I wonder who is your favourite detective? Maybe its Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse or someone else? Well this morning I want us all to be detectives, as we investigate “The Mystery of the Empty Tomb”!
Can anyone tell me the name of Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick? Who helps Sherlock solve his cases? [Dr. Watson]. Our helper today is another doctor, a man called Dr. Luke. Dr Luke has gathered together all the facts surrounding the Mystery of the Empty tomb, and written them down for us in a book. The book is called “The Gospel according to Luke”, and our Bible reading was from chapter 24 Luke’s Gospel this morning.
Dr. Luke is a great sidekick to have, because he is very careful to gather together good evidence. Good evidence is what every detective needs to solve his difficult cases. A good detective needs good clues and lots of information to find the answer to a mystery. Evidence like what people said, what people saw, and what they touched. At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke tells us that he has carefully investigated the case of the Empty Tomb, and he has excellent eye-witness evidence for what happened.
So what’s the mystery Dr. Luke tells us about? A man called Jesus has been arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities. A man who had said some astonishing things and performed some amazing miracles. But the Jewish leaders were jealous and the Romans authorities accused him of trying to make himself king instead of Caesar. So they nailed him to a Cross to die.
After Jesus died some of his friends took his body and laid it in a tomb, in a hole in the rock. And then they rolled a stone in front of the tomb. But three days later, Luke tells us Jesus’ tomb was mysteriously empty. Some of Jesus’ friends, men and women, went to the tomb and found it empty. All that was left inside were some strips of linen. What had happened to Jesus’ body?
Some of them are even claiming Jesus had appeared to them in a room in Jerusalam. They are claiming Jesus has risen from the dead & is alive again! What’s going on? What a mystery!
- Investigating the mystery…
Let’s look at the evidence Luke gives us in our passage today, and see if we can solve this tricky case for ourselves. Let’s think what could have happened to Jesus…
- Had Jesus body been stolen from the empty tomb?
Firstly, perhaps the body of Jesus had been stolen from the tomb? That would explain why it was empty. But that doesn’t explain why the disciples said they had seen him alive. And why would anyone try to steal a dead body? After three days in the tomb it would have been a bit smelly!
- Were the disciples just day-dreaming?
OK, so perhaps the disciples really did think they saw Jesus, but they were just day-dreaming. Maybe they were hallucinating, and imagining they saw him?
But that can’t be right, can it? Because Dr Luke tells us there were lots of them in the room – at least eleven men plus more. Lots of people don’t have the same dream or the same hallucination at the same time. In fact Luke’s friend Paul tells us later in the Bible that once 500 people saw Jesus together at the same time. That’s too many to have been dreaming!
- Were the disciples seeing a ghost?
Maybe the disciples did all really see someone, but it was ghost? Luke tells us that when they first saw Jesus, some of his friends did think that. He writes that “they were startled and frightened, thinking they had seen a ghost”.
But that can’t be right [Why not?] Because Dr. Luke says Jesus let them touch him, and you can’t touch a ghost! Luke tells us that the man they met had “flesh and bones” – he had a real physical body like yours and mine. He even ate a fish in front of them to prove that he was real!
- Were the disciples mistaking Jesus for someone else?
Perhaps the person the disciples saw in that room in Jerusalem wasn’t really Jesus. Maybe they had confused him with someone else. With someone who hadn’t already died!
But that can’t be right either, can it? [Why not?] Dr Luke tells us that Jesus made sure the disciples knew it was him by showing them his hands and his feet. He showed them the marks on his hands and feet where he had been nailed to a Cross and died. There was no doubt it was really him. Jesus was alive! Jesus really had come back to life and defeated death, there is no other adequate explanation.
- So what? Why it matters!
So we have solved the mystery of the empty tomb! But what next? Why does it matter that Jesus died and rose back to life again?
Thankfully Dr. Luke can help us here. In our reading Luke tells us that Jesus died and rose again so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins could be preached in his name to all nations.” That’s a long sentence with long words. This is what it means:
- Jesus died on the Cross so we could become friends with God. When he died on the Cross he willingly took the blame for all the bad things we have ever said, or thought or done. Things the Bible calls “sin”.
- Jesus died to make it possible for us to turn to God and ask for forgiveness. That’s what “repentance” means – praying to God and saying we’re really sorry. Because he has paid the penalty for our sin there is nothing to stop us becoming God’s forgiven friends forever. All we have to do is ask.
- And because Jesus is alive forevermore, he can help us live God’s way today and forever. He is now in heaven and promises one day to give us never-ending life in a new world. A world with no more death, disease or decay.
That’s why Jesus rose from the dead. That’s why the mystery of the empty tomb is such good news. That’s why Dr. Luke had to tell us, and its why we have to tell others today!