The Misplaced Body

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Easter

“They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” (John 20:13–16)

Yesterday we considered the theory that the disciples stole Jesus’s body from the tomb, and saw that it doesn’t really hold water. Today we look at a variation of that theory: the disciples went to the wrong tomb. There are variations of the theory, but the heart of them all is the same. Jesus did not rise, but his body was a different tomb. It was a simple mistake.

Here we run into problems, since the burial of Jesus was not without witnesses. In Matthew 27:61 we read: “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb”. There is also the issue of the Temple Guard. This body of soldiers was placed at the tomb on Good Friday with the express commandments to guard Jesus’s body. For the misplaced body theory to be credible, we have to believe that the two Marys both forgot where their beloved Jesus was buried, and that the Temple Guard managed to guard the wrong tomb. Unlikely.

We also have the same issue surrounding what happened to the disciples after the empty tomb was discovered. Why did they not simply believe that the body had been taken? Why did they endanger themselves by travelling around Jerusalem and then the Roman empire proclaiming Jesus had been raised from the dead? How did Jesus’s skeptical family come to believe in the resurrection? How do we account for the passage quoted above?

No, the misplaced body theory does not work.

The Stolen Body

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:11–14) - There was a guard of Roman soldiers placed at the tomb and the tomb itself was sealed by a large stone. It is not credible to believe that the disciples either crept past the guard and rolled back the stone without being noticed, or that they could have overpowered the guard.

Palm Sunday

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) - As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd see the wrong sort of king. They are concerned with the kingdom of David and he with the kingdom of God. How often we limit our horizons to the physical! How saturated out consumer culture is with ‘stuff’! The joy of the Christian is to have his or her gaze fixed on a far horizon, and to have a sure destination. Don’t share in the mistake of the Jerusalem crowd. Let the kingdom of God be your goal, and you will not be disappointed.

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