Summary: The Discovery Channel recently aired a documentary titled, "The Jesus Family Tomb," in which they assert that a tomb was found containing the bones of Jesus and other family members. This sermon examines what really happened on that first Sunday.
Last month the Discovery Channel aired a television documentary titled, “The Jesus Family Tomb.” HarperSanFrancisco released a book by the same title at the same time.
The documentary (and book) claims that a tomb discovered in Jerusalem in 1980 contains the family burial plot of Jesus Christ.
Spearheaded by a well-known TV director named Simcha Jacobovici, and produced by “Titanic” director James Cameron, “The Jesus Family Tomb” is a slick and suspenseful narrative about the 1980 discovery of a first-century burial cave that contained ten bone boxes, which are known as ossuaries.
With the help of statisticians, archaeologists, historians, DNA experts, robot-cameras, epigraphers and CSI experts from New York’s Long Island, Jacobovici puts together a case in which he argues that the bones found in the tomb belong to the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and other family members. Moreover, Jacobovici argues that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, and that one of the ossuaries contains the bones of Judah, the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene!
Now, what we are to make about such claims?
Christians believe that Jesus is alive, and that he rose from the dead on the third day, physically and bodily. The apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
There are many reasons to dispel the notion that the bones found in Jerusalem in 1980 belong to Jesus. The main reason is in fact that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion.
Jesus’ tomb was indeed found, not in 1980, but, three days after he was crucified. And when Jesus’ followers found it on that first Resurrection Sunday morning, he was not there—he was raised from the dead, just as he said!
Let me draw your attention to John 20:1-8, an historic eye-witness account of the first followers of Jesus who went to his burial tomb on what we now call Resurrection Sunday:
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (John 20:1-8).
In the television documentary titled, “The Jesus Family Tomb,” the thesis is proposed that Jesus’ body was stolen by his followers and then re-buried in another family tomb—the tomb that was discovered in 1980.
Now, I admit that I have conspiracist tendencies, and it is intriguing to consider such a theory. However, one must consider the facts. One fact to consider is how the followers of Jesus could maintain a consistent story—saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, when in fact he was buried in another tomb.
When people question the veracity of Jesus’ resurrection, Chuck Colson responds with one word: Watergate. Colson was the “Hatchet Man” of the Nixon administration who once said in 1972, “I would walk over my grandmother for Richard Nixon.”
Colson notes that when the Watergate scandal broke in March of 1973, twelve of the world’s most powerful men couldn’t hold a lie together for two weeks. After John Dean turned State’s evidence against Nixon to try and save himself, the whole house of cards crumbled within days.
In contrast, the feeble dozen that followed Jesus were anything but world-class powerbrokers, yet they never wavered after seeing their risen Lord. Each spent the rest of their life maintaining and propagating the truth that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who conquered death and the grave. And each died because of that ironclad conviction.
Even with the world’s most powerful resources, twelve men couldn’t keep a lie from destroying their kingdom in 1973.
Two thousand years earlier, the truth of Jesus’ resurrection couldn’t keep a small band of men from dying for what they knew to be true and the truth about that kingdom has literally changed the world.
So, today, I would like to show you what really happened on that first Sunday morning after Jesus’ resurrection. In our text for today, the apostle John saw and believed that Jesus was not in the tomb—he was in fact raised from the dead!