The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of the Lord

Acts 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said: “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

1 Corinthians 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

It’s fair to say that the Christian faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world stands or falls with the truth of Easter. St. Paul said it just as much: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

In vain indeed is our faith if the best evidence we can offer to substantiate the foundational truth of resurrection is just the empty tomb, as so many Christians are still inclined to believe. Interestingly, the theologians, who seem to disagree on almost everything, are somehow in one accord in rejecting the crude reasoning of the empty tomb theory. Objectively speaking, the empty tomb in and of itself can only be taken as an indication that Jesus’ body had disappeared. What had happened to the body gone missing? Possibilities are many. Resurrection, if it happened, can only be one of them. To insist that the body had been resurrected just because the tomb was empty is simply too rash a conclusion.

Some people discredit the empty tomb theory even further due to the fact that it was discovered by women (Mt 28:1), whose witness account was not recognized legally and culturally in ancient Israel. Surprising as it may seem, but this is exactly what makes the Easter narratives of the gospels credible. It is remarkable that the gospel authors would not shy away from presenting women as witnesses even though their lack of credibility in providing legal testimony was common knowledge. If such narratives were faked, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to use male witnesses instead? (Note 1)

One other argument in support of the truth of Easter, as presented so eloquently by Pope Benedict XVI (note 2), is that the apostolic preaching with all its boldness and passion, including what we hear from St. Peter in today’s first reading, would be unthinkable unless the witnessed event – the resurrection – was real.

Equally unthinkable is the notion that St. Paul would falsify the testimony that the resurrected Jesus “appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me” (1 Cor 15:5-8). Since most of these witnesses were still alive when this testimony was given, St. Paul took the risk of being corrected and labeled a liar if what he said publicly was not true.

Note 1: Gerald O’Collins made this argument in Interpreting Jesus, p.126.
Note 2: Jesus of Nazareth II, p. 275

Other Sunday Reflections

Spiritual Talk – Easter 何庭耀神父

This Easter (Year B), Fr. Anthony Ho explains to us the resurrection of the Lord and what this miracle means to us. Jesus’ resurrection is not simply a memory that produces emotions within us, but an opportunity for us to continue a loving relationship with Him. Fr. Ho also talks about the incorruptible bodies of some Saints, and how they point to the resurrection of body and soul.






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Edmond Lo

 
As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog: http://elodocuments.blogspot.com/