Summary: Beyond the Passion there is an empty tomb but what does that mean to us?
Beyond the Passion
He was dead, and with him died all of their dreams, all of their hopes everything they believed in. They had given everything to him, their past, their present even their future and up until three days ago it seemed like a pretty good bargain. All he had wanted was everything, and they gave it. All he had asked was that they believe and oh how they had believed. And why not they had seen the impossible, they hadn’t just thought the impossible, that’s easy, what was it the Queen of Hearts told Alice, “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” They had seen the impossible, they had seen blind men see, they had seen lame men walk, and they had seen dead men live. They believed with all their hearts, but not any more, now their beliefs were as dead as their master was.
And there was nothing to do but to go home, to leave Jerusalem, to leave their hopes to leave their dreams and just go home. They might as well try and recover their yesterdays because their tomorrows were as dead as Jesus was.
They had seen him beaten, they seen him crucified, they had seen him killed and they had seen him buried and they knew the dream was as dead as the dreamer. Unless, unless it was true what Mary had seen, she had seen an empty tomb, she had seen empty grave clothes and she had seen Jesus. And if that was the case than he wasn’t dead, he was alive. And if he was alive than everything was going to be all right.
I went and saw the Passion of the Christ when it first came out and people asked me how I felt about it and I told them “Disturbing” but then again crucifixion is disturbing. But Easter’s not about his crucifixion it’s about his resurrection, Easter’s not about his death it’s about his life. It’s not about mourning it’s about celebrating. The first Easter morning 2000 years ago must have begun as a bit of a downer, a dreary affair, with Jesus followers remembering what had happened, remembering the horror of Friday, remembering that their friend was dead and their dreams were shattered. But then the cry rang out he’s alive, the tomb is empty. And then, it happened, as quickly as turning on the lights, they weren’t mourning his being dead they were celebrating his being alive. It wasn’t defeat it was victory. Because he wasn’t dead he was alive and the tomb is empty.
But how do we know that? Well we do know from history that on the third day the body of Christ was missing. So where was it? We believe as did the early church that Christ had risen from the dead, there was actually a physical resurrection. However throughout the years there have been other theories put forward as well. Lee Strobel was an atheist as well as an investigative reporter and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. Strobel’s wife became a Christian at Willow Creek Community Church and he began to investigate the claims of Christianity. Through that journey he himself became a believer and we have a number of books that he wrote as a result of that investigation. In his book “The Case for Easter” Strobel wrote, “The starting point seemed obvious to me: Clearly, the resurrection was the linchpin of the Christian faith. After all, anyone can claim to be the Son of God. But if someone could substantiate the assertion by returning to life after being certifiably dead and buried --- well, that would be a compelling confirmation that he was telling the truth. Even for a sceptic like me.”
The first thing that Strobel wanted to confirm was that Jesus actually died on the cross. After all there have been those who have maintained that he only passed out on the cross and came to in the cool air of the tomb. What Strobel discovered was that when presented with the gospel accounts of the crucifixion modern doctors felt that there was little chance that Christ could have survived the torture described there. Dr. William D. Edwards wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association “Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound in his side was inflicted . . . Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”
Once Strobel was satisfied that Jesus was really dead when he was placed in the tomb he needed to affirm that one of the apostles hadn’t stolen the body. The strongest argument for that is that every one of the apostles was tortured for their faith and for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. And while there are all kinds of people who will lie there are very few who will maintain that lie in the face of torture and death. The same apostles who hid while Jesus was being tortured encountered something or someone that gave them unprecedented power, and according to the scriptures, that something or someone was the risen Christ. Strobel wrote “The disciples didn’t merely believe in the resurrection: they knew whether it was fact or fiction. Had they known it was a lie, they would never have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Nobody willing dies for something that they know is false. They proclaimed the resurrection to their deaths for one reason alone: they knew it was the truth.”