In Frank Morison’s book, Who Moved the Stone?, one entire chapter deals with the significance of the stone. He considers the emotions and great surprise of the women–Salome, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of Jesus–upon arriving at the tomb and discovering that the stone has been rolled away.
That stone, which Matthew says was a “large stone” and which Mark describes as an “extremely large” stone (Mt. 27:60; Mk. 16:4), was a silent witness that shouts to the world. Morison compares their shock to what Robinson Crusoe experienced when he saw the footprint in the sand. He didn’t need someone with a loud speaker to tell him that he was not alone on his island. The footprint shouted that much to him. And the stone that was rolled away so that the open sepulcher could be inspected spoke as profoundly as anything anyone could have said.
I cannot accept the explanation that Morison has for who rolled the stone away, nor do I agree with his theory on the identity of the “young man” who was sitting in the tomb, robed in white (Mk. 16:5). But that the stone is itself a silent witness to the resurrection of Jesus is, I think, very compelling.
But Christ does not depend upon a silent stone to argue for belief that He is the Son of God. He depends upon the credible and unimpeachable testimony of eyewitnesses. They were not charlatans. Had that been the case, the smart thing for them to do (assuming they could agree to concoct such a tale) would have been to travel as far from Jerusalem as possible before proclaiming their rabbi was resurrected. The likelihood of finding gullible men who would believe such a thing would have increased the farther they traveled from Jerusalem. But in less than two months after His death, they were announcing His resurrection to a worldwide audience that had assembled in Jerusalem, the very city where the events took place. If any minute part of their testimony could have been disproven, the entire testimony would have been discredited. It was not.
Those who schemed to put Him to death were aware of His resurrection even before His disciples were (Mt. 28:11-15). Those highly respected members of Jewish society had sought and gained permission to secure the tomb on the basis that His disciples might steal His body under the cover of darkness and then claim that He was resurrected. No one had greater motivation to produce His body and silence His followers; yet, they were unable to do so. The best they could do was to offer large sums of money to the soldiers if they would agree to say that “His disciples came by night and stole Him away” while they slept (Mt. 28:11-15). At a later point in time, all His disciples were rounded up and placed on trial before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:17-28). They were charged with two crimes: 1.) preaching in His name after having been ordered not to do so again (cf. Acts 4:18) and 2.) publicly stating that the Council itself was guilty of His blood (Acts 5:28). Yet the Council did not accuse them of deceit or blasphemy in claiming that He was resurrected. If they absolutely knew that He was not risen from the tomb, why not charge the disciples with making a false claim?
The answer to that question is simple. Had the chief priests and their Sadducee party made such a charge in court, they would have had to contend with the Pharisees who were also a part of the court. Their bribery would have been exposed, and the embarrassment of an empty crypt with its stone rolled away would still demand an explanation other than resurrection. No explanation existed. Nor is it speculation to assume that it would have happened that way. More than twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus, that scenario did occur. The entire Council, along with the chief priests, were assembled and Paul “perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees … began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’” (Acts 22:30 – 23:10).
The witnesses have never been silenced, nor will they. Our task is to unashamedly and joyously share their testimony to our generation.
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2017