Andrew Fountain - The Empty Tomb


Full sermon notes - The Empty Tomb

1. The Empty Tomb

  • JET

J. Jerusalem factor

E. Enemy testimony

T. Testimony of women

  • Let’s start with T
  • This is the argument that has been most effective at convincing non-Christian scholars (has not made them Christians, but...)
  • It goes like this:
    • If the empty tomb was a made-up story, you would never invent women as the first witnesses!
    • There was an extreme lack of respect for women in the Jewish culture of that time


  • “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15).

The Talmud

(Jewish rabbinic law)

  • “Any evidence which a woman gives is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman” (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8).
  • “Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women” (Talmud, Sotah 19a).
  • Read 5/6 sections (up to 43)

Luke 24

  1. Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared.
  2. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb,
  3. but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
  4. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire.
  5. The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
  6. He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
  7. that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
  8. Then the women remembered his words,
  9. and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
  10. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.
  11. But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.
  12. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw only the strips of linen cloth; then he went home, wondering what had happened.
  13. Now that very day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
  14. They were talking to each other about all the things that had happened.
  15. While they were talking and debating these things, Jesus himself approached and began to accompany them
  16. (but their eyes were kept from recognizing him).
  17. Then he said to them, “What are these matters you are discussing so intently as you walk along?” And they stood still, looking sad.
  18. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?”
  19. He said to them, “What things?” “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied, “a man who, with his powerful deeds and words, proved to be a prophet before God and all the people;
  20. and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
  21. But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened.
  22. Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
  23. and when they did not find his body, they came back and said they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
  24. Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
  25. So he said to them, “You foolish people — how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
  26. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
  27. Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.
  28. So they approached the village where they were going. He acted as though he wanted to go farther,
  29. but they urged him, “Stay with us, because it is getting toward evening and the day is almost done.” So he went in to stay with them.
  30. When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
  31. At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight.
  32. They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?”
  33. So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together
  34. and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!”
  35. Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.
  36. While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
  37. But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost.
  38. Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
  39. Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.”
  40. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
  41. And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
  42. So they gave him a piece of broiled fish,
  43. and he took it and ate it in front of them.
  44. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
  45. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures,
  46. and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day,
  47. and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
  48. You are witnesses of these things.
  49. And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
  50. Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.
  51. Now during the blessing he departed and was taken up into heaven.
  52. So they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
  53. and were continually in the temple courts blessing God.

Version: NET Bible

E. Enemy Testimony

  • Right from the beginning the Jews acknowledge the empty tomb by stating that the disciples stole the body
    • “And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” Matthew 28:12-13
  • The early enemies of Christianity indirectly assume the empty tomb
    • Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 108;
    • Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30)

J. Jerusalem factor

  • Hardly anyone denies that Jerusalem was the birthplace of the earliest Christian preaching
  • This would be the least-likely place to teach the resurrection, if Jesus’ grave, a short distance away, was still occupied
  • A brief walk could solve the matter for any questioning person
  • But what if the earliest teaching was a kind of “spiritual resurrection”
    • Was it just a light-phenonmenon?
    • That used to be what people said
    • no-longer true. The majority of skeptical scholars admit there was actually some kind of bodily resurrection.

Evidence that Jesus was Raised

  • The old way Christians would reason (this is good)


  • 30–33A.D. Jesus died/raised
  • 55A.D. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians
  • Only 32 years for the ancient world is really good.
  • e.g. Alexander the Great
  • we know a lot about him —died 33 B.C. Earliest source is 300 years later!
    • (they had earlier sources, but so did the Gospel writers).
    • Best sources for him were 400-450 years after!

1 Corinthians 15:1–9

  1. Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand,
  2. and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.
  3. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
    That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,
  4. and that he was buried,
    and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,
  5. and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
  6. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time,
    most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
  7. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
  8. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.
  9. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Version: NET Bible

  • The New way that is persuading the skeptics
  • Even Bart Erdman says you can trace this to one year after the cross.
    • So how?
    • 51–52A.D. Paul came to Corinth. NT names city leader, chosen for 1 year terms.
    • Paul saved went off for three years, Spent 15 days with Peter
    • Consensus position that Paul received this material around 35A.D.
  • A leading non-Christian skeptic (E. P. Saunders) recently said that right out of the gate all of the basic teachings about Jesus were in place
    • The very earliest preaching was the cross, the resurrection, and the divinity of Jesus

Luke 24

If you were to make the statement


  • Hardly any skeptics would disagree that:
  • “The earliest followers of Jesus had experiences that they believed were appearances of Jesus”
  • “They were so convinced, they were willing to die for this belief”

What difference does it make?

  • Most people who don’t follow Jesus have a reason: and it’s not the facts!
  • What about you?

Updated on 2013-07-06 by Andrew Fountain