A NOTE ON EASTER SUNDAY – THE EMPTY TOMB OF JESUS
"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." [Jn. 12:32]
It is exactly true that Jesus did draw everyone to himself, when he was lifted up from the earth. When the lifeless body of Jesus was taken down from the cross, he was taken for burial. The tomb was empty. The body of the crucified Christ was laid in a new tomb, a giant stone was rolled up against the grave's only entrance, and the burial site was guarded by Roman soldiers, as we read in the gospel of Matthew 27:62-66. How do we explain the fact that on the third day this tomb was found to be empty? It all began with an empty tomb.
The resurrection of Christ is one of the most thoroughly and solidly documented events in history. There were numerous eye witnesses who saw the risen Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 where we are given a listing of different people who saw the Lord alive after His death, including over 500 people on one occasion (verse 6). As Paul wrote his First Letter to the Corinthians in the year 52-53 from Ephesus, the Gospels were not in existence, and this must be then the first documented fact of the resurrection of Jesus.The facts of the case overwhelmingly support this conclusion.
The resurrection of Christ is the very foundation of Christianity. Anyone considering believing in the person of Jesus Christ and to become a Christian should begin with the empty tomb. If Christ did not rise again from the dead, then how do you explain the empty tomb?
It is important to notice that Christ was seen by all kinds of people at different times and under different circumstances. On one occasion He appeared to just one person; on another occasion He appeared to two people. Several times Christ was seen by seven or more people. Among those who saw the resurrected Lord, some were women and others were men. One was a tax-collector, others were fishermen, one was a skeptic (Thomas), another had recently denied Christ (Peter) and another was an enemy of Christianity (Saul of Tarsus).
The risen Lord was also seen under all sorts of circumstances and conditions. Some saw Him in a garden, others saw Him in a room, others talked with Him on a road, and others ate with Him by the Sea of Galilee. He appeared more than once in Judea and more than once in Galilee and once He appeared north of Galilee near Damascus (Acts 9). Some met Him on a mountain; some saw Him at the dawn of day, others during the bright light of the day, still others at night. After His death, He was seen alive for a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3). A medical doctor of the first century underscored the certainty of the resurrection as proven by the post-resurrection appearances of Christ when he said this: "He (Jesus) showed Himself alive after His passion (death) by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3).There are at least 12 different appearances of Christ in the resurrection accounts, beginning with Mary and ending with Paul.
According to Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome find that the tomb has been opened: Mark 16:1-8.According to Matthew, an angel in shining garments is seen by Mary and Mary opening the tomb, and the angel tells them not to be afraid since Jesus is risen from the dead: Matthew 28:1-10. According to Luke, the women discover the tomb has been opened, and two men in shining garments come up to them and tell them not to be afraid since Jesus is risen. Luke 24:1-8. The gospel of John contains the most complete narrative including the appearance of Jesus: John 20:1-13.
Those who deny the resurrection have tried in vain to come up with satisfactory explanations for why the tomb was found empty. Do you have a reasonable explanation for why the tomb was empty? There is objective evidence that fits the facts and harmonizes with all the evidence: Jesus really did rise again from the dead, just as the many eyewitnesses declared. One of those eyewitnesses wrote this (speaking of himself even though he uses the third person): "This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24).
The empty tomb was a subject especially noted by the Apostle John. In the 20th chapter of his account, John describes himself as the "other disciple" who ran ahead of Peter and reached the tomb first. Looking in, John saw "the strips of linen lying there" which had been the wrappings of Jesus' dead body (verse 6). He describes, also, that the burial cloth which had been around Jesus' head was "folded up by itself, separate from the linen" (verse 7).
John's description of the empty tomb gives details that are evidence of an eyewitness account. These were details that convinced John, himself, because he explains that "He saw and believed" (verse 8). The small detail of the face cloth lying separate and folded implies the recognition of a deliberate, careful action. Inasmuch as Christ's body received life, He awoke and deliberately removed the cloth, folded it, and set it aside. John, the beloved disciple, recognized the simple details and thought them worthy of specific report in his gospel.
Was the tomb entirely empty? No! Evidence remained of a living Christ, a risen Lord. The significance extends further, yet. Because the tomb was empty and Christ was raised to life in the body, the Christians count on the promise of a like glorious body. "Who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21).
A body that defeats death and the curse of death is the inheritance of every Christian. "And if the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you" (Romans 8:11). The completion of salvation through Jesus Christ is to be saved entirely, so that even the body is immortal through "the power of an indestructible life" (Hebrews 7:16, 25). Even now, "we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23).
Was the tomb really empty? No! It held the evidence of life from the dead - the hope of every Christian. In that hope the Christian lives each day, though he may experience trials and hardship. Paul said, "We always carry about in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10). Even today and now the Christian is being prepared for heaven in the hope of eternal life. HAPPY EASTER SUNDAY !