Christ’s resurrection: What are the alternatives? Was the tomb empty? Did Jesus leave the tomb dead or alive? The women and others went to the wrong tomb. YES NO Who took the body, friends or enemies? ALIVE DEAD Which enemies, Jewish leaders or Romans? His disciples stole the body. Had Jesus entered the tomb dead or alive? ALIVE DEAD Jesus only fainted on the cross but recovered in tomb. FRIENDS ENEMIES Romans took the body. Jewish leaders took the body. God raised Jesus from the dead! JEWISH LEADERS ROMANS u v w x y z
Describes the alternatives regarding the resurrection of Jesus.
C h r i s t ’ s r e s u r r e c t i o n :What are the alternatives?
Was the tombempty?
Did Jesus leave the tomb dead or alive?
The women and others went to the
Who took the body, friendsor enemies?
Which enemies,Jewish leadersor Romans?
His disciples stole the body.
Had Jesus entered the tomb dead or alive? ALIVE
Jesus only fainted on the cross but recovered in tomb.
Romans took the body.
Jewish leaders took the body.
God raised Jesus from the
Tomb was found empty.
That the tomb was found empty is the common ground that everyone agrees on. If on that "First Day of the Week" the body of Jesus had been found still occupying the tomb, Christianity would never have been born.
Was it the wrong tomb?
The women watched the burial take place. They "saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it" (Luke 23:55). Even if they had gone to the wrong tomb in the twilight of approaching dawn, their mistake would have been corrected later on that same day. It is unreasonable to suppose that everyone (including Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the tomb) would make this mistake.
Who removed the body?
If Jesus’ body was not alive when it left the tomb, someone must have removed it. But who? There just aren't that many choices.
Did disciples take the body?
This is the claim of the soldiers assigned to guard the tomb (Matt. 28:11-15). But does it make sense that the disciples would take it? None of them believed he would arise from the dead. They all ran in fright at the soldiers in the Garden. Would they regroup and take them on at the tomb? Or would they wait until the guards who were trained to stay awake fell asleep? Would they be able to remove the body noiselessly? And what about later, when every one of them suffered persecution, and most of them death for testifying that he really was raised from the dead? Would you die for a lie? I don't think so.
Which of the enemies removed the body from the tomb?
This very question is unfair, because the Romans are not presented as enemies of Jesus. After all, he's the one who told people to go the second mile and to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. He refused to be the leader of a rebellion. The governor again and again proclaimed his innocence, and the centurion who witnessed his death said, "Surely this one was the son of God." But, let's grant the question for the sake of argument.
Did Jewish leaders remove the body?
The events of Pentecost 50 days after the crucifixion show this alternative to be wrong. Peter preached that Jesus was raised from the dead right in Jerusalem, where everyone could walk over to the empty tomb to see for themselves. All the Jewish leaders had to do to prove the apostles were liars was to produce the dead body of Jesus for everyone to see. "He cannot have come back from the dead and gone up to the Father. See! Here he is: very, very dead." And that's what Christianity would have been after that—dead.
Did Jesus really and literally die when he was crucified?
This is a ridiculous theory, called "the swoon theory." It says that Jesus fainted or swooned on the cross. Everyone thought he was dead, but he had just passed out. So they take him down and put him in the tomb, where he revives. But wait a minute! The Roman soldiers were at the foot of the cross to ensure that he died. They even broke legs to hasten the deaths of the two thieves. "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water" (John 19:33-34). Do you think Roman soldiers could tell if someone was faking it or had only fainted? And assuming, for the sake of argument, that Jesus really did faint on the cross and survived the stabbing (after the scourging, shock from the loss of blood alone could kill a strong man). Then he is tied up, loaded down with a hundred pounds of spices, and left on a ledge of living rock that would suck out the heat right out of his body. Then he wakes up, feels chipper, unties himself, rolls away a stone several healthy women couldn't handle, fights off the guards, and runs away before they regroup. Then are we to suppose he can convince his followers that he's as fit as ever when he presents himself to them alive? This alternative just doesn't fit the facts.
Would the Romans have taken the body?
The four accounts of the Gospel as well as the Book of Acts all agree that at the beginning of Christianity the Romans were indifferent to Jesus and the claims of his followers. They would have had no reason to take the body of Jesus out of the tomb. This alternative is unreasonable and doesn't fit the facts of the case.
Can we assume that it was Jesus who was crucified?
One alternative that I didn't fully lay out on this page is the claim of some Muslims that at the last moment, God substituted Judas Iscariot for Jesus, and Judas died on the cross instead of Jesus. This contradicts the testimony the Bible gives about both men and asks us to believe that Jesus' disciples, who lived with him every day for more than three years, would have mistaken the one man for the other. It also ignores the problem of the empty tomb. If Judas died on the cross, was Judas raised from the dead? Or was his body stolen and the claim made that Jesus arose, when the disciples knew it was a lie? Would they suffer persecution and die for such a lie? Of course not!
The only reasonable alternative is Jesus' resurrection!
Within the biblical record, people like to pick and choose what they want to believe. But the Bible so clearly and frequently proclaims that Jesus was truly and literally raised from the dead, explaining all of the implications for us: victory over Satan, salvation from sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and assurance of our own resurrection. If you deny that claim, what is left for you to affirm? None of the alternative explanations make any sense at all. But this one does! It explains the dramatic transformation of the disciples from cowards to heroes. It accounts for the launching of a new religion in a religion-saturated and cynical culture. It reveals the secret of why Christians can live as they do and die with a song on their lips and joy in their hearts. Christ has been raised from the dead, never to return to the grave (1 Cor. 15:20). That's why he deserves our allegiance and our love. He was willing to die in our place and be raised for our deliverance (1 Peter 2:24). He calls on us to put our trust in what he has done, not in what we can do (Phil. 3:9-11). He calls us to come into union with him in a reenactment of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:12-13)—where our sins are transferred to him and his righteousness transferred to us (2 Cor. 5:21)—to be raised to a new life, following his lead (Rom. 6:5-23). Christians can truly say, "We love, because he first loved us!" (1 John 4:19).
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