William J. Stewart | Faces Surrounding Calvary
There have always been, and always will be doubters about the empty tomb. Some will declare, as in the past that the disciples came by night and stole the body away. Others will hold that Jesus was not crucified, but rather burned at the stake, thus leaving no remains to bury. Still others will vouch for the empty tomb, but refuse to submit to the idea that His body was resurrected. Rather, they will affirm that God disposed of the body in some fashion. The plain truth of the matter, as the Scriptures declare, is that Jesus rose from the dead, in a bodily resurrection, thus, leaving behind an empty tomb.
The day after Jesus was placed into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, saying, “…we remember while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead’, so the last deception will be worse than the first.” Thus Pilate allowed them a guard, telling them to secure it as they wished.
Scripture then declares to us concerning Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they came to the tomb on the first day of the week. Arriving at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, and an angel sitting on the stone. He spoke to them saying, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where they laid Him.” They viewed the empty tomb. He was not there, He was not stolen away. He was risen.
Matthew tells us what happened to the guard which was set. As the angel descended from heaven, it is revealed that “…the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” The guards were terrified, to the point that they passed out. A short time later, some of the guards came to, and went into the city to report to the chief priests what had happened. The guards were bought. They declared things concerning the angel with great countenance, and the rolling away of the stone, but for a large sum of money, they agreed never to disclose such again to any. Thus, they continued to declare, as many Jews of that day, and even today would, that His disciples came at night while they slept, and stole the body away.
As the ladies went on their way, Jesus appeared to them. They worshipped Him. They told the disciples of the empty tomb, and the disciples too went to see. They came away, understanding what Jesus had told them so often, that on the third day, He would arise. They came away believing in a risen Saviour.
That very day, two other disciples were walking the road to Emmaus, a small village seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked and talked, Jesus came near, but their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. He continued with them for a time in conversation. Reaching Emmaus, “…He sat at the table with them… took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him…”
Still that very day, as the Scriptures would indicate, He appeared to Peter, then later to the eleven disciples as they were gathered together in one place with the doors shut. Again, on a later occasion, Jesus showed Himself to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and sat with them that morning to eat breakfast.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “…He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time… Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith also is empty… For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not rise. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still dead in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…”
Some may care to dispute the resurrection of Christ. Let them do so. Their theories and testimony is not to be compared with those who were there. The ladies from Galilee, the 500 disciples, the apostles. They all confirm for us, that our preaching and faith are not empty, but rather, the tomb where Jesus lay is!