When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
(Matthew 27:57-61 ESV)
God is omniscient. He sees and knows everything that is going on on earth [Hebrews 4:13]. Even more, He knows everything that is in each of our hearts [1 Samuel 16:7]. He also knows what will happen, and what people will think, in the future [Isaiah 46:9-10].
God had predicted in the Old Testament that the coming Messiah (Jesus) would be killed and buried and would come back to life three days later [Psalm 40:1-3]. But He also knew that there would be doubters who would raise alternate theories to substantiate their unbelief. Therefore, God providentially arranged events such that those theories could be easily debunked.
One such theory – the “Swoon Theory” – postulates that Jesus didn’t die on the cross at all. Instead it contends He passed out and people thought He was dead. He then “woke up” in the tomb. This theory, which is prevalent among Muslims, has numerous holes in it not the least of which is it fails to explain how a man who was beaten to within inches of his life and was too weak to carry his own cross could survive not only 6 hours of tortuous crucifixion but also being in an airless tomb for three days with no food or water and yet have enough strength to move the stone door of the tomb – which easily weighed over a ton – and overpower armed Roman guards.
The fact is Jesus did die. And God not only made sure Jesus died, He made sure there were plenty of witnesses and facts to attest to it as well.
As we learned the other day, the Roman centurion, his men, and many women at the cross knew Jesus was dead. Moreover, Jesus’ body was personally handled by the highly respected Joseph of Arimathea who wrapped the body in a clean linen shroud and laid it in the tomb. Jesus was dead and there are dozens of people who could attest to that fact, including Jesus’ archenemies who had sentenced Him to death [Matthew 27:53].
Notice that Jesus was placed in a new tomb – one that had never held a body before. This left no doubt that it was Jesus – and not some other person – who escaped the tomb, as some espouse.
Notice also that Matthew (and the other gospel writers) names names; he doesn’t cite anonymous sources. Matthew mentions the people involved and describes their precise actions. Anyone who wanted to know whether Matthew was telling the truth simply had to go to these people and verify the events. If the gospel writers had made up facts, their stories could have been, and would have been, easily exposed as lies and their writings would never have survived the passing millennia.
Thousands of years before you or I were conceived God knew that people would doubt. He knew we would come up with alternate explanations for the death of Jesus. But God loves us too much to allow that to be a possibility. He does not want us to be deceived. He wants us to believe so we can be saved [1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9].
So He directed the gospel writers, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to include these seemingly mundane and unimportant details. But actually, it is the inclusion of these details that removes any and all reasonable doubt.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.