Two days ago, Christians around the world commemorated the event that stands as the keystone of their faith. It also stands, according to non-believers, as the most ridiculous fairy tale ever told. I mean, people dead for over 36 hours simply do NOT come back to life, right?
It will come as no surprise to anyone who's been reading this blog for more than a month that I'm one of those crazy Christians who, yes, actually believes Jesus was dead but didn't stay that way.
There are who-knows-how-many books on the subject of the resurrection of Jesus, and this space is not the place for an exhaustive discussion of every single thread of thought about it, but let me just briefly review one aspect of the subject that leads me toward belief.
Having been killed Friday afternoon, the tomb of Jesus was empty on Sunday morning...what's up with that?
Some suggested answers:
The Disciples Stole the Body
This is the official story circulated by the Jewish ruling council (See Matthew 28:11-15). The only problem is that if it were true:
1) The guards would be killed for dereliction of duty. Hence verse 14: "If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."
2) The disciples lost their lives because of their unwavering declaration of Jesus' resurrection. A person might be willing to die in defense of a lie they thought was true, but not for something they know to be a lie.
They Went to the Wrong Tomb
The idea here is that the women who went to the tomb to complete what had been a hurried burial process, and found the tomb to be empty, went to the wrong tomb and mistakenly assumed that Jesus had risen from the dead. This is fairly unlikely because:
1) This would require not only the women to forget where Jesus was buried, but Joseph of Arimathea (who had provided the tomb; see Mark 15:42-47), and all the other disciples.
2) When the story of Jesus' resurrection started to circulate, and the authorities wanted to squelch it, all they would have had to do was take people to the correct tomb and say, "Hey! His body is right here. Stop all this crazy talk."
Jesus Didn't Really Die
This theory says that the tomb was empty because Jesus wasn't really dead...he only "swooned" on the cross and later regained consciousness in the tomb. There are a lot of holes in this line of thought:
1) The Roman executioners were very, very good at their job. Once someone was nailed to a cross, they never came down alive. In fact, according to the Mark passage referenced earlier, Pilate made sure to double check that Jesus was actually dead before releasing the body for burial.
2) Because of the blood loss and extreme physical duress Jesus endured though his flogging and crucifixion, the coolness of the tomb would not have revived him...it would have killed him.
3) A tortured, beaten, barely-alive Jesus would not have been able to roll away the heavy stone that sealed the tomb and overpower the guards to make an escape.
4) This bloody, disfigured shell of a man could never pass himself off as the all-powerful conqueror of death the disciples declared him to be.
* * * * * * *Truth is...as with most things in the realm of apologetics, this isn't enough to change the mind of a hard-core atheist, but it is noteworthy that there just is no satisfactory explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus other than the Biblical one.