It’s 3:46am, and I hear car doors slam shut outside of my window. A moment later a car zooms away–followed by another, and then another. I’m guessing their was a party down the street–why else be awake, much less driving, at 3:46 in the morning. I roll out of bed and stumble over to the blinds. With two fingers I create a small gap just big enough to see if there’s trouble outside my window. Everything seems to be back to normal. Who knows, maybe instead of a party they are all getting up to drive to a sun-rise Easter service. I hear those are nice.
Easter. What an interesting holiday. Some say that Christians stole this “holy day” from the pagans. But I don’t think that is true. Even if some of the traditions mimic the way pagan cultures celebrated spring, I know that this holiday means a lot more than a few plastic eggs stuffed with candy. As I lay back down to go to sleep, my mind starts thinking. Soon I forget that I’m tired, and I stare at the ceiling thinking about–what should be–the most important holiday on the calendar. Does that ever happen to you? Does your mind start working in the middle of the night and you can’t go back to sleep?
A few minutes later, my mind is fixated on the question that has bothered me for years. A question that may be the most radical proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that I can’t seem to find an answer to this question, may logically prove that Jesus rose from the dead. Let me set this up for you…
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about a group of Jewish leaders who are very concerned that the disciples will try to steal Jesus’ dead body…
In Matthew 27: 62-66 it says:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
And then, after Jesus disappears, we read in Matthew 28: 11-15:
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.
Every time I read this passage, I go through the same thought process…
1. It was to both the Romans and the Jews advantage to squelch, smother, and destroy any notion of Jesus’ resurrection. The Romans were against any form of religion that elevated a non-Roman above the government. I think that is the main reason Pilate, although he was against the killing of Jesus, still felt it was in the best interest of the Roman government for him to be killed. He had the power to save Jesus. But he refused. He washed his hands as if that would make him innocent of Jesus’ blood. Pilate, as the peacekeeper and representative of what’s best for Roman influence in that part of the world, knew it was better for the Roman cause for Jesus to be out of the picture. So when people started making radical claims about Jesus’ resurrection, Pilate–or one of the many soldiers at the tomb that night–should have stood up and said, “Nope! Here is the body.” It was in the best interest of the Roman government to prove that Jesus was dead.
2. It was in the best interest of the Jewish leaders to prove Jesus was dead. I don’t think this point needs much explaining, but it’s still worth mentioning. It was EXTREMELY embarrassing to the leadership of the Jews for people to claim Jesus rose again. They had done everything they could to get rid of him–including kill him on a cross–and yet now people claimed he was alive. Why didn’t they bring forth the body of Jesus and say, “Sorry folks. Here is the dead man that you said is God.”
3. If the Romans or the Jews had brought forth Jesus’ body, Christianity would have died before it got started. As Paul says,
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)
If the Romans or Jews had brought forth Jesus’ body–proving that he had not been resurrected–Christianity would have died almost immediately. Either that, or everyone who followed Jesus while he was still alive would have claimed that he was a good teacher and prophet instead of claiming that he was God.
But they didn’t.
Why, when it was in the BEST interest of the most powerful government on Earth to prove that Jesus did not rise again, did the Romans not bring forth Jesus’ body and prove he was still dead?
Why, when it was in the BEST interest of the ruling religious party of Israel, did the Jews not bring forth Jesus’ body and prove he was still dead?
And I know there are a few skeptics out there who may read this and think, “Because the disciples stole the body and hid it really well.” But this is faulty logic. The Romans were guarding the tomb because the Jews thought this might happen. If the Roman soldiers slipped up and ALL fell asleep (which takes a pretty significant suspension of belief because they would all be killed for failing to guard the tomb) there was still a BIG rock to move and a seal over the door. I’m pretty sure at least one Roman soldier is going to wake up if someone tried to move the giant rock–even if they tried REALLY hard to do it quietly.
Also, if the disciples HAD stolen Jesus’ body–which is a VERY BIG IF (a bunch of fishermen concocting a plan that tricks the Roman and Jewish governments)–do you not think the Romans and Jews had people who could track down the body?
So to me, the greatest and most radical proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the fact that neither the Romans nor the Jews–the two groups of people with the most to lose–never brought forth Jesus’ body after the resurrection to prove that it didn’t happen.
And that brings me to my final point. If Jesus really did rise from the grave–and it seems to make more sense that he did than he didn’t–Easter is really the most important holiday, and the most amazing holiday, on the calendar. I find it cliché when people say, “Don’t forget the real reason for the season.” But in regard to Easter, don’t let the good food, the free candy that your parents or spouse bought, and the celebration of Spring get in the way of missing out on the most revolutionary and amazing day in HISTORY! Again, consider Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26; 52-58:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive…Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death…For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.