“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:1-3).”
For the first time in since 1810 men have opened what many believe is the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.¹ National Geographic is documenting the restoration project underway at the church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church erected on this supposed location of the tomb in which Jesus was laid was first built in the 4th century.² It was last rebuilt in the early 19th century and a marble shrine was put there to protect it.
When the slab covering the tomb was pulled back a painting of Jesus could be discerned. Iron bars that had completely rusted out were examined and debris and other materials were found, of which samples were taken out of the cave and are now being studied further as “scholars hope to study what they found to determine more about the even that spawned one of the world’s great religions.”²
What these 21st century investigators and those first examiners of Jesus tomb share in common is what they did not find inside – the body of Jesus. When word went out that the tomb was opened Peter and John raced to inspect the claims (John 20:3-9). John peered in and could only detect the burial garment that had wrapped the Lord’s body. Peter went inside the tomb for a more thorough inspection and found also the handkerchief that had covered His face folded neatly. But the body of Jesus was not found then nor was it found now.
Jesus had prophesied that He would rise from that tomb (Matthew 16:21). Those who ordered His death had heard the claim and schemed to have a contingent of Roman soldiers stationed to guard the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). The penalty for failing to keep the tomb’s integrity was their own death. But yet they could not rightly explain how it was that the tomb was indeed empty and the stone had been rolled away from its opening (Matthew 28:11-15).
This is important because if His body had been detected the claims of the Apostles and His followers would have been proven false and Christianity could have been stamped out in its infancy. Paul went so far as to say that if Jesus is not risen then they were liars and all Christians exercise a futile faith (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
Peter reasoned this way on Pentecost; “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day (Acts 2:29).” David’s tomb remained and his body still occupied it as he spoke that day. But the Christ whom David prophesied of; “God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:24).” Further he asserted, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (v.32).”
The tomb of Jesus has remained empty since that day he rose from it. Some men, such as Simon Greenleaf, the co-founder of Harvard Law School, journalist Lee Strobel, and others have sought to investigate these claims and have been unable refute the historical evidence that He rose from the grave. What conclusions have you drawn from your investigation of the tomb of Jesus?
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).”