The Case of the Empty Tomb/He’s Alive

If you usually skip over my “Jesus stuff” please at least read this post. Please. I can’t force you to read it but I really hope you do. This is my answer to questions I hear oh so often:

  • you’re a scientist, how can you believe in God?
  • why do you waste your time going to church?
  • what’s the big deal about Easter?
  • If there is a God, what makes you think He/she/it gives a toss about us?
  • etc etc etc
  • Why are you raising your kids as Christians. Isn’t it better to let them find their own path?

The center of my faith is Jesus.  Jesus claimed that He is the only way to God, and thus heaven. I love my children and want them to go to heaven (later, when they are very very old, but I certainly don’t want them to go to hell). The bible says that through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can know God and have eternal life. Jesus really did walk this earth and he really did die, so the question is, did Jesus really come back from the dead?

My whole entire faith is based on one day: Easter Sunday: the day that Jesus’ tomb was empty because He had risen from the dead.

If you have trouble believing that Jesus rose from the dead I don’t blame you.  It’s a lot to take in. I had trouble getting my head around it too. When I was a science student at uni I got involved in a Christian bible study group and asked a few questions and somebody showed me something: “The Case for The Empty Tomb”. It really helped me. Many years later, I still remember it when I start to question whether God is real or not.

I’ve wanted to write about the empty tomb on here for so long. I’ve put it off for a while because I want to get it right. Well today William has been up since 3:30am (breastfeeding and me eating too much chocolate don’t mix well) so I did a quick google search “case for the empty tomb” and came across this page on New Media Ministries: The Case of The Empty Tomb by Gary C Burger.  It’s not the same source I read years ago but it’s very similar.

Being a public holiday today, I pray you have some spare time on your hands. I cannot recommend highly enough that you make the time to read it. If you love Jesus it’ll cement your faith. If you’re asking questions you might find some answers. If you don’t believe in God or Jesus I challenge you to read it. What have you got to loose?There’s even a New Media Ministries email address included so you can argue with the professionals about it. He explains it in far better than I could. If you only have time to read one thing then stop reading this and read it, that’s how much I like it.

I’ll give you a quick rundown though.

Background info about Easter

  • There is enough historical evidence that Jesus lived. There is enough historical evidence that Jesus was crucified.
  • Once the officials thought he was dead they pierced his heart and blood and water poured out to confirm it. He was definitely dead on Friday.
  • He was wrapped and placed in a tomb and it had a massive stone in front of it.
  • It was guarded by Roman guards.
  • Jesus’ disciples took off terrified
  • On Sunday morning the tomb was found empty.
  • Jesus revealed himself to many (hundreds) of people over the next 40 days
This passage from the bible talks about the Sunday morning.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lighting, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. (Matthew 28:1-10)

What happened to the guards?

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say,” ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ “If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28:11-15)


Eye witness accounts of the resurrected Jesus 

Two disciples who wrote gospels (John and Matthew) were eye witnesses. Mark (one of the gospel writers) writes the disciple Peter’s eye witness account. Luke (the other gospel writer) was a physician. As Gary says in the article I’ve linked to, Luke “took great care in getting all his facts together before he compiled other people’s eyewitness testimony. Scholars regard Luke to be one of the best historians in the ancient world.” Gary talks about the eye witnesses (including crowds of followers) on the website. Unfortunately I don’t have the time at the moment to go into detail here.


The alternative theories to the empty tomb just don’t stand

We won’t “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead in this lifetime unless the second coming happens before we die but unless Jesus’ body is found or there’s a proven reason why the tomb was empty we can’t prove he didn’t. In “the case of the empty tomb”, Gary refutes the alternative theories as to why the tomb was found empty. I’ve summarised the common arguments and selected direct quotes from his website to give you a taste because I don’t want to get it wrong.


The wrong tomb theory.

Argument: maybe the women went to the wrong tomb?


 The big problem with this theory is that the Jewish and Roman authorities who had so much at stake and who placed the Roman guard and Roman seal at the tomb, would not have been confused about which was the right tomb. The Roman authorities didn’t forget where they put their guard units and Imperial Seals. They could just go to the tomb and say, “see the guards are still here, the stone and the seal are still in place. Jesus is still in there.” They could have even had the tomb reopened to show everyone that the body was still there. But they couldn’t do that because they were at the right tomb and Jesus was gone.


The swoon theory

The argument: maybe Jesus wasn’t really dead, he just “swooned”.


 Now think back over all that Jesus suffered physically. First remember that when the Roman executioner thrust his spear up into Jesus’ heart, blood and water came out. Any medical examiner would say that was proof positive that he was dead. Second, if Jesus was still alive he would have to move a very heavy rock out of the way and overpower the Roman Guards. Next Imagine Jesus, still half dead, weak, ill, in dire need of the best of modern medical treatment, staggering up to you and saying, “I am the Lord of Life, Conqueror of Death. I am your Messiah, Savior and Lord of Lords.” Would you believe him?


The stolen body theory

Argument: Maybe Jesus’ disciples stole his body.


Remember when Jesus was arrested they went into hiding. They split the scene baby. They feared for their own lives. They were reduced to depressed cowards. They would have to come to the tomb overpower the battle hardened, trained, disciplined, “I-would-be-put- to-death-if-I-fail” Roman Guards. What do you think? If they were able to do that and steal the body they would have to carry Jesus body around, prop open his eyes, prop him up into a standing position, and move his mouth use ventriloquism to say, “Hi everyone, it’s me, Jesus. I’ve come back to life. Now follow me.”

Another problem is the disciples endured great hardships and even martyrdom as they went around the then known world proclaim Jesus resurrection. They would have had to allow themselves to be tortured and killed for what they knew was a lie. Very few people are willingly die for the truth. No one in their right mind would willingly die for a lie. And these people didn’t fit the description of a lunatic.


The Legend theory

Argument: aren’t the gospels only legends?


First, the belief that Jesus rose from the dead was almost immediately put into creeds and songs by these people even before the books of the NT were written. Scholars have determined there just wasn’t enough time for a legend or myth to develop. Second, the New Testament was written within a generation of Jesus’ life and death by people who had either seen Jesus alive again or knew people who had. They would not allow legends to develop. Third, the early church grew so confidently and rapidly because their faith and message were based on solid factual evidence rather than something they knew to be a lie that was being turned into a legend. For these reasons and others the legend theory has fallen out of favor with the majority of scholars.


Hallucination theory

Argument: Ever thought that maybe the people who “saw Jesus” were just hallucinating?


 Jesus was seen by groups of people as big as 500. A large group of people can not see the same hallucination at the same time. Neither could the appearances been visions like when people report they see Mary, Mother of Jesus. The eyewitnesses touched Jesus with their hands and felt a solid physical, fleshly body. You might think you are touching the person in your own hallucination or a vision but you can’t touch the person in someone else’s hallucination or vision. You can’t even see them.

This were not hallucinations. People really did see and touch Jesus’ new physical body. It wasn’t the empty tomb that convinced people that Jesus rose from the dead; it was His numerous appearances over 40 days. His appearances disproved every other explanation for the empty tomb anyone can think up.

Thanks for sticking with me. Anyway, the relevance of this to my blog is that this is why I teach my kids about Jesus. We still have fun at Easter, we still have chocolate eggs, we still have family BBQs and a chance to relax, but we have a whole lot more too. Today I’m hoping I can miraculously survive on the 3 hours sleep I had last night. Argh! God is powerful, anything is possible!
How was your Easter?