DID THE DISCIPLES GO TO THE WRONG TOMB ON RESURRECTION SUNDAY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Skeptics argue the “resurrection” of Christ was merely a case of mistaken identity. Allegedly, the disciples went to the wrong tomb. Had they kept looking, they would have found Jesus still dead in His actual grave nearby! If true, this serious accusation would surely shake and destroy the foundations of Christianity. Yet, is there any evidence in Scripture to indicate the disciples went to the wrong tomb? No, on the contrary, it was impossible for them not arrive at the right gravesite!
1. THE WOMEN
Our first line of evidence that the disciples were not mistaken concerning the grave involves Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James the less and Joses. These women witnessed Jesus’ entombment. Consequently, they knew which vault was His when they returned just a few days later.
Matthew 27:57-61: “ When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:  He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.  And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,  And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.  And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.”
Mark 15:43-47: “ Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.  And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.  And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.  And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.”
Luke 23:50-56: “ And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just:  (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them; ) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.  This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.  And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.  And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.  And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”
In fact, Luke 23:55 indicates other women besides Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were present at Christ’s burial. They would be the ladies referenced in Luke 8:2-3, Luke 23:27-28, and Luke 23:49. Here, the point is simple: they would have surely remembered the precise location of Christ’s tomb when visiting it three days later. They knew exactly where to come on Resurrection Sunday!
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre” (Matthew 28:1). “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him” (Mark 16:1). “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them” (Luke 24:1—the women of 23:55-56).
2. THE ANGELS
Here is our second line of evidence: At least two angels were present in the tomb when the women reached it, but neither angelic being corrected the women. After all, now would have been an appropriate time for the “messengers of God” to correct any misunderstandings or confusion. “Hey, you women are in the wrong tomb! Jesus’ corpse is still in the chamber next-door!” Instead, the women learned they were in the right tomb—and Jesus was alive and had vacated it in victorious resurrection just prior to their arrival!
Matthew 28:5-7: “ And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
Mark 16:5-6: “ And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.  And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.”
Luke 24:3-7: “ And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
3. THE PRIESTS
Our third and final piece of evidence is found among the Levitical priests. In light of His resurrection, the Sadducees (priests) were the bitterest enemies of Christ. After all, Sadducees did not believe in resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8). How many “precious church members” had they lost when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:23-26; Mark 35-43), the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-18), and Lazarus from the dead (John 11:30-44)?
John 11:42-48 relates their “predicament:” “ And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.  And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.  Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”
John 12:9-11: “ Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.  But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”
When attempting to discredit the resurrection of Christ, the unbelieving Jewish priests did not argue, “Just tell everyone Jesus’ disciples went to the wrong tomb!” Furthermore, His critics never produced a body, and that would have been quite easy to do if that were the case. Matthew 28:11-14 reveals their course of action: “ Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.  And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,  Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.  And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.” Instead of asserting, “Jesus’ disciples went to the wrong tomb,” it was, “They stole His body!” Even the Lord’s critics understood the disciples looked in the correct grave.
To deny Jesus Christ’s (miraculous) resurrection, skeptics contend the “empty tomb” was due to His disciples arriving at the wrong crypt. This is quite clever, but flimsy. Nothing in Roman history even suggests the authorities used this “wrong sepulcher” argument—that is because it is no argument at all! Additionally, the women were aware of the burial site, having witnessed the entombment just a few days prior. Also, the angels in the tomb confirmed these women had come to the right place, and that Christ was risen again and had left that grave. Finally, the Sadducees in no way appealed to the “wrong grave” defense when trying to discourage Jews from converting to Christ post-resurrection. Nothing in the Bible suggests it was the wrong grave. In fact, the exact opposite is affirmed: Jesus Christ had indeed conquered death through His glorious bodily resurrection!
“ Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….  Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4,12-20).
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» Was Jesus Christ really crucified on Friday?
» Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?
» How was Jesus Christ “raised again?” Why “again?”
» Why does “revived” appear in Romans 14:9?
» “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable?”