Perfect Lambs and an Empty Tomb

Let’s play time travel: Let’s zoom back 3,452 years, back past I-phones and cars, past the beginnings of Islam, past the Romans and the Greeks –back to springtime on the Nile delta in roughly 1440 B.C. when 2,000,000 Jews brushed the blood of lambs on the door posts of their houses and ate unleavened bread and the roasted lambs, and awaited the deliverance of the Lord. The lamb’s blood protected them from the worst of the curses – the death of the first-born in every household. Then they were delivered from Egypt, free at last to go home where they belonged.

Back to the time machine -- let’s speed forward again – past the Greeks, to Roman times, to a spring day in 30 A.D. in Jerusalem. The major players had been up all night. It was a Friday, the 14th of Nisan, a day known as Passover, a day set aside to commemorate the day when the Angel of Death passed over their blood-marked doors, sparing everyone inside. Passover marked the beginning of Jewish freedom.

After nightfall that Thursday, which according to the Jewish method of counting time, was the beginning of Friday, of Passover, the Jewish Sanhedrin arrested a young man named Jesus of Nazareth. During the night they tried him, over and over, each trial a travesty of Jewish law. They hauled him before Pilate, the Roman governor, before Herod, the Jewish “king.” By 9:00 A.M. they had succeeded in beating him beyond recognition, slamming onto his bleeding head a mocking crown made of thorns, and scourging the skin and muscle off his back. They forced him to carry a heavy wooden cross through Jerusalem and up a hill named Golgotha. By 9:00 A.M. they had him nailed to that cross – staining the wood with blood in the same places the Jews in Egypt had marked their doors.

He hung on that cross for 6 hours, his body weight pulling on his wounded hands and feet and dragging at his diaphragm making it hard to breathe. At 3:00 that afternoon he declared “It is finished!” and he died.

And that would have been that, except that on the following Sunday morning when a small group of women went to his tomb to prepare his body, they found no body. Just an empty tomb. Thousands of years of history had been aiming for that quiet event, and almost 2 millennia have spun off from it – easily the single most important occurrence in the story of humanity, an event so pivotal that it cannot be dismissed. Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ is treated by too many as a fairytale, a fantastical fable.

OK, ok – He rose from the dead. Granted it seems preposterous – people don’t just pop out their graves. That just doesn’t happen – so why isn’t it just tall tale?

There are many very good reasons:

1)    If there is a God – and just for the sake of argument, grant me possibility – and that God designed the human body and all the necessary physics for it to be alive, then why would we assume that His design limits Him in any way? Couldn’t He handle the quarks He orchestrated in any manner He wanted? Couldn’t He rearrange all the damaged cells in that tortured body and send a soul back into it? Wouldn’t He have known in advance that He was going to have to do this? Who are we to say that couldn’t have happened?
2)    For that matter, who are we to say we have any clear understanding of our physical surroundings at all? Our senses are so limited. I was just watching a Youtube video about the light spectrum, and according to this little piece, done at the University of Washington, the spectrum of light could be compared to a strip of movie film long enough to stretch from San Diego to Seattle. The part of that light spectrum that human beings can see is less than an inch long. Given that appalling scenario, we better think twice about the old adage, “Seeing is believing.” There’s more going on in this world than meets the eye.
3)    Though, speaking of seeing, people claimed that they saw him resurrected.  He was seen by small groups of people, by the 11 apostles, by Saul on the road to Damascus, by big crowds – hundreds of people. Consider this:
a.     People don’t hallucinate in crowds any more than a whole group would dream the same dream.
b.     People not only saw him, but touched him, ate with him, talked with him.
c.     Many of these people suffered terrible deaths because they claimed that he rose from the dead. What kind of person would go to his death to protect a scam?
d.     Several of the people who saw him first hand wrote about it and did so within a short time after the event, while other eye-witnesses were still around, and we have no record that anyone disputed their accounts.
e.     People not only saw the resurrected Jesus, but they saw his empty tomb, and none of the parties involved would have benefited from stealing the body. Both the Jews and the Romans wanted him dead and his disciples were terrified and in shock – they just wanted to fade into the shadows; they had no desire to stir things up.
f.      Jesus was so badly mutilated, so thoroughly torn apart that there is no medical possibility of his having survived and merely revived. Blood clots and serum poured out of his body when the Roman soldiers pierced his side. He was dead.
g.     The lives of the apostles and those with whom they associated changed drastically after the resurrection. Back-country fishermen became world travelers, a rabid anti-Christian became a writer of scripture, a rich man risked everything to help spread the word. Nothing but the resurrection accounts for the changes.
4)    But, say the skeptics, your source is just the writings of a bunch of old men from a long time ago – and they all had an agenda. Well, if that’s the case, then we’ll have to throw out all of history. All of it was written by a bunch of old men with agendas. Besides which,
a.     We have a great deal of information about Jesus from non-biblical sources – Josephus, Thallus, Tacitus, just to name a few.(1)(2)
b.     The biblical sources were all eye witnesses to the resurrection or were closely associated with those who were. Not only that, but they wrote their accounts within a relatively short time after the resurrection. Historians agree that if an event is recorded within 200 years, the event is likely accurate. If longer, they consider the tale a legend. All four gospels, the book of Acts, and the Epistles can be reliably dated within that first century.
c.     No other historical account of anything has been copied and distributed as much as the Bible.
5)    And finally, go back to that first Passover almost 3,500 years ago. Then the Jews sacrificed perfect lambs, bloodying their doors as Christ bloodied his cross, then they were all set free. A little over 1400 years later on the day of the Passover the Lamb of God was sacrificed, providing for any of us who choose to accept it, eternal freedom, eternal life. We can be sure of that prospect because Jesus, that perfect lamb, rose from his death, proving the divinity he had claimed.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ aren’t just parts of an isolated story that’s 1,982 years old. It is a story that’s been woven into history from the beginning of time. We see vestiges of it with Adam and Eve as they leave the Garden, with Cain’s anger against Abel, with Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son…… over and over the story’s been told. Here we are yet again face to face with the Fact of the Ages – the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Happy Easter.