I am told that Thomas Jefferson, the father of American Democracy, clipped passages from the NT relating to the life and morals of Jesus Christ. He then pasted them in a blank notebook, which was printed after his death, and is known as The Jefferson Bible.” In his Bible the last verse reads “…and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed” Matt.27:60. He did not believe in the resurrection of Christ. Yet, my Bible continues on past that verse, and reads that after Jesus died, He was buried, then arose the third day, i.e., the first day of the week. I believe in the resurrection. It is called “the miracle” of the Bible. If the resurrection is true, then all the other miracles are possible. If it is not true, then all the other miracles don’t matter. As has been previously stated, the Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Without it the cross has no meaning, the Christian faith is worthless 1Cor.15:12-19, Jesus is not the Son of God Rom.1:4, His death redeemed nothing Eph.1:7, there is no judgment to come and we are totally without hope. But if He is raised than all His claims are vindicated, His work was/is a success and He is Lord of all. Yes, truly Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, and the empty tomb stands today as a monument to the fact. The “first day of the week,” “in three days” “after three days,” all refer to the same day. Read Lk.24:1, 6-8, 13, 21.
The empty tomb. By itself the empty tomb does not prove the resurrection, for if the body had been found the resurrection would have disproved. But them empty tomb plays a necessary part in the resurrection. Look at the tomb. A new tomb Lk.23:53; Jn.19:41, thus there would have been no previous body or bones of former dead for one to see or mistake for the body of Jesus. The tomb was cut in solid rock Matt.27:60; Mk.15:46, thus no other entrance by which Jesus could have escaped. The tomb is sealed with a great stone Matt.27:62-66; Mk.16:4. If three women couldn’t roll the stone away Mk.16:3, how could Jesus in a weakened condition do so? On the first day of the week it was empty? What other explanation than that He is risen. After they came to the tomb and examined it they could see the linen grave clothes and handkerchief (face cloth) all folded neatly in another place, but no body.
Let’s examine what took place after Jesus died. From Matt.27:57-66 we learn that after Jesus was taken down from the cross His body was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and a great stone was rolled against the door and Joseph departed. The next day, probably after sundown when a new day begins for the Jew. This would be the weekly Sabbath. The Jewish leaders in their desperate attempts to eliminate any possibility of Jesus’ body being removed from the tomb, go to Pilate, seeking to protect their evil work. They were willing to violate one of their most sacred laws to do so. They may not have believed He would rise again (they considered Him a deceiver, pretender, imposter) but somehow remembered His prediction that the sign of Jonah would be proof of His deity Matt.12:30; 16:4 that He would rise again the third day Matt.16:21; 17:23; 20:19. So, they ask for a guard to be placed at the tomb to keep His disciples from perpetuating a hoax. They didn’t know how fearful, distraught and demoralized the disciples really were. They were in no mood to perpetuate such a hoax Mk.16:11-14; Jn.20:19. Pilate grants their request and the tomb was secured, the stone was sealed and a guard set. The guard was probably Roman soldiers, who would have been in danger of losing their lives if what they guarded escaped Acts 12:19; 16:27. So the tomb was now under maximum security.
By the action of the Jewish council in trying to prevent Jesus’ resurrection, they produce one the strongest pieces of evidence for the resurrection. When Christ arose on the first day of the week, as promised, their securing of the tomb removed any doubt that the disciples could have stolen the body away. After the resurrection the soldiers became like dead men. They finally recover and some of them go into the city and report to the chief priests and elders. The council gives large sums of money to the soldiers to perpetuate a lie. The very ones concerned with a lie being told, are the same ones who circulate a lie. Questions: Why weren’t the rulers angry at the guards? If the guards had been asleep how could they have known who could have done what? What about the earthquake and the breaking of the seal, the noise of the moving of a stone weighing probably 5 or 6 hundred pounds, people going in to steal the body. Whether the leaders believed the guards or not, they did not want the people to believe. Think to what lengths these men have gone to put Jesus to death. They had used treachery to hold Him, illegality to try Him, slander to charge Him before Pilate and now bribery to silence the truth about Him. All the evil mechanisms devised by man cannot in the end prevail against the truth. A Roman proverb says, Great is the truth and it will prevail. The greatness and goodness of God is greater than the plots of wickedness.
When the three women Mk.16:1 came to the tomb to anoint Jesus they found the stone moved away, the tomb empty and an angel sitting on the right side. Who moved the stone? It was a large stone, probably 5-6 hundred pounds. The usual manner was that a groove was formed in front of the tomb and the stone rolled down into the groove to sit over the mouth of the tomb. Certainly it was large enough that 3 women couldn’t move it. Now on the first day it was “rolled back” Matt.28:2; “rolled away” Mk.16:4; Lk.24:2. Jn.20:1 says it was “taken away.” The word used in John means lifted up, moved to another place. Cf.Matt.21:21; 22:13; Jn.2:16. Putting these thoughts together we learn that the stone was rolled back, up out of the groove and lifted up and moved to another place where the angel sat on it. Who moved the stone? Man sure didn’t. It was the angel Matt.28:2. Yes, the tomb was empty on the first day of the week, and it remains empty even until this day. Jesus Christ is risen! He is alive. He is our Lord.