V. Atsi Dolie
ABCC Mission Compound, Kohima.
Back then, as it happened, it was largely a Jerusalem affair. No one disagrees that Jesus was buried in a tomb nearby the city of Jerusalem, and that the early Christian preaching took place in Jerusalem, eventually leading to the birth of the church there. So, there should be a serious problem if Jesus’ tomb were not empty. One can easily point at the corpse of Jesus, tell the disciples to shut up their mouth about resurrection, and that should be enough to silent this new movement. But the testimonies about the empty tomb must have hold water that they could not nip in the bud.
Shifting from the event to its recording of the details, if this resurrection were concocted then most likely the Gospel writers would not use women’s testimony. Although they were not entirely debarred from testifying in a court of law, yet there was strong prejudice against women’s testimony for their vulnerability. Still then, the Gospel writers were clearly convinced that the women had discovered the empty tomb, and were more interested in reporting the truth of the event. As the story had been recorded, the writers chose to maintain the facts.
From the recording of the event to its reflection, theories abound! Some of the theories to refute Jesus’ resurrection actually backfired. The “swoon theory” which implies that Jesus fainted but later revived by the cool air of the tomb still testifies an empty tomb. Or the “theft theory” which implies the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus, no matter how ridiculous it sounded, still testifies an empty tomb. Both Justin Martyr, a 2nd century Christian apologist, and Tertullian, an early prolific Christian author, recorded that for almost two centuries or more, the Jewish leaders tried to explain that the tomb was empty because Jesus' disciples stole his body. In other words, the Jewish leaders also acknowledged that Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb! Thus, theories propounded to counter the resurrection actually ended up confirming that the tomb of Jesus was empty.
Suffice to say that something strange had happened in Jerusalem! Not only the missing body was strange, but the sudden show of courage in the disciples of Jesus and their willingness to even lay down their lives in defense of the resurrection story was very strange too. All these strange happenings point towards the credibility and possibility of what the disciples of Jesus proclaimed, that is, “Jesus is not in the tomb; Jesus has risen from the dead!” Much can be said about Jesus’ resurrection, but we must not miss the important points.
First, the resurrection of Jesus has affected so many things – the earth felt the effects and trembled; the angel felt the effects and rolled the stone away, not to let Jesus out but to let the women in; the guards felt the effects and were so shaken; and the women felt the effects and were filled with wonder and joy (Matt. 28:2-5). What about you? Have you felt the effects? You better be, today!
Second, Jesus has risen in a different body, like the body that died but not exactly like it. The linen wrappings and the face-cloth of Jesus were lying in the tomb, but for Lazarus he came out wrapped. Jesus was not bound by physical laws and could appear suddenly to his disciples in closed doors, but Lazarus was subjected to such laws and died again. So, Jesus’ resurrection was first of its kind and therefore it is viewed as the first fruits (1 Cor. 15:23). But what is more intriguing is that the resurrected body of Jesus still has the scars on his hands and side, which he offered to Thomas to touch (Jn. 20:27). The sins of humanity have made a permanent mark on Jesus!!
Third, there have been doubters and skeptics down the centuries. Even if you cannot satisfy them by argument and reasoning, there is an approach which is beyond doubt – demonstrate your faith in the risen Jesus Christ. People can argue with your belief, but cannot argue with your life. Someone says there are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and You (Christians). Many people will read only the last one. Can they believe in the risen Jesus by reading your “fifth” gospel? If they ask for evidence where is Jesus living today, then we should confidently say, “He lives within my heart!”
And finally, we must remember that the resurrection has given us a job to do. Intentionally, God did not show the resurrected Jesus to everyone, as it was in the first century, so also in our time. Thus, His plan is that those of us who have seen the resurrected Jesus spiritually are now commissioned to witness it to others (Matt. 28:18-20). And that there is “life” for everyone because of the empty tomb!