Summary: The Christian faith is founded on the confession that Jesus has Risen. If the Tomb that has been making all the news lately is that of Jesus, what impact does it have on the Christian Faith? Can we still believe?
The Jesus Family Tomb:
Have we found the bones of Jesus?
A few weeks ago, on March 4th, the Discovery Channel aired a documentary entitled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” If you saw it, you may have noticed right up front that it was very well done. Obviously behind its production lay a reasonable amount of money and skill. That was because the 2 hour show was directed by James Cameron of “Titanic” fame—that is he directed the highly successful movie entitled “Titanic.”
The primary producer of the documentary was Simcha Jacobovici, a Israeli born journalist now living in Canada. I found the documentary to be highly entertaining and also highly infuriating, at the same time. Though a great watch, the leaps it makes in evidence is nearly criminal.
What does the film, and its supporting book, claim? They claim that a first century burial site found in 1980 in the Talpiot section of Jerusalem is in fact the burial chamber of the family of Jesus. Found there, they calm, are ossuaries which contained the remains of Jesus, his mother Mary, Jesus’ brother Joseph, a Matthew (possibly related to Mary), and Mary Magdelene, whom they posit was Jesus’ wife, and the remains of one Judah, who was a son of Jesus.
Now the Discovery Channel web site, as well as the documentary, clearly state that their find does not necessarily contradict the teachings of the Christian faith. The documentary even features a biblical scholar’s testimony that if this find proves to be true, it would not impact his faith at all. Of course they do not mention the scholar interviewed is a liberal scholar who has rejected the biblical Jesus years ago.
The fact is that Christianity is not simply a faith that rests on belief—it is a faith that rests on historical fact and if those facts would prove to be wrong, the Christian faith is finished.
Among the historical facts lying at the foundation of the Christian faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. This fact is so foundational to the Christian faith that Paul could say:
1 Cor 15:14
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
When the news broke about this claim I emailed Nat, my friend and tour guide in Israel, to ask his opinion. Nat takes classes regularly to keep him up to date on the archaeological discoveries and was well versed on this on. After giving me his slant on this stuff, which was that this tomb has nothing at all to do with the biblical Jesus of Nazareth, he said to me via email:
But if this tomb should prove to be authentic, you are out of a job.
Nat, who is an observant Jew who does not believe Jesus is the Messiah, understands the implications of finding the bones of Jesus more clearly than the biblical scholar interviewed on the show who claims to be a Christian.
Nat was nice enough to offer to get me into a Yeshiva to be trained as a Rabbi. He even suggested that since we live in Ephrata, the other name for Bethlehem, we could simply change our name to the Ephrata Synagogue of the Brethren!
So are these the bones of Jesus?
There is much being written on both sides of this outlandish claim, and I would encourage you to research the information on your own.
Let me make a disclaimer here: This is a sermon not an academic paper. I will be sharing things I will call facts this morning, and I will do so without giving you the supporting sources. If you are interested in by background research, let me know and I will share it with you.
I want to do two things this morning.
First I want to simply and quickly highlight some of the huge gaps that exist in the Jesus tomb argument as it was presented on the Discovery Channel program.
And then second, I want to present the most compelling reason for believing in the Resurrection of Jesus
But before I do that, let me give you a very quick review of the burial practices during the first century. These practices were firmly in place for about 100 years, and spanned the time of Jesus:
• Death, body prepared with spice and wrapped in two pieces of cloth—one around the body the other around the head, with the neck and face exposed.
• Wrapped body laid on a stone shelf or slab in a tomb, either cut out of rock or made from a cave.
• Entrance to the tomb sealed with a rolling stone.
• A year later, tomb opened and the now decomposed remains, mostly bones, gathered up and placed in a ossuary, or bone box, and then the box was placed in a niche in the wall.