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What Happened?

What happened? A week ago when I was putting last week’s blog together, the Coronavirus was predicted to be a moderate disruption. Now, it’s predicted to be a major, life-changing event of historic proportions. It’s literally turning our lives upside down!

A week ago, I promised to talk about Joseph of Arimathea and his role in the empty tomb of Jesus. I still am. I know it seems irrelevant in the midst of the Coronavirus, but actually, it couldn’t be more relevant. Let me explain.

Mark 14:64 is one of the most shocking verses in all of the Gospels. It tells us that at Jesus’ trial all—all!—the Sanhedrin condemned Him as deserving death. Later, Mark 15:43 tells us that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, is the one who buries Jesus body. It’s easy to miss how horrifying this is. In that day, an honorable burial was of the utmost importance. It was the worst indignity not to receive one. But an honorable burial meant that your family—or at least your friends—would reverently prepare your body for burial and lovingly place it in a family tomb.

As a member of the Sanhedrin who voted to have Jesus crucified, Joseph is an enemy of Jesus who, by only doing the minimal preparation required by Jewish Law, essentially dumps Jesus’ body into a borrowed tomb. The enduring horror this fact would have caused the early church can’t be overstated. That’s why the Gospels try to clean Joseph’s role up by ennobling him as a sympathizer or secret disciple of some sort. But, as scholars universally agree, this is a blatant attempt to soften the scandalous role Joseph played and is, therefore, overwhelming evidence that Joseph played this role.

Since the same Joseph who voted to condemn Jesus is also the one who buried Him, we can be sure of two critical things: First, Joseph knew exactly where the tomb was. And second, as someone hostile to Jesus and His movement—remember, he did vote to crucify Him—he had tremendous motive to clear up any mistake or misunderstanding involving the tomb, especially since he was responsible for it.

Moreover, being such a prominent person—the Sanhedrin, which only had seventy members, was the Jewish ruling body—Joseph would have been well known in Jerusalem. If, as Matthew 27:60 suggests, he buried Jesus in a tomb he owned, then the exact location of this tomb would have been very well known as well. But even if he buried Jesus’ body in one of the burial caves near Golgotha set aside for criminals, the location would still have been public knowledge. This gives us every reason to trust that any mistake about the empty tomb would have been cleared up by Joseph or the many people in Jerusalem who knew him right away.

There are many more reasons to think Joseph played the role the Gospels describe. And there are many other pieces of evidence to corroborate the historicity of the empty tomb. While I may sound like a broken record, the reality of the empty tomb provides us with very substantial objective evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. When combined with all we know about the appearances, the evidence Jesus rose from the dead is massive. The odds that He did are staggering.

The Coronavirus has us all on edge. Whether we’re terrified of the potentially disastrous health effects or the potentially devastating economic effects, or both, we’re all desperately anxious. And, pardon the pun, we’re all already sick of social distancing. Though necessary, the measures put in place to battle this pandemic have robbed us of our normal lives. The worst part is not knowing how long this will last. How long can we live like this? And even if it works and successfully “flattens the curve”, the numbers of those who will suffer and die are still staggering. It’s all so depressing.

Death is the worst thing that can happen to us. It’s our greatest fear. Our greatest enemy.

But—and this is the biggest “but” of all—Jesus conquered death. If He can overcome death, He can overcome anything else. He will overcome everything else.

Even if our worst fears about this virus come true, even if there is untold suffering and death, even if the economy ends up in shambles, even if our lives never return to normal, we who have our hope in Him will overcome it all in the end. Because neither life nor death, neither the Coronavirus nor anything else can ever—ever!—separate us from His love.

How are you handling the Coronavirus crisis? I’d love to hear from you! You can go to the “Contact E.J.” Page of the Raising Jesus website and let me know. I pray that God will keep you and your loved ones safe and that you will all know His peace, that peace that passes all understanding!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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