Some folks like reality crime shows on television, you know “48 Hours” or “Dateline”. My wife Susan is one of those people. She can watch episode after episode of those shows devoted to a criminal event [usually a murder] and the accusation and trial of the alleged perpetrator. The whole show is the solving of the crime and the passing of judgement by a jury. At the end, there is always a question—did they send the right person to prison?
You never know.
I tell you this to lead-in to the topic of the day; what caused Jesus’ tomb to be empty after He died and was put in it?
With people who doubt Christ, this is a basic sticking point and many espouse the theory that His Disciples simply stole His body.
Let’s examine the evidence, just like those reporters on 48 Hours or Dateline and ask ourselves would Jesus’ Disciples really steal His body?
First of all, one has to account for how the Disciples could actually accomplish this task. The stone according to some, would weigh around one to two thousand pounds, making the rolling difficult. It could be done with a couple of men but the problem the Disciples had was how could they roll it without making sound?
The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and they would have heard the effort. The Roman soldier was dedicated and not likely to be bribed by the Disciples who would have a motive to remove the body. Also they probably did not have the money to “buy” them off anyway. Along with that, the Disciples were not physically powerful enough to face a detachment of soldiers, overpower them and take the body.
Who had the money?
In Matthew 28: 11- 15 the Bible records this idea of bribery: “While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, His Disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Obviously it benefitted the Jewish status quo to have a stolen body and they could afford to have the Roman soldiers alter their story that something mysterious happened—Jesus arose from the dead.
Some posit that the soldiers could have fallen asleep and the sound did not disturb their sleep. Again, dedicated Roman soldiers don’t fall asleep on guard duty. It meant certain death by their superior officers.
Let’s look at another piece of evidence. Let’s examine the grave clothes that were left where Jesus’ body was. Gregory of Nyssa, writing over fifteen hundred years ago, described the tomb: “The disposition of the clothes in the sepulcher, the napkin that was about our Savior’s head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself, did not bespeak the terror and hurry of thieves, and therefore refutes the story of the body being stolen.” Orderliness is inconsistent with snatching bodies from graves. Looters and vandalizers are not tidy. Roman soldiers taking the body would not have been that tidy. Even Disciples taking Jesus’ body would not have been that tidy; they would be in a hurry to get away.
Some point to the fact that the Disciples would really benefit from lying about this special event. However, many of the Disciples did not realize that Jesus was to rise on the third day and they were surprised that He had. Mentally would they have been prepared to fabricate such a history-making lie? These were men of high character and not likely to fabricate a tale anyway. Following the resurrection, their behaviors support the idea that they believed. They spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the message of the resurrection. I find it hard to believe that liars would face arrest, imprisonment, beating and horrible death and not recant their lie.
Theologian John Stott states “the theory that the Disciples stole Christ’s body simply does not ring true. It is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible. If anything is clear, from the Gospels and the Acts, it is that the Apostles were sincere. They may have been deceived, if you like, but they were not deceivers. Hypocrites and martyrs are not made of the same stuff.”
Ok folks, we have an empty tomb.
How did it get empty?
You solve the mystery.
For me the Disciples did not steal the body, the Roman soldiers did not steal the body, grave robbers did not steal the body.
The chief priests tried to make everyone think the Disciples stole the body but that was pure bribery on their part. We know they didn’t.
Is there a perpetrator?
You know the answer to that question.
No murder, no theft…