Easter, the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, has gathered a sizeable number of doubters and skeptics. There are two main lines of disbelief; that Jesus did not really die on the Cross or they raise a problem with the number of days between the death on the Cross and when it was seen that He was risen.
The first argument is very common. The premise is that the Romans did not make sure Jesus was actually dead, probably because the execution was rushed to make satisfy the Jews, particularly the High Priest, who complied with Rome for personal and political reasons. Advocates claim that Jesus was in some sort of coma. It is called the “Swoon Theory”. At some point after His burial, Jesus then became conscious in the tomb and found a way to escape. However, it ignores some of the forensic and historical facts surrounding the process of crucifixion. First, Pilate confirmed the death before allowing burial. He would not have allowed an error in this matter; the stakes were very high and public (Mark 15:44-45). Second, Jesus was sealed in a stone tomb behind a large rock that likely weighed more than 2,000 pounds. There was no possibility He could have physically moved the stone on His own and a team of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb. Even if Jesus could have revived and moved the heavy stone, the guards would have stopped Him or made a report to Pilate. Finally, the medical journal JAMA writes, in 1986; "Clearly, the weight of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right rib, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge".
Could the disciples have stolen the body? It is highly doubtful. Grief studies would place them in a state of “acute grief”, a period which lasts 3-4 weeks after the death of a loved one. It is characterized by muscle weakness and confused thoughts and actions. It would have been virtually impossible for them to formulate a plan, overpower the guards, move the stone, hide the body, and keep the plot a secret at this time. Therefore, both ancient and modern sources affirm the actual death of Jesus.
The three days lapse of days poses a different set of questions. People have tried to fit three days into less than a 48-hour period. It is quite possible, if one uses the Jewish way of counting days as, undoubtedly, Jesus used. This is where the day ends and a new one begins at sundown. A common way of settling the problem is to have Friday as the first day, Saturday as the second, and Sunday as the third. But this does not fully solve the problem. What of the darkness on Good Friday. This must be considered in the reckoning of time. The late Rabbi Asher Finkel, Chair of the Seton Hall University Jewish-Christian Department, has argued that the darkness is a key element in solving this question. Jesus was crucified on Friday, the sun went black meaning the end of the day. The skies brightened again and the sun set, creating a shortened day. This was Day One. Saturday began with the sunset, beginning Day two. Sunday began on Saturday sundown, creating Day Three; the day of the Resurrection. Therefore, whichever way one wishes to count, ancient or modern, Jesus rose on the Third Day.
John 20:8 reads; "Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed". This disciple was John, the “beloved disciple” and Gospel writer. Some scholars are examining this verse and are suggesting that as he went in, He saw something, something that went beyond his words but solidified his faith and belief. We still cannot be sure of the meaning of his cryptic words. Therefore, we still cannot speculate. However, this is the core of the mystery, and miracle, of faith.