People today no longer look for an alternative historical narrative for the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth to try to disprove it. Back then a historical event demanded an explanation.
In Jesus’ day, the Jewish authorities bribed the guards who reported to them the events of the resurrection and told them to lie. They said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep (Matthew 28:13).’” So many inconsistencies accompanied this lie that virtually no serious historian today accepts it as plausible.
However, such alternative historical narratives are hardly needed for today’s skeptical world. Some say the resurrection is scientifically inexplicable. That would suffice if this world were a closed system consisting of nothing more than matter. But soon as you say there is someone (or even something) beyond created matter, you admit the possibility of the resurrection. Someone who transcends creation could at key moments of time suspend the predictable patterns we observe in the world. If this transcendent being wanted to get our attention, what better way than a resurrection?
Others discount the ressurection by looking at our current experience. They look at the pain caused by the pandemic or the unending cycle of war. They feel a little dead, weary from life’s race and say nothing good could ever come of this world. “Ressurection! Might as well promise me a unicorn,” they might say.
The Devil does not dress in pointy red garb, like in the comics. His lies often seem very plausible. When he has everyone saying, “A dead man raised from the dead, impossible!” and when he has us hearing it over and over again until we scarcely question it, he counts it a great win. That is what happens here.
Matthew says, “this [false] story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matthew 28:15).” However, lies and skepticism only reign for a time. Eventually truth wins. The false commission of spreading the lie that the disciples stole the body gave way to the great commission. While the lie spread among the majority of the Judean Jews in Jesus’ day, the ressurection message spread among all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
The world will always grab for false notions to discount the resurrection, and the devil will happily supply them to keep people from believing. Just as Jesus overcame death, so the resurrection, in the end, overcomes all lies. Next week we will look at the victory message authenticated by the resurrection.