If a man rising from the dead sounds crazy, you’re not alone. When Jesus’ closest disciples heard from some women that He rose from the dead, those disciples thought they were crazy, telling an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11). Yet if the resurrection is actually true, it changes everything. So did the church create the resurrection, or did the resurrection create the church? Without the resurrection, our faith is futile. Because of the resurrection, hope and history rhyme. What do we do with this fact of the empty tomb?
First, we must wrestle with the fact of the empty tomb (Luke 24:1–4). Jesus was crucified, dead and buried in a tomb. Now a few women simply go to anoint the body with spices and ointments, hearts broken in grief. But their grief does not prevent them from journeying. They must go to the tomb. Similarly when Peter hears about the empty tomb, he does not dismiss it, but he must journey to the tomb (24:12). We also must wrestle with the reality of the empty tomb. The empty tomb is accepted even by scholars who reject the resurrection; if it were not true, then Jesus’ body could have easily been produced to disprove the resurrection! Some, such as Bart Ehrman, claim that the tomb was empty because the body was stolen, and his disciples had hallucinations of appearances from Jesus. However if the disciples stole the body, would so many have died for a hoax? Also hallucinations are typically visual, individual and familiar, but the appearance of Jesus was physical, corporate and shocking. How do you explain the fact of the empty tomb?
Second, we must understand the significance of the empty tomb (Luke 24:5–7). The dazzling and frightening angels at the tomb point them to remember the word spoken, “that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (24:7). In the resurrection, God breaks into the brokenness of human history and death and acts. This changes everything; the resurrection creates the church. The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God in power (Rom 1:4). And we encounter the risen Jesus the same way that these first witnesses encountered him — through his Word. We understand the empty tomb not simply as an individual rising to continue his life but the Son of Man rising to rule and reign in fulfillment of the promise (cf. Dan 7:13–14).
Finally, we must proclaim the empty tomb (Luke 24:8–12). As soon as these first witnesses realize that Jesus has risen, they immediately tell these things to others. Many do not believe, but Peter only goes to see and marvels at what he has seen. Similarly when we journey to the empty tomb and understand it, we cannot help but proclaim it. We must proclaim the empty tomb.
If the church created the resurrection, then we are believing a sham and should not waste our time. Without Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is futile (1 Cor 15:14). If the resurrection created the church, then everything changes.