3 Possibilities For An Empty Tomb

3 possibilitiesLast week we explored the validity of the evidence for the accuracy of the biblical accounts for the life of Jesus (you can check that out here). You might be one who says, “Okay, I think Jesus was a good Man, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to believe that anyone could be raised from the dead after three days.” I think that’s a reasonable thing to explore…

If the tomb where Jesus was placed is really empty, then there are only three possibilities for us to consider.

(1) Jesus didn’t really die.

  • It’s hard to imagine anyone could go through the intense torture Jesus did prior to His crucifixion unscathed.
  • The crucifixion process itself is one of the most gruesome forms of execution man has ever invented.
  • As a result, forensic science shows that Jesus most likely died of a heart attack. The mention in John 19:34 of the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s body is an indication of the cardiac distress His body experienced.
  • Men who were followers of Jesus handled His dead body, and undoubtedly would have checked for any signs life (John 19:38-40).
  • A Roman centurion reported to the Roman governor Pilate that Jesus had in fact died (Mark 15:43-45).
  • Extra-biblical historians, many of whom were unfriendly to Jews and Christians, reported Christ’s death as an historical fact.

(2) Jesus didn’t really rise.

  • Some have claimed that Christ’s followers “saw” Jesus only in a grief-induced hallucination. The problem is, Jesus appeared to individuals, small groups, and large groups multiple times and in multiple settings over the course of 40 days (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
  • At least one of Christ’s closest followers said he wouldn’t be convinced by verbal testimony alone, but needed to touch Christ’s body for Himself (John 20:24-28).
  • The disciples were afraid and lacked any military training that would have allowed them to get past the trained soldiers guarding the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15).

(3) Jesus really did die on a Cross and was raised back to life.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes rightly said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Real-life cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace explains how detectives use abductive reasoning to examine all of the evidence and infer to the most reasonable explanation from that. As a result, Detective Wallace says about this third explanation:

“The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).” —J. Warner Wallace, Alive

The truth is Jesus loved you so much that He had to die for you. He had to pay the penalty for your sins. And God loved His Son so much, that He raised Him back to life. Jesus can live in you now, and you can live with Him forever, if you will simply believe what He did for you on Calvary.

Jesus left an empty tomb behind to show how powerful His love and life is!

Good Friday—It Is Finished

Your Sorrow Will Turn To JoyThis is from a chapter in Your Sorrow Will Turn To Joy, and is probably one of the best depictions of Good Friday I have read. Jon Bloom writes—

It is Friday, April 3, A.D. 33. It is the darkest day in human history, though most humans have no clue of this. In Rome, Tiberius attends to the demanding business of the empire. Throughout the inhabited world, babies are born, people eat and drink, marry and are given in marriage, barter in marketplaces, sail merchant ships, and fight battles. Children play, old women gossip, young men lust, and people die. 

But today, one death, one brutal, gruesome death, the worst and best of all human deaths, will leave upon the canvas of human history the darkest brushstroke. In Jerusalem, God the Son, the Creator of all that is (John 1:3), will be executed. 

The Garden 

The Jewish day dawns with night, and never has it been more fitting, since today the hour has come and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). Jesus is in Gethsemane, where He has prayed with loud cries and tears, being heard by His Father (Heb. 5:7) whose will will be done. Jesus hears noises and looks up. Torches and hushed voices signal the arrest party’s arrival. 

Jesus wakes His sleepy friends who are jarred alert at the sight of their brother, Judas, betraying his Rabbi with a kiss. Soldiers and servants encircle Jesus. Peter, flushed with anger, pulls out his sword and lunges at those nearest Jesus. Malchus flinches, but not enough. Blinding pain and blood surge where his ear had been. Voices speak, but Malchus only hears the screaming wound, which he’s grabbed with both hands. He feels a hand touch his hands and the pain vanishes. Under his hands is an ear. Stunned, he looks at Jesus, already being led away. Disciples are scattering. Malchus looks down at his bloody hands. 

The Sanhedrin 

Jesus is led brusquely into the house of Annas, a former High Priest, who questions Him about His teaching. Jesus knows this informal interrogation is meant to catch Him disoriented and unguarded. He is neither, and gives this manipulative leader nothing. Rather, He refers Annas to his hearers and is struck with irony by a Jewish officer for showing disrespect. Frustrated, Annas sends Jesus on to his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current High Priest. 

At Caiaphas’s house the trial gets underway quickly. Morning will come fast. The Council needs a damning verdict by daybreak. The examination proceeds as bleary-eyed Sanhedrin members continue to file in. 

The trial has been assembled hastily and witnesses haven’t been screened well. Testimonies don’t line up. Council members look disconcerted. Jesus is silent as a lamb. Irritated and impatient, Caiaphas cuts to the quick: “I adjure You by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63). The hour has come. Charged in the name of His Father to answer, Jesus speaks the words that seal the doom for which He had come to endure (John 12:27): “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). 

In a moment of law-breaking (Lev. 21:10) politically religious theater, Caiaphas tears his robes in feigned outrage and thinly concealed relief over Jesus’s blasphemy. He declares the trial’s end with, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from His own lips” (Luke 22:71). 

As the sun breaks over Jerusalem’s eastern ridge, Judas swings from his own belt, Peter writhes in the grief of his failure, and Jesus’s face is streaked with dried blood and saliva from the pre-dawn sport of the temple police. The Council’s verdict: guilty of blasphemy. Their sentence: death. But it’s a sentence they cannot carry out. Rome refuses to delegate capital punishment. 

The Governor 

Pilate’s mood, already sour over the Sanhedrin’s sudden insistent intrusion so early in the morning, worsens as he grasps the situation. They want him to execute a Galilean “prophet.” His seasoned instincts tell him something isn’t right. He questions Jesus and then tells the Council, “I find no guilt in this Man” (Luke 23:4). 

A game of political chess ensues between Pilate and the Sanhedrin, neither realizing that they are pawns, not kings. Pilate makes a move. As a Galilean, Jesus falls under Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction. Let Herod judge. Herod initially receives Jesus happily, hoping to see a miracle. But Jesus refuses to entertain or even respond. Antipas, disappointed, blocks the move by returning Jesus to Pilate. 

Pilate makes another move. He offers to release Jesus as this year’s annual Passover pardoned prisoner. The Council blocks the move. “Not this man, but Barabbas!” they cry (John 18:40). Pilate is astounded. The Sanhedrin prefers a thief and murderer to this peasant prophet? 

Pilate tries another move. He has Jesus severely flogged and humiliated, hoping to curb the Council’s blood thirst. Again the move is blocked when the Council insists that Jesus must be crucified because “He has made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Check. Pilate’s fear grows. Jesus’s divine claim could threaten Rome. Worse, it could be true. Roman deities supposedly could take on human form. His further questioning of Jesus unnerves him. 

One last move. Pilate tries to persuade the Sanhedrin to release Jesus. One last block and trap. “If you release this Man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12). The Council has Pilate where they want him: cornered. Checkmate. 

And the triune God has the Council, Pilate, and satan where He wants them. They would have no authority over the Son at all unless it had been given them from above (John 19:11). Fallen Jews, Gentiles, and spiritual powers unwittingly collaborate in executing the only innocent death that could possibly grant the guilty life. Checkmate. 

The Cross 

Morning wanes as Jesus stumbles out of the Praetorium, horribly beaten and bleeding profusely. The Roman soldiers had been brutal in their creative cruelty. Thorns have ripped Jesus’s scalp and His back is one grotesque, oozing wound. Golgotha is barely a third of a mile through the Garden Gate, but Jesus has no strength to manage the forty-pound crossbar. Simon of Cyrene is drafted from the crowd. 

Twenty-five minutes later, Jesus is hanging in sheer agony on one of the cruelest instruments of torture ever devised. Nails have been driven through His wrists (which we only know about because of the doubt Thomas will express in a couple days—see John 20:25). A sign above Jesus declares in Greek, Latin, and Aramaic who He is: the King of the Jews. 

The King is flanked on either side by thieves and around Him are gawkers and mockers. “Let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” some yell (Luke 23:35). One dying thief even joins in the derision. They do not understand that if the King saves Himself, their only hope for salvation is lost. Jesus asks His Father to forgive them. The other crucified thief sees a Messiah in the mutilated man beside him, and he asks the Messiah to remember him. Jesus’s prayer is beginning to be answered. Hundreds of millions will follow. 

It is mid-afternoon now and the eerie darkness that has fallen has everyone on edge. But for Jesus, the darkness is a horror He has never known. This, more than the nails and thorns and lashings, is what made Him sweat blood in the garden. The Father’s wrath is hitting Him in full force. He is in that moment no longer the Blessed, but the Cursed (Gal. 3:13). He has become sin (2 Cor. 5:21). In terrifying isolation, cut off from His Father and all humans, He screams, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” Aramaic for “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). No greater love (John 15:13), humility (Phil. 2:8), or obedience (Heb. 5:8) has ever or will ever be displayed. 

Shortly after 3:00 P.M., Jesus whispers hoarsely for a drink. In love, He has drained the cup of His Father’s wrath to the dregs. He has born our full curse. There is no debt left to pay and He has nothing left to give. The wine moistens His mouth just enough to say one final word: “It is finished” (John 19:30). And God the Son dies. 

It is the worst and best of all human deaths. For on this tree He bears our sins in His body (1 Pet. 2:24), “the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). And now it is finished.

The Emblem Of Suffering And Shame

Tomorrow we celebrate Good Friday—the day Jesus died a horrific death on Calvary for my sins and your sins. The Apostle Paul said Christ’s crucifixion was a stumbling block to many, because it was unimaginable that anyone—especially the perfect Son of God—could be subject to the torturous death reserved for the worst of offenders. But when Jesus became sin for us, that’s just what He was in that moment: the worst of offenders in Holy God’s eyes.

Christ on the Cross“In the ancient world crucifixion was seen as a particularly disgraceful and grievous form of execution. Assyrian battle reliefs depict a precursor to crucifixion—impaling victims on poles outside the walls of conquered cities. The Persians made wide spread use of crucifixion, although sometimes the crucifixion took place only after the victim had been executed by other means (Herodotus, Histories, 3.125.2-3). There are also reports that crucifixion was used by peoples as varied as the Assyrians, Scythians, Celts, Germans, Britons and inhabitants of India, although the reliability of some of these accounts is questionable. Common to most of these cultures was the perspective that crucifixion was a form of execution reserved for the worst offenders, as well as for slaves.

“The practice of crucifixion became widespread under Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). It became the common form of execution for traitors, defeated armies and rebellious slaves. Later, under the Roman Empire, only non-citizens, lower-class Romans and violent offenders could be crucified. The only possible exceptions were in cases of high treason or desertion during wartime. Slaves were particularly vulnerable to the imposition of crucifixion. Latin literature reflects the dread slaves felt at the prospect of this fate. It was officially accepted as the most painful and disgraceful form of capital punishment, more so than decapitation, being thrown to wild animals or even being burned alive. For these reasons this heinous penalty was often imposed upon foreigners who were seen as threats to Roman rule.

“There are also accounts of crucifixion being practiced among Jews. Josephus wrote that the Sadducees and high priest Alexander Janneus (in the office from 103 to 76 B.C.) committed the following atrocity against his enemies, the Pharisees: ‘While dining in a conspicuous place with his concubines, he commanded that about 800 of them be crucified, and while they were still alive before their eyes he had the throats of their children and wives cut’ (Josephus, Antiquities, 13.14.2).

“Victims were often scourged or otherwise tortured prior to crucifixion. Crucifixions were carried out on either a single vertical stake or on a vertical stake with a crossbeam near or on its top. Sometimes blocks were attached to the stake as a seat, footrest or both. Depending upon the presence of these blocks, the victim might linger, alive, for up to three days. The blocks allowed a victim to rest some of his weight, increasing the chance of breathing and proper circulation. Without the blocks a victims weight would rest totally upon his arms, which were attached to the crosspiece by ropes, nails or both. This would prohibit breathing and circulation and lead to both brain and heart failure. To end the torture, a victim’s legs could be broken, after which death would quickly follow. Oftentimes the charge against the guilty party would be written out and nailed to the cross above his head. As a deterrent to would-be rebels and criminals, crucifixions were usually carried out in highly visible locations.

“During Jesus’ lifetime crucifixion was used by the Romans to exercise and gruesomely display their authority over others. This torturous execution was viewed by the Jews as a cursed form of death. Deuteronomy 21:23 states that ‘anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.’ Documents discovered at Qumran reveal that many Jews of Jesus’ time applied this text to Roman crucifixion. This perspective of crucifixion demonstrates why the apostle Paul wrote that the Cross of Christ was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). Who would have imagined that the Holy One of God would voluntarily take upon Himself the curse that should have been ours? This emblem of shame has thus become the symbol of our salvation.” —Archaeological Study Bible, “Crucifixion” (page 1757)

Are You Sickened Enough Yet?

MindAre you sickened enough yet by what Planned Parenthood is doing? How much more do you need to see before you will speak out?

Our politicians aren’t going to do anything unless they feel it’s “politically beneficial.” That is, if enough people call and email to tell them to defund Planned Parenthood—enough calls and emails to make them realize that re-election is at stake—then perhaps they will do the right thing.

This is the most appalling video from the Center For Medical Progress yet. I dare you to watch every stomach-churning minute of this video…

It’s clear that the mainstream media isn’t going to cover this. Mainly because they are getting awards from Planned Parenthood for not covering their barbaric, murderous practices.

But the Students For Life are doing something that can get noticed. If enough of us will share the #callhimemmett hashtag, we can make this a trending topic … we can push this to the forefront of every social media outlet.

Check this out—

Will you join me?

CallHimEmmett#callhimemmett

The Crushing Weight Of Sin

CrossAs we remember Christ’s awful and glorious work on Calvary this Good Friday, I am reminded of these sobering words from a Charles Spurgeon sermon—

“See Him; like a cart pressed down with sheaves He goes through the streets of Jerusalem. Well may you weep, daughters of Jerusalem, though He bids you dry your tears; they hoot Him as He walks along bowed beneath the load of His own Cross which was the emblem of your sin and mine. They have brought Him to Golgotha. They throw Him on His back, they stretch out His hands and His feet. The accursed iron penetrates the tenderest part of His body, where most the nerves do congregate. They lift up the Cross. O bleeding Savior, Thy time of woe has come! They dash it into the socket with rough hands; the nails are tearing through His hands and feet. He hangs in extremity, for God has forsaken Him; His enemies persecute and take Him, for there is none to deliver Him. They mock His nakedness; they point at His agonies. They look and stare upon Him with ribald jests; they insult His griefs, and make puns upon His prayers. He is now indeed a worm and no man, crushed till you can think scarcely that there is divinity within. The fever gets hold upon Him. His tongue is dried up like a potsherd, and He cries, ‘I thirst!’ Vinegar is all they yield Him; the sun refuses to shine, and the thick midnight darkness of that awful mid-day is a fitting emblem of the tenfold midnight of His soul. Out of that thick horror He cries ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ Then, indeed, was He pressed down! O there was never sorrow like unto His sorrow. All human griefs found a reservoir in His heart, and all the punishment of human guilt spent itself upon His body and His soul. O shall sin ever be a trifle to us? Shall I ever laugh at that which made Him groan?”

May I never treat my sin which took Christ to the Cross as a trifling, laughing, inconsequential matter. May I always strive to live holy, and to live eternally grateful for the price Jesus paid for my sin!

Links & Quotes

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Some interesting reading (and watching) from today:

The Center for Reproductive Rights is trying to force the U.N. to use anti-torture treaties to silence the Church, arguing that the pro-life message “tortures women”! Huh? Check out this post—UN To Criminalize The Pro-Life Movement?—and sign the ACLJ petition to stop this.

[VIDEO] Nick Vujicic and John Maxwell talk about making today bigger than yesterday.

A word to pastors: “The prophet must hear the message clearly and deliver it faithfully, and that is indeed a grave responsibility; but it is to God alone, not to men.” —A.W. Tozer

“If I am not today all that I hope to be, yet I see Jesus, and that assures me that I shall one day be like Him.” —Charles Spurgeon

A good reminder about Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail in this post: When Waiting Doesn’t Work.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote that the answer to objectionable speech ’is more speech, not enforced silence.’ This seems a most reasonable proposition. If you are offended by someone’s position, you can counter it with your own arguments and expose their error for the world to see and reject. It is a concept that has served our Republic well in the fight for liberty and freedom.” Read more in We Need More First Amendment Freedom.

The so-called global warming “science” is becoming more and more philosophy and conjecture. The title of the article in the esteemed Nature is Key West Antarctic Glaciers Retreating Unstoppably, but the text of the article is very un-scientific and vague. Please read the article for yourself and note phrases like these (emphasis added):

  • Radar observations suggest
  • …would raise sea levels by 1.2 meters if they melted
  • …glaciers are likely to disappear
  • …melting over the next century will probably cause… 
  • And my favorite: “Global sea levels are currently rising about 3 millimetres per year. Most of that comes from the thermal expansion of the warming oceans; some also comes from melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.” To which I ask: how do we know this isn’t a part of the normal warming and cooling cycle? 

6 Quotes From “The Global War On Christians”

The Global War On ChristiansYesterday I shared some eye-opening statistics from The Global War On Christians by Jeff L. Allen, Jr. Below are some of the quotes which especially stood out to me. If you want to read my full review of this book, please click here.

“Spectacular outbreaks of violence are often produced by less intense incidents, such as believers being harassed on the streets, slurred in the media, shunned in the workplace, and hassled as they gather to worship. The usual cycle is for complaints to be made about these incidents, which are then ignored or dismissed. That failure to act usually serves to emboldened the perpetrators, who then may become more likely to move on to even more lethal assaults, in effect testing the limits of official tolerance.”

“The bottom line is that the global war on Christians will never be won as long as the myth persists that nobody’s really responsible for it.”

“Perpetuating the idea that Islam is by far the primary threat facing Christians in the early twenty-first century also stokes the idea of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between the two faiths, adding fuel to the fire of those who long for a new holy war. That doesn’t do justice to the complex reality of the situation, as there are examples of both conflict and coexistence, and for every virulent and dangerous current in the Islamic world there are also movements and individuals devoted to peace.” 

“Politically correct silence does no one any good, and arguably insults the dignity of those who run risks to life and limb on a daily basis to keep the faith alive.”

“Politics distorts perceptions of the global war on Christians in another sense. Ideological bias tempts observers in the West to see only part of the picture. Those on the political left may celebrate martyrs to corporate greed or to right-wing the police states, but fear to speak out about the suffering of Christians behind the lines of the Islamic world. Conservatives may be reluctant to condemn the situation facing Christians in the state of Israel or in regimes that are presently in fashion on the right has allies in the ‘war on terror.’ Either way, the result is a reductive reasoning of the true score of anti-Christian persecution, and a double standard when it comes to engaging its protagonists. If we want to see the global war on Christians clearly, we have to stop looking at it through the funhouse mirror of secular politics.”

“Historically, waves of persecution have fueled major advances for Christianity. … Today, it’s no accident that zones where persecution of Christians is the most intense… are also the places where Christianity is growing the most dramatically.”

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