Between the Cross and the Tomb: The Real Story of the Empty Tomb
March 30, 2021 / Palms Baptist Church Bible Study
- Resurrection Day scene
- When we read the gospel narratives we typically read it as one narrative, like a newspaper report, but its more like a police report: a composite of numerous perspectives
- Mary Magdalene
- Salome and Mary, mother of James
- Tomb guards
Example: My wife said both kids are grounded. She states the behavior together, but it was really two separate incidents. That’s the nature of the gospel narrative….its messy
*In our approach to the authority of scripture has caused us to forget what the NT text is: historical documents and letters!
- It was Chaotic!
- All disciples fled – Mark 14:50
- Reasonable to assume they were in hiding during time of Jesus’ trial and execution
- Peter is present at trial
- John gained access to High Priest home
John and James were probably rich i.e. had influence (Mark 1:20)
- John views crucifixion from a distance (Luke 23:49)
- All others fled
- Peter was separated from the other disciples -Mark 16:7
- All disciples probably stayed at Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ house in Bethany (within a Sabbath’s walk) of Jerusalem
- John brought Jesus’ mother “to His own” -John 19:27
- Implies “to his own home” i.e. he had a family home in Jerusalem
- Peter went somewhere else
- They were broken
- Disciples stayed for another custom
- Grieving process
- Friends and family would stay with family for a week to help prepare the body (As per how the resurrection narrative starts) and cook a “grieving meal”
In this case, it took three days because of back-to-back Sabbaths
*Imagine what Jesus’ followers felt? Disappointment? Fear? Confusion? Timidity? What can they TRUST?
*How can we Trust it?
Trust Point: Jesus’ supported His
- Often, we believe Jesus’ message was the miracles, in reality, He used miracles to substantiate His message!
- If disciples could see His miracles, they could trust His message
- Same goes for the Resurrection of Jesus!
“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.” – Matthew 9:1-8
*How can we trust the gospel? How do we know we are forgiven? How do we know Jesus is the only way? How do we know its worth it? What’s easier, to tell you your sins are forgiven, or to tell the cold, lifeless corpse of Jesus to get up and walk!!!!
Trust Point: We Trust the Gospel of Jesus because of the miracle of the
- Resurrection is not some novelty in history. It the foundation because its incredible!
- Resurrection is not developed Christian folklore, but existed in belief before the Gospels were written
- History scholars point out that the story of the resurrection did not morph into a belief from a Christian foundation, rather the Christian foundation seems to be anchored in the belief of the resurrection. Odd of any other time in history.
Trust Point: We believe the Resurrection because it anchors
*We trust Jesus because Jesus was validated by the resurrection, so if we don’t trust resurrection we don’t fully trust Jesus
- Entirety of Christianity can be disproven solely by the resurrection
*All ancient and modern arguments do not surround the empty tomb! It surrounds the Body!
- There is no smoking gun, but every detail that surrounds it in cluster that makes it convincing
- Ancient Arguments
- Wrong tomb
- Narratives make certain why Jesus was buried where He was, and how all the witnesses to the empty tomb knew it was His tomb
- Stolen Body
- Disciples stole the body
- From the fact John was let into the high priests home at Jesus’ trial, we infer that a believer worked there; and bore witness to the guards testimony to the High Priest
- Theory could make sense if the disciples life thereon matched that view (i.e. they got rich, powerful, influential, etc.); BUT we see the opposite: THEY SUFFERED IMENSELY for this truth!
- Would be a vast Jewish perversion
- Moving a body, naked
- On Sabbath
- Left the prayer Shawl (cloth that covered Christ’s face) at the tomb
*Again, historically this theory contradicts everything stated about the Jesus and the disciples. Josephus himself calls Jesus a “man of high virtue” and “righteous.”
- Demonic spirits/Magic
- Josephus’ “Antiquities” affirms Christ raised from dead, but maybe by evil spirit magic
- Jesus didn’t die
- Narratives make clear that Pontus Pilate himself confirmed Jesus died before ordering them to turn over the body
- Romans knew how to kill people
- Modern arguments
- Much the same, but elaborated
- Hallucination Theory
- A wheat mold that could affect entire populations would grow and cause hallucinations
How did they all hallucinate the same thing?
Wheat mold was not a massive geographic thing
Witnesses of the risen Jesus was at different places, different times, different people
- Joseph of Arimathea moved the body later i.e. his tomb was a temporary holding place
- If Christ resurrected four days later, this could be a believable theory
- But it misses the historic point of why Joseph put Jesus there: because Sabbath was starting! Would he honor that as Sabbath starts then break it couple days later?
- Member of Sanhedrin Council would then be in on conspiracy to do so, or simply would have cleared up the confusion as Christianity spread in Jerusalem over the months following
- Romans moved the body
- Possible, but why? In fact, it acts counter to the reason they crucified Jesus: to keep the Jews happy to avoid revolt
- Further, the highest ideal in Rome was glory. Jesus’ resurrection overshadows any Caesar or glory Rome ever accomplished
- Theory that intrigued me the most
- The Sanhedrin moved his body
- Had a guard insider
- Saw the momentum Jesus had, and could inspire the revolution to free them from Rome’s oppression if Jesus resurrected
- Paul was also an insider, intended to persecute then persuade
- The guard was Rome’s, not the Sanhedrin’s
- Paul did not stay in Israel to persuade for a revolution, he went to the gentiles! Furthermore, he too suffered in ministry by the Jews (no protection by council) and by Rome
- Other Considerations
- The historical Narrative for an incredible claim
- No propped up, lavish stories…only empty tomb
- 2nd century developed legends of the event with ridiculous stories, but the gospel doesn’t possess those characteristics
- Theological Precedent
- Dominant Jewish theological camp at time of Jesus was the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection
- The minor camps (Pharisees, Essenes, etc.) did believe in resurrection, BUT….
- It was a end-time, one resurrection event
- It wasn’t tied to the Messiah at all
- If made up, they would not be playing to any pre-conceived notion of resurrection at the time
- Inconvenient Details
- Women as the first eye witnesses
- Disciples fleeing as cowards
- Paul’s persecution
- Without the resurrection, you cannot explain Christianity historically
- Unlike other belief systems, this belief system started with a joint belief in an event outside anyone’s control. Not like Mohammed or Joseph Smith who were the only ones, but MANY people
- The entirety of OT prophecies
- Witnesses to Jesus exist beyond the eyewitnesses to the tomb
- Isaiah written over 900 years before, Micah 400 years prior, etc.
- With the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, there is no way to verify the Jewish Messiah now. So either the Messiah came before 70 AD, there is no Messiah, or he will come after 70 AD but we will have no way to know
The Ultimate Proof: Hundreds of People Saw and bore witness to the RISEN JESUS!
- Salome, The Mary’s
- Mary Magdalene
- Every one of the remaining 11
- A crowd of 500
Combined Text of the Resurrection of Jesus
- John (19:38 – 20:18)
- Matthew (27:57 – 28:10)
- Luke (23:50 – 24:12)
- Mark (15:42 – 16:8)
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from the Judean town Arimathea, named Joseph, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. He was a member of the Council, a good and upright man 51 who had not consented to their decision and action., who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God. 58 Going boldly to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Then he took it down39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden Joseph had his own tomb, 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and the Sabbath was about to begin; and since the tomb was nearby, 59 Joseph took the body and placed it in his own tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid., Then he rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph and the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and were sitting there opposite the tomb and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard, but the women rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Early on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath, very early in the morning at dawn while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome left and bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Now there had been 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men . So while the women were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But just after sunset, when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away from the entrance. So [Mary Magdalene] came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Meanwhile, the [other women] entered the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood [Sat – Mark] beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, The man sitting/standing on the right side, “Don’t be alarmed/afraid, but why do you look for the living among the dead? “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then the women remembered his words. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, and Peter: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” ’8 Trembling and bewildered, the women hurried away and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Now [by this time], Peter and the other disciple both were running [for the tomb], but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen and he (Peter) went away, wondering to himself what had happened. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying When the other women came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. Now Mary stood [remained] outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? ”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.’”10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.