The next day (after the crucifixion) the chief priests and Pharisees said to Pilate: Sir, we remember while that impostor was alive he said, "After three days I will rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people he has been raised from the dead.
Pilate answered, Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.
So they made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard.
- Matthew 27:62-64
Before we put away the decorations, finish the leftover egg salad and ham, and lose the buoyant Easter spirit we had a week ago, theres one more subject Id like to explore: Is it possible that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is only a preposterous myth?
As you may know, believing the resurrection really happened, that it isnt just another wink-of-the-eye story like the Easter bunny tale, is not a unanimous opinion.
Critics from the first century on have gone to great lengths to refute this basic doctrine of the Christian faith. But as radio pastor Dr. David Jeremiah said recently, It takes more faith to believe the reasons why the resurrection didnt happen than to believe it did.
We live in an increasingly skeptical world. Let a salesperson pitch us a product and hackles of suspicion rise over most of our bodies. Likewise, listen to a newscaster or a politician expound on just about any topic and our first response is to doubt the speaker, or see who else is offering the same or differing point of view.
So I can understand the suspicions of those who didnt believe Jesus was the Son of God.
If there were a clandestine plan to steal His dead body and perpetuate that claim, they had a lot to lose. The religious leaders could no longer assert theirs was the only true religion, and the Roman rulers would live in constant though misplaced fear that this Jesus would topple their government. If He then were able to resurrect Himself from a well-documented death, or if His disciples removed His body, it was their credibility that would suffer, not the Lords.
Those who have visited the Holy Land know there are two sites where scholars believe Jesus could have been buried. These sites are very near each other, and the congenial dispute is of little concern to us today. But at the time Jesus was placed in a tomb supplied by His follower, Joseph of Arimathea, everyone, especially the authorities, knew exactly where that tomb was. They were the ones who witnessed the burial, sealed the tomb shut, and stationed guards nearby to prevent anyone from stealing the body.
Yet there is still the Wrong Tomb Theory, proposed by those who would have to discount a mountain of evidence to believe that all the religious leaders and Roman authorities had sealed and guarded the wrong tomb.
There is also the Swoon Theory, that Jesus wasnt really dead and somehow managed to revive Himself. Yes, Dr. Jeremiah, it takes a lot of faith to believe someone who had been beaten severely, pierced with a sword, and weakened from a six-hour ordeal on the cross could wake up, get up, unwind his grave clothes, and still summon the strength to unseal the stone, walk out of the tomb, and escape the Roman guards.
But the most implausible theory of all is that the disciples stole His body. Of all people with an opinion about the resurrection, they were at the top of the unbelieving list. Though He told them often that He would rise again not one of them believed He would. Not one of them stayed through the end of the crucifixion; like cowards, they all ran away.
In his Bible handbook, Dr. Henry Halley summarizes the Thieving Disciples Theory like this:
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? If He didnt, what became of His body? If His enemies stole it, they would have produced it in order to discredit the story. If His friends stole it, they would known what they had believed about Jesus had been a lie, and men dont become martyrs to what they know to be false.
There are many, many more thoughts in Halleys book and others about why the evidence against the resurrection pales beside the evidence that it is true. The most powerful argument of all is that the followers of Jesus, that mixture of cowardice, ignorance, and O ye of little faith" themselves prior to the resurrection, became willing martyrs for a cause they not only believed but spread throughout the known world.
How else would we know about the risen Lord today?
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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