- Bible study
- Christian Evidences
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- Dr Eliezer Gonzalez
- Holy Spirit
Nov 6, 2014 1926
Now as the women were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 They met with the elders and decided to give a large sum of money to the soldiers. 13 They told them, “Say that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole his body while you were sleeping. 14 And if the governor hears about this, we will take care of it with him so you will have nothing to worry about.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were told. And this report has spread throughout all Judea to this very day. – Matthew 28:11-15, CEB
Just think of the implications of the last words of the passage above.
It is generally believed that the gospel of Matthew was written between 50 and 70 AD, with some dating it as early as 40 AD. There are many references in the gospel that indicate that the temple was still standing. For example, verse 15 above could hardly have been written after the destruction of the temple. So the gospel of Matthew was written within a very few decades of the events it purports to describe, and certainly within a generation.
The passage above records a report that circulated throughout all of Judaea from resurrection Sunday to the time of the writing of the gospel of Matthew itself. That report was that Jesus’ disciples had come and stolen the body at night while the Roman guard was asleep.
Because of the way that the gospel writer refers to this rumour, we can accept the existence of this report that circulated widely in Judaea as fact. Why, because if the report had not existed, then what the gospel writer wrote would have been able to have been instantly dismissed as fiction. In fact, Matthew here is appealing to his audience’s knowledge of current affairs. Either the report was circulating or it wasn’t. And Matthew presents it as an established fact that his audience would have instantly accepted; that yes, the report that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples was actually circulating widely.
This “official” explanation that was doing the rounds was – to put it bluntly – unbelievably stupid.
The questions that the people back then who heard the false report would have asked themselves would questions like:
- Why weren’t the members of the Roman guard all executed for being asleep on the job?
- How did the disciples get past the Roman guard?
- How would the disciples have dared to break the Roman seal?
- How could they have rolled away the stone?
- No one had fought for Jesus at his arrest or trial, why would they fight for his dead body?
Lies have a habit of disproving themselves. And anyone living in Judaea at that time would have known that what Matthew described was precisely how the system worked! Corruption and lies!
Of course, the clincher was that there were certainly many hundreds (at least 500; see 1 Cor 15:6) of eyewitnesses around who had seen the risen Lord. And hypothetically, there were perhaps even thousands of witnesses of the resurrected Jesus.
And these eyewitnesses were by now starting to spread around the Roman Empire due to the Jewish diaspora and the troubles back in Judaea leading up to the Jewish revolt against Rome. When you understand this, you can start to understand why the Christian message, based on a crucified and risen Messiah, grew so quickly.
The question of the empty tomb is a question that still confronts us all. There would be no gospel without it.
The message of the empty tomb has to change how we see the world. And it has to change how we see ourselves and our destiny.
Because HE IS RISEN!