I was talking to my neighbor the other day in front of the open hood of his V-8 mustang. He began to point out all the newer parts that he had to replace after the car was stolen. This happened years ago, but he still remembers the disbelief of walking out of his apartment and not seeing his car. He looked in other areas of the parking lot where he never parked, because it must certainly be there, right? Wrong. I was able to reply with my own sad tale of woe when my 1991 GSX-R 1100 went missing back in early 90s. The shock of walking out of a bar and seeing a station wagon parked where my bike once stood was enough to stop me in my tracks. Dazed, I stood there, then walked behind the car and eventually looked under it, not wanting to believe that it was gone.
Imagine the women coming to see someone worth infinitely more than a bike or car, and find that he’s not where they left him. There is going to be shock, confusion, fear, and a host of other emotions that come flooding in all at once. After all, it was a corpse that they were going to anoint, it’s not like they were hoping to catch him while he was in. So there they stand, at the opening of the tomb, wondering, alarmed, and afraid because their Lord’s body is gone.
Reports fabricated by the chief priests and elders, and corroborated by the guards at the scene, led people to believe that the disciples came and stole the body (Matt 28:11-15). An elaborate hoax is much easier to blow off, and excuse away, than the actual resurrection of a publicly murdered Messiah. Isn’t that the case with people both then and now? They believe the most reasonable, easily explained, and obvious answer must be the truth (see Occam’s razor).
But, who ever said the Gospel made sense? God is separated from sinners (Isa 59:2; 1 John 3:4). All of us have sinned and death is the penalty of sin (Rom 3:10-12, 23, 6:23). And yet, while enemies of God, He extends grace by giving Himself to save those who cannot save themselves (Rom 5:8; Eph 2:8-9). Those who believe that Jesus paid their sin debt, now have peace with God (Luke 5:20; John 3:16; Rom 8:1-4; 1 Cor 15:1-4; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 John 2:2). If you were to write a plan, or a scheme that maps out how God and man can be reconciled, would it look like that written above? Probably not. The Gospel is crazy-talk to those whom the Bible says are perishing (1 Cor 1:17-25).
Yet the angels say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’ ” (vv.6-7). Crazy? To most maybe, but the women remembered that’s what Jesus said and ran to tell the disciples the wonderful news (Luke 24:8-10).
The rebuke from the angels challenged the women’s actions. They came to see a dead man, and were told to recall when the “dead man” said in Galilee that the he would be turned over to sinful men, killed, and then raised three days later (v.7). Jesus made the same claim two other times concerning his death and resurrection, after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ and after the Transfiguration (Mark 9:31-32; Luke 9:22; Matt 16:21, 17:22-23). Jesus told his disciples what would happen to him, multiple times, but it was their fault they didn’t grasp the reality of his words.
I am like that, and I bet some of you are too. Of course we aren’t walking and talking with Jesus, enjoying his physical, personal dialogue with us, but we do have his Word. And I wonder if that somehow seems less important. We read what we like and bypass that which we do not like. We may be quick to slam the disciples for their fear and faithlessness, but how do we fare? Do we assume that since we can’t have Jesus in the flesh, then we’ll settle for miracles, and Lord while you’re at it, make them whoppers. The rich man with five brothers in Jesus’ parable wanted a supernatural event to warn his brothers about Hell, but they did not get one since they had Moses and the Prophets (Luke 16:19-31).
Hear that. They had Moses and the Prophets. Today, our equivalent is the Bible, God’s Word. His holy, inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word. We have the words of life, and a dying world needs to hear them. And why should they listen to us? Because the grave is empty. That’s right. An empty grave means my Savior lives, and because of my faith in him, I’ll live too. And those who believe in Jesus, yep, they’ll live too. Now that is Good News.
Cars and bikes get stolen. After the initial shock, their owners get upset and move on with life. But the empty grave that Jesus once occupied is an eternal testimony to the grace of God toward sinful man. “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow, Because he lives, All fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He Lives.”
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!