At the beginning of his twenty-eighth chapter, Matthew records the events of Resurrection morning when “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (v.28:1) went to see the tomb. The Bible says there was an earthquake and an Angel of the Lord came to roll back the stone at the opening of the tomb. The Roman guards who were charged with guarding the tomb were terrified and fainted, or “became like dead men.” (v.28:4) This is when the Angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (v.28:5-7)
What strikes me is something I read in a footnote of this passage. I honestly don’t think I ever thought about: The stone was not rolled away, so Jesus could get out. The stone was rolled away, so others could get in and see that Jesus was not there. I just thought that the Angel rolled it back, Jesus gave a nod and a fist-bump as he strolled out. Jesus just defeated death, did I think he couldn’t roll a heavy stone?
This whole story, the whole of Christianity, hinges on one thing, and that is the empty tomb. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all of this is foolishness. But where is the body? If the Religious and political leaders wanted to make sure that this movement was quenched and dispersed, wouldn’t they want nothing more than to produce Jesus’s body? The Roman attachment stationed at the tomb was charged with guarding the tomb with their lives. The Roman government had a zero-tolerance policy for abandonment of post or failure of mission.
It seems clear to me that if the Resurrection was a hoax, Christianity as a whole would not exist. Surely the message of the Gospel would not have spread from the backwoods town of Galilee around the world and back again. The burden of proof fell on those who denied Christ’s deity. The tomb was empty.
Death has been defeated.