18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (I Peter 3:18).
How do we know that Jesus actually died on the cross? Aside from what the Bible says in I Peter 3:18, and elsewhere, what evidence do we have for Jesus’ death? Or to put it another way, what are the alternative arguments for Jesus “not” dying on the cross and are they at all plausible?
First of all, there is the Swoon Theory. Second is the Stolen Body Theory. This theory argues that Christ didn’t rise from the dead but rather that His disciples stole the body and pretended to everyone that Christ had risen. This is refuted …
- By the Actions of the Chief Priests. When the chief priests heard that the tomb of Jesus was empty and His body gone, they bribed the soldiers to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body. This would protect the soldiers from punishment. However, why would the chief priest bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen Christ’s body if the disciples had indeed stolen the body of the Lord? See Matthew 28:11-15.
- The Presence of the Roman Guards. In Matthew 27:57-65 we see that the chief priests and the Pharisees came to Pilate and requested that the tomb be made secure so that the disciples couldn’t steal His body. They even had guards posted. They anticipated such a theft taking place.
- The Sealing of the Tomb. Again in Matthew 27:65- 66 we see that the utmost caution was made to ensure that the tomb couldn’t be breached. Is it possible that the disciples got pass the guards, unsealed the tomb and took the body of Jesus without being detected?
- The Fear of the Disciples. In Mark 14:50 along with Matthew 26:56 we see the disciples having fled in fear following the arrest of Jesus. With the exception of John (John 19:25-27) and maybe Peter (I Peter 2:21-25) none of the disciples were present at the crucifixion. In John 20:19 we see the disciples huddled in the upper room with the doors shut and locked for fear of the Jews. The disciples believed that as Jesus’ enemies had executed Him, they would soon be next. Is it plausible that these fearful men would seek out Jesus’ body and try to steal it?
- The Orderly Condition of the Grave Clothes. In Luke 24:1-12 along with John 20:3-7 we see the burial clothes Jesus wore lying in the tomb. The handkerchief that had been wrapped around His head was not lying with the linen clothes but folded together in a place by itself. Does it make sense that had the disciples stolen the body they would have taken the time to neatly fold the strips of Jesus’ burial linen before they left the tomb?
- The Preaching of the Gospel. If the disciples had stolen the body they would have known that the resurrection story was a lie. Why then would they preach a lie and in some cases die for a lie, knowing it was a lie? See Acts 4:8-12. While it makes sense to suffer persecution for something you believe is true, even if it is not, it makes no sense to be persecuted for something you know not to be true. The only logical explanation is that the disciples were willing to suffer and die for the gospel because they knew that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
More to come!
Soli deo Gloria!