Stealing Jesus

Stealing Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from those who don’t embrace the Christian view. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories: the Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples. 

The Romans

After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, they shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65 

So the question is, what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Indeed, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the Good News boldly and without fear. Obviously, this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine, and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. The evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples.((Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.)) The problem was, the Romans could not produce a body.  

The Jews

What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns about someone stealing the body. The Jews were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure with a posted guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The Jewish leaders did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days.  

After the resurrection, many Jews became Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body, possibly so the disciples could not steal it first and claim He rose, they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult. 

In Acts 4:1-3, Peter and John were arrested because they claimed Jesus had been resurrected. The elders and chief priests were amazed at how bold yet uneducated Peter and John were but were unable to persuade them to stop announcing the resurrection of Christ. Acts 4:13 

David Limbaugh, author of Jesus On Trial wrote concerning the stolen body theory, “Also, Matthew 28:11-15 relates that the Jews proposed an alternative theory for the empty tomb (“tell the people the disciples stole the body”), which proves they didn’t dispute that it was, in fact, empty.”1

If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that He was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over the identification of Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the discussion revolved around the disappearance of the body, not its identification. 

The Disciples

Many have claimed and still do, that the disciples stole the body to gain power, influence, and celebrity status. Limbaugh wrote, “The disciples had nothing to gain by staging some elaborate hoax in order to start a new religion; in fact, they all faced ridicule, hardship, persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths.”((Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282)) So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified.

There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? How would he know who took the body if the guard was sleeping? How could the disciples have gotten past him if he was not sleeping? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard. 

We have accounts of Christian martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ over the centuries, but in recent years, we have had evidence of others dying for their faith. For example, the Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true. 

The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced firsthand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23, other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.)) These close followers knew their Lord and were willing to die for him. Not for what they believed to be true, but for what they knew to be true. 

William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”2 

The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently, no one could produce a body because He had risen. Craig continued, “The disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if His corpse still lay in the tomb. It would have been wholly un-Jewish, not to say stupid, to believe that a man was raised from the dead when his body was known to be still in the grave.”2 Even if the disciples had boldly professed the resurrection out of ‘blind-faith’ once someone produced the body, this new religion would have died right then and there.  

Finally, in his book, Know What You Believe, Paul Little points out that people will die for many things they believe to be true. I have already pointed out the 911 attacks and the belief of those terrorists but flip the coin. How many people do you know that will die for something they ‘know’ is false?((Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2003. Print.))

The Roman and Jews could not produce the body, but the disciples would have wanted to, if doing so would have saved them from beatings, stonings, and crucifixions. 

Have you talked about the resurrection with your children beyond Easter eggs, ham, and family gatherings? Or the church activities that go beyond children making little paper tombs that represent the empty tomb? How much more impactful would it be if you sat down with your young children and gave them something beyond what seems to be the annual Easter bedtime story and shared the evidence of the resurrection with them?

Since birth, today’s teens and young adults have been saturated with market media. They recognize, but may not be able to articulate, the world’s sales pitch to purchase everything from cereal to shoes. Religion, specifically Christianity, markets ideas as much as Ford selling the F150 and General Mills selling Lucky Charms. So if you don’t want the Christian ideas to end up in the ‘junk mail’ folder or being ‘unfriended,’ you better give them reasons for the sale beyond what is typically offered. 

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, wrote, “We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch.”3

The apostles were not adverse to giving reasons or evidence for their faith. 1John 1:1-2 With some guidance, our children can move beyond the Walmart end caps full of colorful eggs and white bunnies to explain why they celebrate what we recognize as the truth of the resurrection to their unchurched or unbelieving peers at school. Go beyond the Easter egg hunt and give them reasons for believing. 

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Stealing Jesus by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282 []
  2. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print [] []
  3. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print. []

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I was talking with a friend at church not long ago and he shared with me his recent sleep study experience. Apparently, he has stopped breathing at night sometimes, and was tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual does not receive all the oxygen they need because of a blocked airway. It is fairly common for men over 40, especially those who are overweight, and the medical community believes that a large percent of men actually have this condition without knowing it.

I know a bit about this myself, having been diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago after my own sleep study. I was surprised to have had it, but the signs were there. Always tired, sweating at night, and my wife telling me that at times I would stop breathing. It surprised me, because I was not overweight, at least not in the sense we might picture someone being overweight. I was 6’2” tall and about 225lbs. I worked out on a regular basis, and granted, could have lost some weight, but I did not have ‘the gut’ some men tend to carry. My extra pounds tended to spread out, so looks were deceiving.

I was prescribed the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine and after about a year, my doc told me if I would lose about 20 pounds I might not have to use the machine at all. I did as he suggested, and now keep my weight around 205 pounds, and have no need for the machine.

My initial experience of using the CPAP machine was something I will not forget. The first few nights opened up a whole new world to me, better put, it placed me back in a world I had forgotten all about. I had not dreamed for years, and after the first few nights, I would wake up with memories of these vivid and colorful dreams. I cannot emphasize enough to you what a shock that was for me. As I aged into my forties, the weight I had gained over the years brought on the sleep apnea, but did so so slowly, that I never noticed when I stopped dreaming at night.

Over the months and years, I dreamed less and less, till the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, stage of sleep where we all dream, was nothing but a memory forgotten. The dreams I began to have again when using the CPAP machine were graphic, clear, and filled my mind when I first woke up in the morning. I would share them with my wife and think about them for hours. It had been so long since I dreamed, I had forgotten how enjoyable they were. Dreaming again, coupled with the fact that I was getting the sleep I needed, just heightened the euphoric feeling I had after I started using the machine.

As our children grow and experience the world, they are surrounded and inundated with secular media that undermines how they were raised. This daily secular dose that comes in every imaginable color, flavor, and texture. It is consumed by our children, friends, family, culture, and acts like the weight someone gains over the years, nudging them toward a sleep apnea condition.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, our children who are raised in Christian homes gain the weight of the secular world, till they no longer dwell on God, trust in the Bible, or even believe in God. This is also true of adults who once believed and followed Jesus, but over time the message of the world and its daily, soft, cottony, relaxing, peaceful dose of anti-God, anti-religion, anti-faith, much like a Charmin toilet paper commercial, erode even the most fervent Christian.

One example of the thousands we see and experience every day is the CoExist symbol on bumpers everywhere. If you look carefully, you will see several different versions of these. The message is quite simple, and very naive. No matter what you believe we should all get along. Each letter represents a belief system, or a system of thought that many use to guide their lives. Commonly seen in the Co-Exist symbol are the crescent and star for Islam, the pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, Star of David for Judaism, Karma Wheel for Buddhism, Ying and Yang symbol for Taoism, and finally the cross for Christianity.

Typically, those that have such a bumper sticker have not fully embraced any one of those systems, but more than likely, adopt a little bit here or a little bit there, so that they end up with their own belief system. You might hear someone say that all religions are basically the same, promoting love, kindness, and brotherly love for one another. The problem with this train of thought is the focus on similarities.

For example, if a man and woman are attracted to each other, they often find similarities in their interests, such as reading, hiking, or cooking. These similarities serve them well as they grow to know each other, but what will break a relationship is their differences. When two people are divorced, the courts often give the reason of irreconcilable differences. Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, gives another revealing example of the importance of difference by drawing two small circles on a board and telling the class they represent two pills. They talk for a moment how similar they are, but he points out it is the differences that matter. This becomes very apparent when he explains one is an aspirin and the other is arsenic.

Religions often have similarities, but it is the differences that make them incompatible, and to suggest naively that all religions can all just get along and be accepting of those differences is foolish. Some of these faiths have followers who believe the lives of everyone outside their faith hangs in the balance. You could liken it to someone who is going to drink poison, and we are told to be tolerant and accepting of their right to do so. Which of us would sit silently as those around us consumed poison?

Not long ago, a former student of mine posted on Facebook, “It doesn’t matter people, Christian Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, it really doesn’t matter as long as you love.” Her sentiment we can all understand. Matthew spells it out rather plainly. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is important, but would an atheist who loves make it to heaven, a place he does not even believe in?

Some might say that ‘Coexist’ is just a bumper sticker with a positive message about tolerance; what harm could that possibly have to our culture? For starters, the message is not pointed at cultures, but religions, and how they should be accepting of one another, all the while ignoring core, incompatible differences.

The death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, are just a few hot topics that religions have very clear opinions on, but they are told to be tolerant and not force their views on others. Tell someone who is active in the pro-life abortion issue to accept Roe v. Wade and see how silent they will be. Tell gay activists to be tolerant of laws that discriminate against them, and listen to how accepting they sound, or better yet, have gay activists try protesting for gay rights in Iran to see what intolerance is.

Deep are the differences in religions, and for those active in their faith, it is often an eternal life or eternal death that hangs in the balance. To expect them to be accepting of other faiths, and be tolerant when lives hang in the balance, is absurd.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in one God. Hindu’s believe in thousands of gods. Buddhists believe we are God. Atheists believe there is no God. They can’t all be right, and if they all can’t be right, then those who feel they have the truth understandably want to share it with others. The world would rather have us remain silent about our faith. The world wants us to consider our religion a private and personal affair, and to keep our noses in our own business.

Ever wonder/consider how time and culture has eroded our reasons for celebrating certain holidays? A Roman priest executed in Rome for his Christian faith. After that things get pretty fuzzy, and no one knows for sure how Valentines Day morphed into the current money making holiday we now have. Santa Claus in Christmas? He is harmless. Easter Bunny for Easter? Makes Easter fun for the kids, but when they out grow the Easter Bunny, make sure to call it Spring Break, so as not to offend those that want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The world can make anything look good, no matter what it is used for. The world can make toilet paper look good, and the world can steal your faith so slowly, you will never know it happened. These changes don’t happen over night. A paper cut is irritating, but a thousand cuts aimed at destroying religion will cause death as sure as a shot through the head.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

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