Why the Empty Tomb Is Not Enough


November 20, 2020

John 20:8-14 (NIV)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.


They came. They saw. They went back to where they were staying.

Over the centuries we have developed the impression that Easter was a slam-dunk reality. Everyone woke up early. Someone said, “He is risen,” and everyone else responded, “He is risen indeed,” and then everyone went to the country club for lunch.

It was not that way.

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

I always read this verse to mean the disciple believed Jesus was raised from the dead. It means he believed someone had taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. Look what happened next.

Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

They came. They saw. They went back home.

Though the resurrection happened suddenly, Easter itself is a slow-rising reality. It’s one thing to believe the tomb is empty, yet quite another to believe Jesus is risen from the dead.

The question we must ask ourselves is this one: Is our faith built on an empty tomb or on a risen Lord? That the tomb is empty is not an article of faith. It is a fact of history. We can go and see it today. The empty tomb was enough to get the disciples to come and see and go back home. Neither is the resurrection of Jesus a spiritual phenomenon—something that must be experienced to be believed. The sentimental hymn lyrics, “You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart,” will not suffice.

The circumstantial evidence of the empty tomb is good but inadequate. The inner experience of a spiritual resurrection is nice but not enough. The Christian faith is built on nothing more and nothing less than the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It either happened or it did not. If it did, the implications are mind-bogglingly unfathomable. If it did not, we are fools.

This is not my truth or your truth. It is either the truth or it is not true at all.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is risen from the dead. Bring us to an unshakable clarity of conviction around this eternal reality. Bring us to this reckoning of believing or not and give us the courage to land on one side or the other. Save us from the mushy middle ground of maybe. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. Do you believe Jesus is physically, bodily raised from the dead? Why or why not?

2. Do you believe it by a preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt?

3. Why do you think it is so critical to be clear on this singular point? Or don’t you?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. Great job ! You really know how to make us think . Thanks Bro. Walt . you are “right on the money”. Keep up the good work.
    Sincerely ,
    Pastor Rick Lindamood , West end UMC , Wytheville , Va.

  2. Answer 1: I definitely believe that He is risen, the first fruits of them that sleepeth.
    Answer 2: My faith rests on the unshakable foundation laid by the prophets and Apostles.
    Answer 3: To paraphrase Paul from 1 Corinthians 15; if Jesus did not literally, physically raise from the dead, then our faith is in vain and we are still dead in our sins. We truly should be pitied most among men. I believe this is the most pivotal Truth in all Scripture, the bedrock of the Christian Faith. No one who denies this Truth deserves to be called a Christian including members of the clergy.

  3. As I have seen stated elsewhere, the reason we tend to “hold back” is because to truly believe in the virgin birth, the physical resurrection and even the physical ascension of Jesus back to God the Father–in short, that Jesus is truly God and truly human–is the moment we lose control and acknowledge that God is God and we most definitely are not.

  4. His ressurection is the proof of eternal life. For if he died and stayed dead what hope would there be for us. As the song says because he lives I can face tommarro. With out the ressurection all hope is gone.

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