Summary: Stop doubting and believe!
Let’s suppose this morning that we could read the headlines that would have taken place in the week after that first Easter. What would the headlines have looked like if there were a Jerusalem Post in first century Palestine? Possibly the following:
“CRUCIFIED JESUS REPORTED TO BE ALIVE”
“ONE DISCIPLE HAS DOUBTS”
The first story, depending on the perspective of the writer, might have tried to explain away the reports of Jesus sightings. The writer might have expounded some theories on what really happened.
The Swoon Theory
This theory claims that Jesus didn’t really die, he just swooned on the cross. Christ was nailed to a cross and suffered from shock, pain and loss of blood. But the proponents of this theory claim that instead of actually dying, He only swooned. That when He was placed in the tomb, He was still alive and Joseph, mistaking Him for dead, buried Him alive.
This theory completely ignores the evidences of His death and would require a greater miracle than the resurrection.
These theorists claim that the cool, damp air in the tomb actually healed Jesus. Of course, then Jesus would have had to perform the miracle of escaping from the tightly wound wrappings, pushing away the heavy stone, overpowering the two guards. And He still would have been half dead. In His weakened condition He could not have walked the seven miles on the Emmaus road.
Christ died. He was dead in the judgment of the soldiers, in the judgment of Pilate, in the judgment of the Jews who requested the guard for the tomb, and in the judgment of the women who went to the tomb to further prepare the body.
The Hallucination Theory
This theory says all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were because the people had hallucinations. The big question is how could so many people have hallucinations under different conditions and spread out over different times? And 500 at one time?
The hallucination theory doesn’t work because it contradicts laws and principles which psychiatrists say are essential to hallucinations. Psychiatrists claim only certain kinds of people have hallucinations: high-strung, highly imaginative, and very nervous people. In fact, usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals have hallucinations. Hard to believe that all of those who saw Jesus were paranoid or schizophrenic.
Psychiatrists also say hallucinations are linked in an individual’s subconscious--to particular past experiences and this was certainly not a part of any past experience.
The Impersonation Theory
This is the theory that it was really someone impersonating Jesus. They argue this angle because they didn’t recognize Him at first (or at all).
The problem with this theory is that it would have been impossible to impersonate Christ’s wounds. Maybe in Hollywood today. This was Christ’s proof to Thomas that it was really Him. Also, remember that these guys had been with Jesus for three years and it’s hard to believe anybody could have fooled them.
The Spiritual Resurrection Theory
This is the view that Christ’s resurrection was not a physical resurrection, that this was only a spiritual resurrection. Well, I’ll tell you, a physical body did disappear from the tomb. If it was only a spiritual resurrection, then what happened to the body? The body was there, then it was gone. The Sadducees or Pharisees were never able to produce the body or disprove the resurrection.
1st Corinthians 15 teaches us that Christ not only arose, but that He arose with a glorified body that had unique capacities. First Corinthians 15:44 calls it a spiritual body, but it was a physical body as well. Jesus’ resurrected body is, at the same time, like ours and not like ours.
The Theft Theory
This theory says the disciples stole the body and claimed that He rose from the dead. Again, such a theory ignores the evidence of the linen wrappings and the empty tomb. If someone had stolen the body, they would not have taken the time to remove the wrappings. They would have taken the body, as is.
Further, there is the question of who COULD or WOULD steal the body under the circumstances.
A. Romans would not; they were there to guard it. The tomb was sealed and they were there to protect it against theft.
B. Not the women, because, remember, they were wondering who would remove it for them when they went early Sunday morning to finish burial preparations.
C. Couldn’t be the Jews because they had requested a Roman guard to protect the tomb against theft. This last point is very significant because the presence of the Roman soldiers and the Roman seal over the door made the possibility of the religious leaders claims of theft way more difficult, if not impossible.
The Unknown Tomb Theory
This is one of the earliest theories. They try to explain everything away by saying the disciples forgot where the tomb was. The Gospel indicates that Joseph of Arimathea took the body to his own private tomb. According to Scripture, the body of Christ was prepared for burial according to the burial customs of the Jews; the women sat opposite the tomb and watched. Not only did Joseph of Arimathea and the women know where the tomb was, so did the Romans--they placed a guard there. (McDowell, pp. 77-78).