Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 4Posted: October 7, 2011
Many people think that the central claim of Christianity, that Jesus was raised from the dead, is nothing more than a myth or superstition. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Apostle Peter specifically said that he and the other disciples had not followed cleverly devised myths, but were eyewitnesses of Jesus; and the apostle John said that he was presenting what he had heard, seen, examined and touched. These men presented the resurrection of Jesus not as a mythical story, but as a fact of history to which they could give personal testimony.
Nevertheless, some insist that this claim has no historical truth. One way skeptics attempt to do this is by saying that the disciples of Jesus went to the wrong tomb, found that tomb empty, and mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead.
The explanation goes something like this: because Jerusalem in that time was full of rock tombs, it would have been difficult to distinguish one grave from another. This explains why the Bible record says that the grave that was expected to be closed was actually open, and where they expected to find the body of Jesus, they instead found an empty grave.
Well, what are the facts? First of all, Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the fact that when Jesus was buried, there were several women who stood across from the tomb watching. These were dear friends of Jesus, and to suggest that they somehow managed to forget which grave their loved one had been buried in, after seeing it less than 48 hours earlier, is not something easily believed. After all, do you think that would happen to you?
But even supposing that these women were so distraught by their grief for Jesus that they went to the wrong tomb, in order for this to be an acceptable theory, we have to believe that not just the women, but everyone else after the women, went to the wrong tomb.
For example, according to John 20:1-9, the first thing that the women did after going to this supposed wrong tomb, was run and tell Jesus’ disciples. Two of those disciples, Peter and John, ran to the tomb to verify the story for themselves. According to John’s eyewitness testimony, they found the tomb empty of Jesus’ body as well. Are we to believe that after the unlikely event that the women who had watched Jesus buried went to the wrong tomb, Peter and John, who were going for the specific purpose of verifying the women’s unbelievable story, happened to go to the same wrong tomb?
But it gets even worse. The tomb that Jesus was buried in belonged to a man named Joseph from Arimathea, according to Matthew 27:57-60. In order for us to believe the wrong tomb theory, we have to believe that the women who saw Jesus buried somehow all forgot the correct location, and that Peter and John happened to go to the same wrong tomb as the women, and also that Joseph – the man who owned the tomb – somehow forgot its location as well. Is this starting to sound a bit unbelievable to you?
Well, maybe it’s possible that the women were so torn up over Jesus death that they genuinely forgot where the actual tomb was. And maybe it’s possible that the disciples, such as Peter and John, saw an opportunity in the women’s mistake, and deliberately went along with the story of the empty grave. And maybe it’s even possible that they were able to persuade Joseph, the owner of the tomb, to go along with the story as well. But what about the Jewish leaders?
The Jews knew that Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead, and had set a guard around his grave to ensure that it didn’t happen (Matt 27:62-66). If they knew that the women, the disciples, and the owner of the tomb all gotten it wrong – why didn’t they just get it right by pointing out the actual grave? Why didn’t they just produce the body and silence the disciples’ claims?
Once again, when we look at the evidence, we have to conclude that this theory is unreasonable. It doesn’t line up with the facts as we have them, or even with common sense. The best explanation for the empty grave is not a case of a mistaken grave, but that Jesus was raised from the dead.