The women who went to tend to the body of Jesus after seventy-two hours were so distraught and overcome with grief that they got confused in the dim early morning hours and went to the wrong tomb—a tomb that was empty. Of course Jesus was not in it! When they saw it was empty, they jumped to the conclusion that He was resurrected, when in reality He was not.
Wow, this is the third theory of why Jesus was not resurrected.
Dr. Kirsopp Lake wrote a book on this theory, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In it, he details why he doubts Christs’ resurrection. The neighborhood that Jesus was buried in was full of tombs and one could easily get confused. It was very doubtful that they were close to the burial ceremony and since they were so far away this could have led to them getting confused about returning. The fog of the early morning hours [literal and mental] could have caused them to get confused. The upshot? Dr. Lake is a doubter at best and an unbeliever at worst.
How as Christians do we reply?
First of all, how confused would you think people could get in just seventy-two hours, especially confusion about something as important as this? Also, these were not just any women. They were Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of James and another woman named Salome. Mary was a faithful follower of Jesus and she witnessed His crucifixion, death and burial. Mary the Mother of James was the mother of the Disciple James. Salome was likely another follower but less is known about her. It would be unlikely that they would have made this mistake.
Peter and John were the first Disciples who heard their report of the empty tomb and they went to the location and they saw the empty tomb also. Would they be confused later in the day and would they also go to the wrong tomb?
In Matthew 28:6 we read that an Angel rolled back the stone from the tomb, an angel in clothing white as snow. The Angel spoke to the women “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” Dr. Lake assumes that the Angel is wrong and prefers to explain that the Angel is a “young man” [Mark 16:5]. The young man is a gardener and is telling the women incorrect information. I enjoy working in my yard but I rarely go out in the yard in the wee hours of the morning. It is hard to see in dark or near dark conditions.
The Sanhedrin could have taken the body before the women got there and that could have caused the tomb to be empty but would these Jewish leaders have hidden Jesus’ body. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, they would have displayed it to hurt the ministry of Jesus.
If anyone could have confirmed the empty tomb it would be Joseph of Arimathea who gave the tomb for the burial of Jesus. He owned it and the tomb was close to his home; it was described as “a man-made cave hewn from rock in a garden of his house nearby” [Wikipedia, Joseph of Arimathea]. Paul Little states surely Joseph “owner of the tomb, would have solved the problem” [of the tomb’s location].
Lastly, the women are called into question, that they were so blinded by remorse that they were unable to find the tomb. First of all seventy-two hours had passed and they were about doing the business of completing the anointing of their Lord’s body. Jesus died so close to the Sabbath that His body had to be interred so devout Jews could observe the day of rest. John Stott feels that instead of blinded by remorse, they were probably “devoted and business-like”, quite a contrast from Dr. Lakes’ description.
The theory of the distraught women in my opinion is hardly credible, but people who are dedicated to attacking Christian belief will try anything, even writing a two hundred seventy-nine page book.
For me and maybe for you, these words are enough: “When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,[a] who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid His body” [Mark 16: 5-6].