John's Gospel -a new look: The evidence of the open tomb.
Who moved the stone and what happened to the body?
How many of the great prophets can make the claim to be eternal?
Many prophets have taught great truths over the centuries and some even claimed to bring messages from God. Many people have followed these teachings in times past and continue to do so today. Much that is taught is of great value and has helped people to live better lives.
Jesus came into the world with a different and unique claim and backed it up with evidence that impressed the people of his time and should do the same for us today. From his lowly birth in a stable in Bethlehem, to his crucifixion on Golgotha, those who followed him and even his enemies realized that this was not just another prophet with great teachings. The miracles that he performed were evidence of his claim to be the Son of God (John 20:30/31). He promised to bring a new life both now and in eternity (John 14:1-3).
After he faced a mock trial and was put to death on Calvary, that should have been the end of Jesus of Nazareth; a good man, a great teacher and a worker of miracles. His teachings would have lived on in the record of those who wrote them down and many people would have been influenced by them in the ages to come. He would have been another great prophet and perhaps even the greatest of them all.
When the end was in fact the beginning.
When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, according to the custom of that day, to honor Jesus, she discovered an empty tomb (John 20:1). Her first thought was that someone had stolen the body and so she duly reported this to the other disciples who then rushed to the tomb. In John 29:9, John adds a footnote to the story saying, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” (N.I.V) That understanding was to come fully in the next days and weeks.
The empty tomb is the strongest and final evidence that Jesus was not just another prophet with great teachings and who had lived a holy life. In John 14:1-3 the writer records that Jesus had explained to his disciples that he was to return to his Father to prepare a place for them. At that time they had not understood what he was saying, as can be seen in the question of the doubting Thomas (John14: 4). That confusion was not his alone, but also that of the other disciples as well, and it is the confusion of many today.
Fundamental to the Christian faith is what happened after Jesus was put to death. The empty tomb and what happened to Jesus is an ongoing question that must be answered by every individual who is searching for true meaning in life, here on earth and for eternity. In his sermon on the first day of Pentecost after the death of Jesus, Peter makes this important point (Acts 2:29-36). He explains that others died and their burial places are known, but what sets Jesus apart is the fact that his tomb was empty and that he ascended into heaven. This is exactly what Jesus told his followers would happen and became an important fact in their teaching.
He arose from the dead and so ushered in the concept of life after death.
Today when Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, they come together to remember a Savior who died on the cross but who also rose from the dead. Herein lies the victory! The Apostle Paul in writing to the church in Corinth argues that the victory over death has been won by Jesus and so we can enjoy that promise also (1 Corinthians 15:57).
The empty tomb remains as a reminder that we worship a living God who sent his Son to save us from the results of sin that is separation from God eternally (Isaiah 59:2).
The invitation comes again from Jesus in John 3:5-7 as he proclaims a spiritual truth that applied to Nicodemus in that time and to us today, that no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless a person is born “of water and the Spirit.” Peter brings that message into the present age with his statement and invitation as recorded by Luke in Acts 2:38; “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The question of the empty tomb and who Jesus was is one that every person has to investigate for themselves and then answer. It has huge implications for life today and also in the eternal realm and so must not be taken lightly. Fortunately the explanation about Jesus was recorded in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament by individuals who were there and witnessed it: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked at and our hands touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).
They were even prepared to die for their belief. This fact needs to be considered carefully and prayerfully. The evidence of the empty tomb requires that!