“What an Empty Tomb Can Do”

April 8, 2023

How odd that his enemies understood him better than his friends! His enemies placed a guard and sealed the tomb. His friends ran away. One denied him three times. At first reports, they regarded it as nonsense and did not believe (Luke 24:11). They didn’t understand the scripture (John 20:9). They were afraid of the Jews (20:19). Their hearts were hard (Mark 16:14). In a sonnet, D.A. Carson captures the mood:

No heroes, these: defeated followers all,
  Their nurtured faith extinguished, snuffed the flame
  Of courage. Quite abandoned now the game
  Oneupmanship (“Not I, Lord; I’ll not fall!”),
  Displaced by furtive fear’s disabling pall.
  More crippling than the sickening fear, the shame;
  And cowed by common cowardice, they came
  Upstairs together, spiritually mauled.
    Reports come in of shattered, vanquished Death,
    Of Life’s appearance in triumphant mood.
    Begins the birth of hope, the death of death,
    Of failing, faithless men with faith endued.
Arranged of old, unqualifiedly new:
Such change is what an empty tomb can do.*

Their unbelief, cowardice, and misunderstanding are hardly résumé enhancements for religious leaders. Their unflattering testimony about themselves is unlikely to have been made up. So, how do we account for the dramatic change in their lives from cowards hiding from the Jews to courageous proclaimers of the resurrection of Jesus. C.F.D. Moule stated it this way:

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?

The explanation for the change from “old” to “unqualifiedly new” is best explained by “what an empty tomb can do.” Jesus was raised from the dead.

But the “unqualifiedly new” of the Apostles and early Christians was no minor affair. The dramatic event of the resurrection brought a dynamically different life in the disciples. The New Testament can talk about crucifying the old self, putting on the new self, and newness of life. That’s spiritual major surgery not a Band-Aid. Jesus was not a religious good luck charm to be dragged out of the drawer a couple of times year. Jesus became their life and their Lord. What about in your life? “Such change is what an empty tomb can do.”

*D.A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century (Baker Books, 1994), p. 67.

Examine the Evidence

March 29, 2016

J. Warner Wallace was an L.A. County homicide detective. He knows something about solving crimes with multiple suspects. He has experience in investigating conspiracies. He notes that while conspiracies are popular in movies and novels, they are actually very difficult to pull off in real life. Successful conspiracies have several traits in common:

  • A small number of conspirators. Lies are difficult to maintain. The more people involved in the lie, the more likely the conspirators will be tripped up.
  • Conspirators need thorough and immediate communication. That is why investigators separate suspects for interviews. Without knowing what others are revealing, it is more likely someone will confess the lie.
  • Conspiracies operate best over a short time span. It is difficult to lie. It is increasing difficult to lie over a long time period. The tendency is for someone to break down and confess.
  • Conspiracies work best when the conspirators have a close relationship bond like family members. It is tougher to convince someone to “give up” the other in such a situation.
  • Conspirators are more likely to maintain the lie if they are under little or no pressure. Put pressure on a conspirator, and he will likely give up the truth to save himself.

But what does this have to do with the Bible? Wallace was an atheist until at the age of thirty-five he turned his investigative skills to examine the gospels and the Christian worldview. He knew how to examine a cold-case. He believed in the proper handling of evidence. His book, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, tells of his journey into faith. Taking his experience with conspiracies, Wallace believes he knows the disciples didn’t conspire to fabricate the resurrection account of Jesus. He notes the following:

  • There would have been too many apostles involved in the conspiracy.
  • The apostles had little or no effective way to communicate with one another in a quick or thorough manner.
  • The apostles would have been required to protect their conspiratorial lies for too long a period of time.
  • While there were certainly pairs of family members in the group of apostolic eyewitnesses, many had no relationship to each other at all.
  • The apostles were aggressively persecuted as they were scattered from Italy to India.1

Wallace states in the movie God’s Not Dead 2, “There are several common characteristics of successful conspiracies, and I don’t find any of these attributes were present in the first century for those who claimed to be witnesses of Jesus life, ministry, and resurrection.”

I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that changes everything. But my belief is based on evidence. The above is just part of one person’s search for the evidence. If you want some books suggestions, I’d be glad to give them to you. My plea if you not certain is to examine the evidence.

1J. Warner Wallace, “Why I know the Disciples Didn’t Conspire to Fabricate the Resurrection of Jesus,” https://stream.org/know-disciples-didnt-conspire-fabricate-resurrection-jesus/