• Ewen Lin

The Resurrection Explains The Empty Tomb

(This talk was based on Matthew 28.)

This is the last week of uni and you are now one step closer to the end. Assuming you pass your exams! But it’s only the end of the beginning of your life. Once you step out of uni, you will begin a new life with its own challenges and rewards. And you would hope that your time here at uni is preparing you for that life. You don’t want to start your career and look back thinking what was I doing for the 4 years at uni? Hopefully what you’re doing now is relevant for the next part of your life. Otherwise, why are you here right?

If your goal is to be a nutritionist, go study nutrition. That’s what will prepare you to one day become a nutritionist. How many of us here will go see a physio or doctor who hasn’t even been to uni or graduated from their course?

Here’s the question though. What about becoming a Christian? Is there a prerequisite requirement that prepares you to be a Christian? Anyone can call themselves a Christian, just like anyone can call themselves a doctor. But if you want to be a real doctor, if you want to be a real Christian, what do you have to do? What do you need? That’s what our passage today will tell you.

It’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is something everyone needs to take on board if they are serious about becoming a Christian. You don’t have to believe in 6x24 hours creation. You can support abortion rights and still be a Christian. You could have even voted yes to same-sex marriage. But if you don’t believe that Jesus Christ after his death, came back to life and was seen by multiple witnesses, that he continued afterward to talk to his disciples, eat with them, walk with them - if you don’t believe that then you’re not a Christian.

This really is the litmus test. Muslims believe Jesus was a real person. Jews believe Jesus was killed and buried. But the Bible wants us to go further. Our passage today wants to convince us that Jesus physically came back to life. It does that by giving us 6 reasons. 6 things to convince you of the authenticity of what you’re reading.

1. The first witnesses were women.

Matt. 28:1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

It’s easy for us in 2020 to read this and miss how controversial this was. When this was first written, the fact that women were the first witnesses was an argument against the resurrection. Women had no legal basis to be witnesses of anything. Because women were first witnesses, it was said that the resurrection couldn’t have happened. So why would the Bible record women as first witnesses? How do you explain that?

2. The tomb was empty.

5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

To be fair, the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us Jesus rose from the dead. For the same reason we are not told what happened inside the tomb. The angel rolled the stone away not so that Jesus can come out, but that the women can go in. So they can see the tomb is empty. No one disputes the fact that the tomb was empty. They never did find Jesus’ body. How do you explain that?

3. Jesus said this would happen.

6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

All the times Jesus spoke seemingly in riddles now become clear. He was foreshadowing this one event.

4. Eyewitnesses saw Jesus.

8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

We not only have the empty tomb, we have people who claim to have seen Jesus. People who claim to be eyewitnesses to Jesus. How do you explain that?

One explanation for all of this is what we see the Jewish establishment did.

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

Fake news was around even before Donald Trump. But the point I think this shows is that any position you take requires you to have a certain amount of faith. Think about it. If you were a Roman citizen for example and you hear reports of some guy called Jesus who was crucified. No big deal, we crucify lots of people all the time. Then you hear there was some sort of incident where he was buried and apparently they can’t find the body. What do you make of it? How do you explain it?

There are rumors going around that he rose from the dead, which is obviously not true right. People don’t rise from the dead. There are also rumors that the disciples who were untrained peasants by the way, came and stole the body after all the guards fell asleep. There are also rumors that the Jewish leaders paid off the guards to try and cover up whatever happened. Which is more believable?

Can’t you see that even if you reject the resurrection, whatever explanation you are left with still requires a certain level of faith. It is not then entirely irrational to believe in what the Bible is suggesting. That Jesus really did rise from the dead.

5. The disciples were radicalized.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

The Jews crucified Jesus because he claimed to be God. That was how offensive it is to their culture. But see how the disciples are now worshipping Jesus. How do you explain that? How do you also explain the rise of Christianity which even in 2020, is not going away despite what the tv says.

6. The spread of the church.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So there you have it. 6 reasons the Bible suggests that the resurrection is true.

1. The first witnesses were women.

2. The tomb was empty.

3. Jesus said it would happen.

4. There were eyewitness accounts.

5. The disciples were radicalized.

6. The enduring spread of the church.

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