The Empty Tomb(s) of Jesus
Medina, Saudi Arabia is the 2nd holiest city in Islam. It is where Muhammad went during his flight from Mecca, and in this city he received portions of the Quran. In the heart of this city is the Mosque of the Prophet, a place of worship established by Muhammad in 622 CE.
At the Mosque is the Green Dome, which marks the burial tombs of many Islamic leaders. Muhammad is buried there, along with the first two caliphs or leaders of Islam (Abu Bakr and Umar). There is also an empty grave next to Muhammad, which is reserved for Jesus. Yes, even within Islam there is an empty tomb for Jesus.
Significance of the Empty Tombs in Islam and Christianity
Islam rejects the belief that Jesus, an important prophet of God, was killed. Instead, they believe that Jesus will return and be buried next to Muhammad in Medina.
On the other hand, Christianity teaches that Jesus did die on the cross, and he was buried in a borrowed grave. While there might be some debate over the location of that tomb in Jerusalem (either the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Garden Tomb), the essential truth is that Jesus was buried by his followers after the execution, and Roman centurions guarded the tomb, and early on the third day, the tomb was empty and a risen Jesus began appearing to his followers. For Christians, this isn’t just an interesting story or feel-good ending; it is the fact upon which all our hope and faith is based.
Importance of the Resurrection
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a core tenant of Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes clear how crucial this belief is to the rest of his teachings. We believe that Jesus died for the deliverance of our sins, and that he was buried in a grave (1 Corinthians 15:3–4a). But Jesus did not remain in that grave; on the third day he was raised (v. 4) and appeared to hundreds of his followers and skeptics alike (v. 5–8).
Paul goes out of his way to say that this belief in the death and resurrection of Christ lines up with the ancient prophecies and teachings preserved in the Old Testament, with his frequent refrain “in accordance with the Scriptures” (vv. 4 & 5).
He also argues in the following verses that the entire trustworthiness of Christianity resides on whether Jesus rose from the dead. In verses 13–17, he explicitly states:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13–17, emphasis mine).
In the death of Jesus, the sins of mankind are paid for and the evil forces of this world are put to death. In the resurrection of Jesus, even death and the grave are shown to be no match for God’s love. By raising Jesus, God is reversing the effects of the fallen world and beginning his process of renewing and redeeming Creation, which will eventually result in New Creation.
Celebrating the Empty Tombs of Jesus on Easter
Today, as we celebrate Easter with our church, family, and friends, let us remember that the god that we worship is the one who has conquered death and sin forever. What started with Jesus that Easter morning will continue into New Creation, so we will all taste the glory of resurrected life.
Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen (Luke 24:5b-6a)