It’s an Empty Tomb, Not an Empty Faith

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Ask a group of Christians what “faith” is, and someone is likely to quote Hebrews 11:1 to you: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”

What does that mean, exactly?  Is faith a force that brings unseen desires to material fruition?  Some teach that, you know.  That’s not what the writer of Hebrews was teaching.

Have you ever thought about what it means to believe in Jesus?  Does faith in God merely appeal to His existence?  If that was the case, the Bible would not say in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”  No, that can’t be it.  I think James was saying that there is more to Christian faith than just an acceptance that Jesus is alive — or even that He is Lord!

Faith, as the Bible relates it, is basically the same as the word “trust.”  Those who truly believe in Jesus, trust Him.  They trust Him with their eternal existence.  They trust Him over against spiritual competitors.  To have faith in Jesus, the Christ, is to place trust in who He claimed to be.  We actually submit to Him as our King, and obey Him, because of what we believe about Him.  This is quite different from just “believing” that Jesus really came to earth, He lived, and even was raised from the dead.  Even the demons believe that!

The apostles claimed, “Jesus is Lord of all” and urged faithful adherence to Christ.  But is their testimony true?  There is no such thing as Jesus being truly, and exclusively, Lord of all, for me and not for you, too.  He is either Lord of all or not…it cannot be both.

Let’s consider the proverbial “Empty Tomb.”  If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, then Christianity is not on a very firm foundation (see 1 Cor 15:17).  The empty tomb is extremely important to the Christian message:  Jesus atoned for the sins of humanity, rose from the dead, and saves any who would come to Him for mercy.

The easiest way to debunk the fledgling faith would have been to produce a body.  A mangled Jesus would have been thoroughly sufficient to dismiss the message of the apostles.  The problem?  There was no body to produce.  There has been a lot of time and ink given to this issue because the entailments to Jesus’ resurrection are, shall we say, difficult for those in opposition to Him.

Those who killed Jesus leveled the first polemic at the early church.  They said that Jesus’ followers stole the body.  It’s not hard to see why they came up with this claim, but it is more difficult to accept it when we look at the evidence.

First, what was the disciple’s motive?  Some would say, it was to become important leaders in the new movement.  That was what would eventually happen, but don’t forget, those same apostles all paid with their lives for the claim that they had seen Jesus alive from the dead.  They would not recant.  It has been rightly asked, “Is it reasonable to believe that they would have been willing to die for a lie they knew they had made up?”  I don’t think so.

Was Jesus’ body thrown on a trash heap, as some suggest, avoiding burial altogether?  That could explain a missing body, sure, but where is the evidence for that claim?  The same account that reveals the treatment and execution of Jesus is the record that accounts for His empty tomb.  The account says He was buried in a tomb.  On what basis do we dismiss only one part of the account?  Could it be a bias against the idea of a resurrection?   It is precisely the issue of the Resurrection that is on the table.

Yet others have suggested that Jesus wasn’t actually dead when He was taken down from the cross.  Rather, He revived in the coolness of the tomb.  This could not have been the case either.  Consider the consequence for the Roman guard who failed in his orders to execute a criminal.  He would suffer the same fate.  That’s good incentive for the guard to be thorough!

Then there were the other witnesses to the ordeal.  Jesus was placed in a sealed tomb, which was known and guarded…just in case somebody did try taking the body.  (Jesus’ adversaries knew an empty tomb would have been problematic.)  If Jesus had revived, he would not have been able to open the tomb from the inside, overcome a guard that needed Him to stay dead,  persuade His followers that He had conquered the grave and sin, and inspire them to rush toward difficult deaths of their own.  He would have needed first aid!

It would seem reasonable that the best explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.  This would explain the disciples’ behavior, the rise of the early church amidst persecution, and why believers, today, give themselves to serve Jesus without reservation.

Blind faith is a risky thing.  Belief in something false can let you down and blind faith opens the door to that possibility.  With so many abandoning the Christian faith today, is it possible that they are rejecting a faith of their own making? Was it a faith they believed blindly, and not one based on sound reasons?

Do you have enough faith in the explanations given by those who discount the Resurrection to walk away from Jesus?  Do you have enough faith in the testimony of the followers of Jesus to live for Him?  Is your faith blind or reasoned?  What do you believe about Jesus?  Why do you believe it?

Author: Rick Carver

"In my 30 plus year pursuit of Christ, as a vocational pastor, apologist, public speaker and performing artist, I have become increasingly burdened that the Church in the West has a great need for revitalization and perspective. Therefore, I have dedicated my pursuits to promote a sound defense of the faith, to take up the cause of the persecuted, and to live with abandon to the principles of the Christian worldview."

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