The Empty Tomb: Christ Has Risen!

The Empty Tomb: Christ Has Risen!

There is a legal doctrine, “res ipsa loquitur,” a Latin phrase which literally means, “the thing speaks for itself.” It is used in torts and damages cases, especially in common carriers or motor vehicle accidents, where the negligence of the defendant is inferred from the nature of the accident suffered by the plaintiff. The latter has only to prove that the defendant has the duty towards the plaintiff to act reasonably and with the required quantum of diligence and there is a breach of this duty on the part of the defendant. The damage and the cause thereof are presumed from the state of “things which speak for themselves.”

The empty tomb of Christ is like a piece of evidence to make a case for His resurrection. The Jewish authorities at the time of Jesus were suspicious that the disciples of Christ would steal the dead body of Jesus from the tomb and proclaim later that their Lord and Teacher had risen. To assuage themselves and to quell any attempt that the disciples might do, the Jewish authorities asked Pilate to have the tomb guarded. “So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.” (Mt. 27:66) The guards kept watch until dawn, until there was a great earthquake for an angel of the Lord, whose appearance was like lightning and whose clothing was white as snow, descended from heaven, rolled back the stone and sat upon it. The guards who saw this were shaken with fear and became like dead men. The angel said to Mary Magdalene and to another Mary who was with her, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay . Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Mt 28:2-7) The women did as they were told. Along the way, they met Jesus Who greeted them. The women approached, embraced His feet and did Him homage. (Cf. Mt 28:8-9)

The guards reported what they saw to the Jewish authorities. To distort the truth, the Jewish leaders fabricated a lie that the disciples stole the dead body of Jesus and instructed the guards to tell just that when questioned. The Jewish authorities would watch their backs, they assured them, and would keep them out of trouble with Pilate. It was bad enough that Pilate had no lawyer to cross examine the guards for their lie. Or would Pilate have even bothered to check the veracity of the guards’ statements? Up to the present, this lie was perpetuated exactly as instructed.

Jesus met with His disciples and appeared to them several times for forty days before His ascension to heaven. Thus, we have the evidence of the Empty Tomb, the Angel as personally seen by the guards, the two women, and the apostles as proof of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus knew that from the point of view of the Jewish leaders, the evidence so far and the witnesses for His resurrection could be perceived as biased, as coming from His ranks. He needed a disinterested witness to prove definitively His resurrection.

Jesus not only chose a disinterested witness for this purpose. He chose the bitterest mortal enemy of Himself and the early Christian Church, Saul from Tarsus, the one who supervised and approved of Stephen’s murder. A zealous Jew with a Roman citizenship, he vowed to the One God of Israel that he would stamp out these “bandits of the false way” and eradicate the early Christian Church from the face of Israel to the utmost of his abilities. The Bible described him, thus: “Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.” (Acts 9:1-2)

Then the unexpected happened. Little did Saul know that he, the archenemy of Christ and His Church, would be Christ’s champion Apostle for the Gentiles, and would proclaim to all Israel and to all the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He had indeed risen. While he was on his journey going to Damascus, a light so strong and brilliant that it blinded his eyes, flashed from the sky around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me.” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him heard the voice but could see no one. Saul’s eyes were blinded and for three days, he was unable to see. He neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:3-9)

Saul’s world and everything he believed in crumbled. He believed in Judaism and the only One God of Israel. He did not believe in any Son of God. And he neither believed that Christ was the true Son of God, the Messiah, the One who was foretold by the Prophets. But he could not counter the solid evidence he experienced. Jesus was a Heavenly Being he encountered. Thus, he addressed Him, “Lord.” And it was Jesus Christ Whom he was persecuting Who showed Himself along the road to Damascus. Being a truthful Jewish pharisee, a servant of God dedicated to truth, he could not pervert the truth like the other Jewish authorities did. It was evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God, and He has indeed risen from death.

Thus, Saul, under his new name, “Paul,” boldly proclaimed: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” (1 Cor 15:1-11)

Paul said further, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Cor 15:14)

Jesus was not only a great Physician. He was also a brilliant Lawyer!


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