired or inerrant.
It is an indisputable fact of history that the man we know as Jesus Christ really lived, and really was executed on a Friday around 32 A.D. Not even the staunchest of critics doubt this anymore. Your answer as to what happened next pretty much defines whether you worship Jesus as Lord or see him as a mere mortal. Claiming that he rose from the dead is admittedly a pretty preposterous argument, but I want to take a look at it from the opposite angle first—what are the alternatives if not that?
The first and most important fact is this: Jesus’ tomb was empty by the time Sunday morning rolled around.
Think about it. Jesus wasn’t murdered because He told everyone they should love one another. He was murdered because he made powerful enemies by threatening their status and position (just check out a short excerpt here that’ll blow your image of a wimpy Jesus out of the water). Those in power knew who he was, hated him with a vengeance, and had a keen interest in stamping out his movement.
If Jesus’ corpse was lying in its tomb while the disciples started spreading the word around town that he had risen, then all his enemies had to do was go pull his body out and parade it around town for all to see. Bring out yer dead! as our good friends the Pythons would say (one of the funniest movies ever made by the way. I will brook no nonsense on that fact. I may not be asking you to believe in the Bible, but there can be no disagreement on this. Anybody saying otherwise shall have ‘Ni!’ said to them until they relent!).
If the disciples were lying through their teeth about it…..Bring out yer dead!
If they hallucinated the whole thing…..Bring out yer dead!
If they were only trying to make a spiritual point (i.e. ‘He’s alive in our hearts’)…..Bring out yer dead!
Indeed, fellas—bring out yer dead! You dear reader would never even have heard of a guy named Jesus of Nazareth if they had been able to produce the body. He would have been just another failed Messiah, and a young SB would never have had to worry about the fact that he could destroy the Apostle John in a footrace. But they couldn’t produce. And they knew it. Don’t you think they tried?
Any way you slice it, you can’t get around the fact that, by early that first Easter morning, there was nobody inside the tomb of Jesus.
What do you think? Are there any alternatives to an empty tomb?
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.