WHERE THEY LAID HIM
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
On Easter Day we affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! There’s a whole disbelieving world out there, and stories to discredit the fact have abounded down through history from the very day it happened. Historians and writers have recorded many of those attempted “disproofs.” Several ended up being converted in the process, like the renowned Christian writer C.S. Lewis, and Frank Morison who wrote “Who Moved the Stone?” Here we’ll get a glimpse of some of the theories and historians, as we establish that WHERE THEY LAID HIM was empty, why it was so, and what that means.
ATTEMPTS TO DISPROVE CHRIST’S RESURRECTION PROVE HIS TOMB WAS EMPTY!
(A DISGRUNTLED GARDENER)
One of the very early theories to explain the disappearance of Christ’s body was that the gardener at the place where the tomb was located moved it. He didn’t want people trampling on his plants.
It’s found to be a weak argument, when we consider that guards who were posted there would not have permitted his tampering with the tomb. We would also expect that, even if he was permitted, the gardener would have told where he placed the body, then, or at least that someone else would eventually have found it.
(THE WRONG TOMB ENTERED)
Some dismissed the whole event with the idea that Christ’s followers merely went to the wrong tomb. Scriptures tell us, though, that Mary Magdalene who was first to arrive, and a certain other Mary, had watched on Friday when Christ’s body was placed there. Even if they would possibly have been confused at first, the women could have approached Joseph of Arimathea (whose tomb it was), or they would eventually have discovered the correct location anyway, and no doubt with the eager help of the opponents of Jesus!
(A DEEP FAINT)
A common explanation has been that Jesus never really died, but merely went into a deep faint or coma and then revived. We can reasonably suppose, though, that the soldiers who crucified Jesus knew their job. He was dead! We would otherwise have to believe that a very weak man with still open wounds and great loss of blood, who had eaten nothing in several days and was already partly embalmed:
1. Found the entrance to the tomb in the pitch dark;
2. Moved the stone by Himself, which several women together felt they couldn’t do;
3. Overpowered the guards, who were armed;
and then 4. Walked up to 9 miles to locate His core-group of followers.
The most popular theory to explain Christ’s missing body was simply that it was stolen. It wouldn’t have been the soldiers or disbelieving Jews who would have done it, though. They had every reason to produce the body!
The official report that went out was that the disciples stole it. A close examination reveals that it’s the most untenable explanation of all, though. The tomb had been both sealed and guarded to prevent that very thing, and an all-out search effort to recover the body would certainly have followed. Not a single document exists that claims such a search was ever carried out. And why might that be? Because of fear over the earthquake and the Angel that appeared? The enemies of Jesus knew that the things that took place regarding His disappearance were supernatural and no doubt didn’t want to deal with it!
Transition: SEVERAL HISTORIANS, AND THE CERTAINTY THAT THE TOMB WAS EMPTY
A noted Jewish historian of the time named Josephus wrote vigorously against a number of false “Messiahs,” but did admit on the basis of all the reports of Christ’s resurrection going around that HE “just might be” the real One. A Roman historian of the time named Philo and another named Pliny were both basically hostile towards Christianity, and their accounts of the events at Jerusalem in those days reflect their bias.
What we need to clearly understand, though, is that whether sympathetic or hostile, no source or report through all of history ever even hinted that Christ’s lifeless body was produced or found. What every report proves, rather, is that it never was! All sides for all these years have agreed that, at the place WHERE THEY LAID HIM, the body of Jesus Christ was MISSING, GONE, NOT THERE!
THE TOMB WAS EMPTY BECAUSE HE WAS SEEN ALIVE!
The Text-verse also says Jesus wasn’t there and claims that the reason was because HE IS RISEN! Numerous other references in God’s Word likewise show that the reason the tomb was empty is because Jesus was SEEN alive!
Here another theory pops-up to try to discredit the resurrection, that all the people who claimed to see Jesus alive again just hallucinated. There is a thing called “mob psychology,” and it worked quite effectively at Christ’s trial. To insist that so many people each saw the same supposed “vision” in many different places and at different times over a period totaling 40 days, however, doesn’t have as much reasonable support as any of Christ’s miracles do, or the resurrection itself!
Here’s a list of the eyewitnesses of the risen Lord reported in Scripture:
1. Mary Magdalene was first, as she mistook Jesus Himself for the gardener;
2. Then came Salome, Mary the mother of Joses and James the Less, and other women;
3. Then Jesus appeared to Simon Peter;
4. Then to the two men walking to Emmaus, Cleopas and the other;
5. To 10 of the disciples, because Judas was dead and Thomas absent;
6. To the group of disciples again when Thomas was present;
7. To 7 of the disciples out fishing one morning, when Peter received special attention
8. To James;
9. To the 11 another time, and then again to them and others at His ascension;
10. To over 500 people at once, and many still living when St. Paul came to write of that
11. To Stephen as he was stoned to death;
12. To St. Paul when he was en route to Damascus and on other occasions;
and 13. At St. John’s revelation.
(FURTHER BIBLICAL SUPPORTS)
Further support of Christ’s resurrection comes from:
1. Ancient Bible prophecies that predicted the event;
2. Christ’s own prediction many times before His death;
3. The appearance and words of the Angel at the tomb;
4. That all 4 Gospels give detailed descriptions of the event;
5. That every New Testament book “breathes” the Cross and resurrection;
And 6. The fact that Christ’s rising again is the faith on which the whole Christian Church has been built and which persists to this day!
(ANOTHER COMPELLING ITEM)
Recall that fear and disbelief were the order for the day! The disciples themselves were perhaps even less ready than their enemies to accept that Jesus was alive again. They simply would not believe the claims of Mary Magdalene or the other women, or even the two men from Emmaus, until they began seeing Jesus for themselves!
And see Him they did, because nothing else could account for their being so radically changed from cowering mourners to bold proclaimers! In power given by Christ’s Holy Spirit these men even went to the Temple, the very stronghold of their persecutors, preaching the truth of the resurrection!
It has been aptly pointed out that people will not risk martyrdom for what they secretly think might be a myth or lie. Let’s understand, then, that because death had been overcome, the disciples were no longer afraid, even of dying, for speaking out for their saving Lord! In the face of very real persecution they kept right on proclaiming and “turning the world upside-down.” COWARDS TO HEROES BY GOD’S POWER OVER DEATH!
WHAT THE RESURRECTION MEANS!
We learn that the disciples didn’t believe at first, because they didn’t know God’s Word, what Scripture says. Nothing else can ultimately make Christ’s resurrection more real to us. St. Paul wrote: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” no matter how simple or foolish it may seem to anyone. Jesus once said in a parable: “If (people) will not believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if someone comes back from the dead.”
If God’s Word doesn’t convince people of their personal sin, they don’t fully realize their need for a risen Savior. His Word says, however, that: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” It likewise warns that whoever does not repent will die in his-or-her sin and suffer the pangs of hell forever.
To risk the prospect of hell has been made needless for us all, though, because on Good Friday Jesus Christ gave the necessary accounting to God for the whole world’s sin. He finished the job and paid sin’s wages, which is death, by shedding His own blood FOR us! PAID IN FULL and FOR ALL TIME!
Since that became so, His resurrection had to take place. On Good Friday the price of death was paid, and on Easter death was therefore overpowered! Some have said that God is dead, but death is the wages of sin, which has been both paid and overcome. God isn’t dead. Death is! And the Living Lord’s promise is that those bound to Him by faith will share His life and glory!
CONCL: Both Scripture and many outside hostile sources agree that the rock tomb where they laid Jesus was empty. God’s Word tells us that it’s because He’s risen and was seen alive by many! That means that God is satisfied with the sacrifice and accounting for sin that Jesus so lovingly made for us. Believe in your sin! Believe in your Savior! BELIEVE IN HIS TRIUMPH!