When I was little, I took everything that was taught me as fact. I questioned very little. But when I became an adult, I began to question many things that were being taught to me. Maybe you’re that way too. It’s good to seek the truth.
One of the truths that men throughout the ages have tried to clarify is the truth of what really happened the Sunday after Jesus was crucified. Did He really rise from the dead, or is this just a big hoax? With Easter coming this weekend, I thought it fitting to explore the three options for explanations as to why the tomb was empty on that historic Sunday morning.
Before we begin, however, I need to make one thing clear: I take the bible as a historical document. You can study this for yourself and find out that the bible is as much a historical document as any other document from that time, and there are some things about this book that leave me with no doubt as to it’s authenticity. If you don’t feel the same way, then I’d love to talk with you about that, but that proof is for another article.
The Swoon Theory:
Some people believe that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, rather he fainted and later woke up and escaped unnoticed from the tomb.
The Stolen Body Theory:
Some believe that Jesus did die, but that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb when the guards weren’t looking. This theory is actually recorded in the bible.
The Resurrection Theory:
Some believe that Jesus did die on the cross, that he was buried in a tomb, and that on the third day, he rose from the grave.
Well, there you have it…the three theories that I know of as to why there was an empty tomb that Sunday morning almost two-thousand years ago. Without this empty tomb, millions of people have a faith that is useless. So what’s the truth?
According to history, a person didn’t die quickly on a cross. It would take a person upward of 36 hours to die, so the soldier that fateful day would have known that these three men (Jesus, and the two thieves) would not be dead by sundown. He then made the decision to break their legs to speed up the dying process. On a cross, you can inhale because your lungs are expanded, but you must push up with your legs to exhale. He broke the legs of the two thieves, but when he came to Jesus, he saw that Jesus was already dead. This man dealt with death on a regular basis. He KNEW if someone was dead or just faking it. Then, just to be sure, he thrust his spear into the heart of Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t been dead already (which he was), then this would have been the point of no return.
Suppose Jesus didn’t die and the guard missed his mark (however unlikely that is), Jesus had been through hematidrosis – which is agonizing and weakens the body, and he had been severely flogged and lost copious amounts of blood. Mark’s gospel records that the stone in front of the tomb was exceedingly large. Jesus wouldn’t have had the strength to escape from the tomb. Thus the first theory is busted.
Matthew’s gospel records the second theory. The Jews were concerned that the disciples might do this, so Pilate had the tomb sealed and a detachment of soldiers sent to guard tomb. The detachment would have probably been 16 soldiers with four in front of the tomb at a time on 6 hour shifts while the other 12 slept. These soldiers would have been armed and standing close to the stone. The seal would have been two leather straps cris-crossing the stone with a wax seal at the cross. The penalty for the guards falling asleep on their watch would have been death. Thus this story would have been HIGHLY unlikely. Besides, it would have been difficult for the disciples to roll away the stone without waking the guards even if they were asleep.
Thus the only acceptable solution is the third theory. Jesus DID rise from the grave. He was alive! The bible records that over 500 people saw him after his resurrection. Because of the resurrection we have hope in Christ. All of our faith as Christians rests on the fact of the resurrection.
I don’t know what your plans are for this Easter Sunday. I would like to personally invite you to the Nichols St. church of Christ Sunday morning at 10 am. If you don’t come there, though, please find a place of worship somewhere this Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus is too significant to ignore.
As always, thank you for reading this. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mrjdobbs. God bless you this Easter!