Several theories persist even today concerning what the Bible tells us as fact, Jesus’ resurrection. This morning we will look at six such theories and immediately debunk them. These theories are presented in detail in Paul Maier’s book, In the Fullness of Time, which I referred to during Advent this past year. The main theory, from the Bible itself is that the body of Jesus was stolen. We might call this the “Stolen Body” theory. You might recall that after the resurrection the frightened guards ran to the chief priests and elders and announced to them the resurrection of Jesus to which they responded, not hallelujah, but tell everyone the body was stolen and we will cover for you.
The problem with the “Stolen Body” theory is that Jesus’ disciples did not have any overpowering motivation to steal the body, especially as we saw that they had all run away frightened at His arrest and really, were no where to be seen at His crucifixion. And besides the tomb was secure with guards. And there is the problem of timing, when would they have been able to pull off a stealing of the body.
Another theory is the “Wrong Tomb” theory. This theory suggests that the guards had the wrong tomb and so when the tomb was found empty it really never had a body anyway.
The holes in the “Wrong Tomb” theory include the fact that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary directly observed the burial so when they came to the tomb, which was empty, it was not the wrong tomb, rather it was the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been laid and now was empty because He rose.
The next theory is the “Lettuce” theory. “The “lettuce,” or “salad,” theory introduces a note of humor and nothing more. The “Lettuce” theory suggests that the gardener did it. Yet, “for the versatile gardener (who evidently transplanted bodies as well as lettuce) would have had some answering to do to the owner of the sepulcher, to say nothing of having been prevented by the guards in the first place.”
Some people espouse the “Swoon” theory. The “Swoon” theory suggests that Jesus was not really dead, but having taken some drug His body was simply in a low metabolism sleeping mode. The “Swoon” theory, though very inventive, ignores the evidence. Remember, Jesus had been beaten so that He was bleeding, to death. Jesus had been nailed to the cross so that suffocation took its toll, killing Him. His rib cage was pierced by the sword of the soldier at the cross and out came blood and water, the sign of a broken heart.
The “Psychological” or “Hallucination” theory suggests that none of the disciples, nor anyone else, truly saw Jesus, rather they were hallucinating, they were in a psychological stupper so that they only thought they saw Him. Or they had taken some herb to put them in a trance so they believed they saw Jesus alive. This theory falls short of the fact that the disciples were hardly a hallucinogenic group, and it would have had to be a group hallucination.
Finally, for our purposes this morning, there is the “Twin Brother” theory. This theory suggests that Jesus had a twin brother who suffered and died on the cross so that when Jesus later appeared, it was not the brother who was killed, but Himself. Now, certainly if Mary had given birth to twins and not to one son, this would have been reported. Also, why would a twin brother give his life and finally, what about the scars that Jesus presented?
All of these are interesting theories, but all can be explained and dismissed fairly easily. Truly, there is only one true and reasonable, as well as only one logical and factual explanation which of course is what we are celebrating today and what we celebrate every year, and truly what we celebrate each and every Sunday, Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
What does this mean for us today? I thought it would be good to look at some of these theories, because actually some of these theories continue to persist even today. Why do these theories continue to persist even to today? For the simple fact that they attempt to bypass accountability to God. Much like the theory and religion of Darwinism or Evolution was proposed so that life can be explained apart from God, so that humanity is not responsible to nor accountable to a god, so these theories persist so that we do not have to be held accountable before God, which we know will happen, whether we believe it or not.
As for these theories, we may rest assured today that just as these theories were proven false then, they continue to be false today. There has been no new evidence to prove any of these theories. As a matter of fact, when looking into the field of archeology, rather than ever disproving what God has told us in His Word, archeology time and again reaffirms and supports what God tells us in His Word. Time and again we are confirmed and reaffirmed in our commitment to believe the Word of God just as He has given it to us and just as He has spoken to us so we can believe the words for what they mean.
Thus, the evidence is certain and is interpreted rightly when it is interpreted according to Scripture. Remember, the mind and thoughts of humanity, even the will of man, has been tainted by sin. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, we as fallen humans living in a fallen world attempt to explain the world from a fallen worldview and so we often get it wrong. Instead, we have God’s Word which is faithful and true and through which God tells us what happened and also, imparts faith in our hearts to believe all that happened according to what He tells us in His Holy Word.
Therefore, we can always count on and believe God’s Word and His interpretation of the evidence. As we read in our text for this morning, God does not hide in the imagination of the hearts of men. God tells us in His Word the plan and plot of those who would seek to destroy His Church. God tells us the plot so that when we hear it we can know it for what it is a plot, a plan, a lie to lure others away. And yet, we know that we can believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
This morning, then, we rejoice in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. We rejoice again as we are reminded that it was because of us, because of you and me, because of our sins, along with that sin born in us, that sin of Adam and Eve that God had to promise to send a Savior. It was because of our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times that Jesus came to live perfectly, according to God’s command to us, to be perfect. It was because of God’s great love for us that He created us and recreated us through the waters of Holy Baptism, in order to love us. It was and is because of God’s great love for us that Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died to pay the price for our sins. It was because of love that Jesus died and yet, as we celebrate this morning and every Sunday morning, Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil.
No more needs to be done. Jesus has accomplished our eternal salvation. We do not have to do anything, as if God needs or requires anything from us. The chief doctrine which sets us Christians apart and truly which sets us Lutherans apart from all other denominations is this teaching of justification, that is that we are justified, we are made right and just in God’s eyes, by His grace, through faith in Him, faith given through the means of grace so that rather than believe we have to do something to justify ourselves or to give back to God, instead we simply are moved, again by God as the prime mover to be given to, to be given faith, to be given forgiveness, to be robed with His robes of righteousness and to be given to to respond that is to live lives of faith, to live as priests in the priesthood of all believers, to live lives as living sacrifice to the Lord. And as we live in such a way, being justified by God and being moved to live as His people, so our lives do say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. He is risen! He is risen, indeed, Hallelujah! Amen.