Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Empty Tomb

Part 1 of Unexpected

Text: Luke 24:1-12

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened (Luke 24:11). 

Totally Unexpected

Have you even seen something totally unexpected? Sometime we see something totally unexpected in a picture we took. The "Solway Firth Spaceman" is an example of this.

In Luke 24, we read about some other people who saw something totally unexpected: a tomb with no body.


The women were “perplexed” (v. 4) when they found the tomb of Jesus empty. The empty tomb still causes people to be perplexed. [1] Some people are perplexed (like the women) because they don’t know what to think of the empty tomb. Other people are perplexed (like the apostles) because to them the story of the resurrection sounds like an “idle tale” (v. 11). How should we respond to the empty tomb? 

He Has Risen!

As the perplexed women stood in front of the empty tomb, two angels appeared to them. They said to the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (vv. 5-6). Then the angels reminded the women that the resurrection shouldn’t have been a surprise to them: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (v. 6).

This is what we call the gospel—the good news. Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. Our hope is based on these two events. But often when we share our good news with others, it doesn’t get a positive response.

A Story That's Not Easy to Believe

The women returned to the rest of Jesus’ followers and told them what they had seen (i.e., the empty tomb) and what they had heard (i.e., “He has risen”). But when their words “seemed to them an idle tale [i.e., nonsense], and they did not believe them” (v. 11). If the followers of Jesus didn’t respond positively to the story of the resurrection, we shouldn’t be surprised if people today don’t. The story of the resurrection isn’t easy to believe. When we share the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we shouldn’t expect people to immediately believe. Patience is needed.

Two details in Luke’s account of the resurrection provide evidence that it’s not a made-up story. First, the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. “Not only is [the story of the resurrection] hard to accept, but culturally such a story from women would be viewed with suspicion. One of the main proofs that the resurrection story is credible is realization that the first-century church would never have created a story whose main first witnesses were women.” [2]

Second, the first skeptics of the resurrection were the disciples. Thomas wasn’t the only disciple who doubted. “If someone created the story of resurrection, would the apostles have been made to look so incredulous? The account’s honesty has an air of reality, which points to its truth.” [3]

Responding to the Empty Tomb

When Peter heard the women’s story, he “rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened” (v. 12). Did Peter fully believe in the resurrection after he looked inside the empty tomb? Most commentaries on Luke say that “marveling” doesn’t indicate complete faith. Instead, Peter probably experienced the “first steps of faith.” [4] How should we respond to the empty tomb?

Because the tomb is empty, we must marvel at it. 

Maybe you don’t believe in the resurrection. Maybe today you, like Peter, could take the first steps toward belief in the resurrection. Or maybe you’re a Christian who has some doubts about the resurrection. Those who have doubts about the resurrection should spend time thinking, “What happened?” It can’t be denied that something happened. [5] The empty tomb of Jesus shouldn’t be ignored. Why? Because if the tomb is empty because Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.

[1] Most scholars—Christian and secular—think that the tomb of Jesus was empty.
[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, 607.
[3] Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, 1899. The NIV says “wondering.”
[4] Grant Osborne, The Resurrection Narratives, 114. The enemies of Jesus claimed that the disciples of Jesus stole his body from the tomb (Matt. 28:13).
[5] In the second century, Justin Martyr wrote that this lie was still being circulated in his day (Dialogue with Trypho).

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