Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Evidence for the Resurrection: Refuting Skeptics Hear this message: download free app in the App Store. Search the Gathering Connect
“To this very day” Matthew 27:62-66, 28:2-3, 11-15
In Matthew’s Gospel we read about the precautions that Pilate made to assure that the disciples would not come and steal the body of Jesus away as the Pharisees insinuated. Pilate ordered that “a guard” should be posted at the tomb and the grave stone sealed. Matthew then goes on to tell us that the earth shook, an angel of the Lord rolled the stone away and the “guards” became “like dead men”. Later he tells us that “some of the guards” went into the city and reported everything to the chief priests —then they “devised a plan” and gave the soldiers a large sum of money to say that the disciples came in the night and stole the body away while they were sleeping. The chief priests also promised the guards that if the report got to Pilate (the governor) they would keep them out of trouble. Matthew’s witness concludes with—”And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” (“to this day” referring to the time in which Matthew had written his gospel, likely in 50AD and certainly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD)
To this very day (referring to the here and now) this same story remains the favorite among skeptics who mock the resurrection of Jesus; however, we will look at four of the most popular views and refute them all with evidence and logic:
The Theft Theory Mark 14:50-52, 66-72
Let us look first to the stone that was rolled over tomb entrance. The Archeology on such tombs of Jesus day reveal huge disks that would have required three to four men to roll away. The stone was also sealed as we read in Matthew 27:64-65. Such a seal consisted of a cord or beam that went across the stone from top to bottom and was fixed in place with clay and sealed with the signet ring of whoever authorized the seal. In this case it was the Roman governor of Jerusalem—Pilate. The breaking of such a seal was punishable by death. Let us also consider the guards at the tomb. The Bible doesn’t say rather or not the guards at the tomb were Roman guards or Temple guards; however, the fact that the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate suggest Roman Guards. If that was the case, historically, “a guard” consisted of at least four armed soldiers (or more in multiples of four). Each soldier took turns standing guard while the other three rested but were always at the ready. The punishment for a Roman guard falling asleep at his post or dereliction of duty was always death. If the guards were Temple guards then there would have been at least ten soldiers alternating on three watches throughout the night. A captain was also assigned to check on the guards throughout the night with surprise visits. If any were found asleep they would be severely beaten and oftentimes their garment would be lit on fire. Rather Roman guards or Temple guards I think we can be pretty sure that the guards did not fall asleep as the widely circulated story said.
We also must consider the character and demeanor of the disciples who were the alleged “brave” body snatchers. Mark said they all fled at Jesus arrest (Mark 14:50-52) and one of them even ran off naked! Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus (Mark 14:66-72), and none of the men, but John, even went to the crucifixion. On the third day the ladies found the Eleven together in a room and told them that Jesus had risen but they all considered their words “nonsense.” (Luke 24:9-11). I think it is safe to say that there weren’t four men among them that would have risked death, alluded armed guards, rolled a stone away, striped the grave clothes off of Jesus (John 20:6-7) and carried away His lifeless body so people would believe that He had risen—and why would they do that if everything they had hoped and believed in was now dead and gone anyway?
History doesn’t record rather the guards were all executed or not, just that the chief priests and elders paid them and said they would keep them out of trouble if Pilate found out, but remember how they paid Judas and then mocked him when he returned? (Matthew 27:1-10)
The Soon Theory John 19:32-37
Another theory is that when Jesus was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Armathea, He was still alive. After several hours, He was revived by the cool air of the tomb, arose and departed! First of all this theory is no where to be found in the annuals of antiquity. No record argues that Jesus was not dead. The judgment of the soldiers said so. Those who propose such a silly theory would have to say that Jesus wiggled out of his grave clothes, shoved the stone over by himself (even in his pierced and beaten condition) and ran away naked alluding the guards!
The Hallucination Theory 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, John 20:24-29
A third theory says that all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were really only supposed appearances, what really happened is that people had hallucinations. First of all this theory assumes that a whole lot of people hallucinated or saw visions of Jesus over a period of 40 days and at multiple locations without the aid of drugs and alcohol. In most of these appearances there were two or more witnesses of the same event. In one instance there were “more than five hundred’ at one time who saw Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Lastly, Hallucinations are not challenged by the hallucination. Remember that Thomas refused to believe until Jesus made him put his finger into the nail marks and his hand into the side where He was speared (John 20:24-29). Hallucinations also do not abruptly come to a stop as did the appearances after the ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-51).
The Wrong Tomb Theory Luke 24:1-8
The final theory is that the women, and subsequently everyone else, simply went to the wrong tomb! It is inconceivable that even if Mary and the other women initially went to the wrong tomb that Peter and John would have also succumbed to the same mistake. Surely the Chief priests, Pharisees and Roman authorities would have simply gone to the correct tomb and revealed the dead body of Jesus to silence the resurrection story. Remember also that Jesus’ tomb would have been the only tomb with a broken Roman seal on it. I am also sure that Joseph of Armathea would have known which tomb was his own (Matthew 27:59-60). It would have also been the only tomb with empty grave cloths in it. Finally, if all of these knuckleheads had gone to the wrong tomb then we must also assume that the angels did too because they were at that same tomb and said, “He is not here; He has risen!” (Luke 24:1-8)
He Has Risen…Repent! Acts 2:22-24, 36-41, 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a
In Acts 2, Luke recorded Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. There was no refutation given by the Jews to his bold (even insulting) proclamation of Christ’s resurrection. Why? Because the evidence of the empty tomb was there for anyone to examine if they wanted to disclaim it. The response of the crowd to Peter’s accusation that they had crucified their Messiah and that He had risen was an emphatic “Brothers, what shall we do?” “Repent”, he said, and three thousand repented that day and became Christians because they too believed that Christ had risen.
The passage of time and the love of sin causes many to accept such refutations of Christ’s resurrection and Lordship; however, the evidence clearly points to the fact that He has accomplished just what He foretold. He will also come again “like a thief” in judgment of such nonsense…”Repent!”