New Testament Witnesses

“Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. 60 He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. 61 Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.” (Matthew 27:59‑61, NLT).
“Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:1‑3, NLT)

Now, the most powerful fact about Jesus’ tomb is that everybody admitted that it was empty. Even His opponents conceded the tomb was empty on Easter morning.

The text says women discovered the tomb of Jesus was empty. Why is that important? In the first century Jewish culture, a women’s testimony was different than it today. Their word, for example, did not have credibility in Jewish court * . Here’s the implication: If the writers of the resurrection of Jesus were making this stuff up, embellishing or exaggerating, they would never have said women discovered the empty tomb. Why did the disciples say women discovered the empty tomb, if it would hurt their case in trying to prove the resurrection? It’s more reasonable to think, “They were telling what really happened.” They were so committed to the truth they wrote down that the women discovered the tomb empty. It actually serves to show how committed to accuracy the writers of the New Testament were.

Then in the New Testament, it says that the Jewish religious leaders tried to bribe the guards into saying they’d fallen asleep and while they were asleep His disciples stole the body. But this doesn’t make sense at all. One, it’s doubtful that the disciples really had a motive to steal the body, but more importantly, if the guards were asleep how did they know the disciples came to steal the body?

The point is that the disciples declared the tomb of Jesus was empty and everybody agreed with them! What did people say back to them, “You’ve got the wrong tomb!” No, they said, “You’re right the tomb is empty.” The question is how did it get empty?

The Roman authorities weren’t about to steal the body, they just wanted Jesus dead. The Jewish leaders weren’t about to steal the body, they wanted Jesus to stay dead. The Romans and the Jews could have crushed Christianity by simply displaying the body of Jesus, but they couldn’t because there wasn’t a body to display. That’s what the video clip brought out.

Maybe the women went to the wrong tomb. It was dark and there were lots of tombs around Jerusalem. Maybe they just got lost and went to a tomb that was empty and boom! Christianity got started and it was all a mistake. Then Peter and John came afterwards and confirmed the tomb was empty. What are the odds they went to the wrong tomb? Don’t you think they would have made sure the tomb was empty.

Joseph of Arimathea knew where his tomb was, he owned it. If there was collective amnesia and everybody suddenly forgot where this tomb was, the Romans knew, they had guards there. No, the unanimous testimony was that Jesus was dead; they had the right tomb, and the tomb was empty. The best explanation that fits the facts was Jesus really did return from the dead.

Flavius Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Auburn and Buffalo, NY: John E. Beardsley, 1895), 119.