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The Bank Robber And The Empty Tomb

Updated: Mar 26

In his book, “This We Believe” author Timothy Tennent makes the following claim. 

“To believe in Jesus does not simply mean to believe that He lived, or believe that He was a towering ethical teacher or even believe that He was a worker of miracles. Most Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists would believe all those things about Jesus. The distinctive of the Christian faith is that we believe that Jesus is the Risen Lord.”

While this statement may appear to be elementary for some people, the power of this distinction is the bedrock of the Christian faith. If we misplace, mistake, misunderstand, or just plain miss the weight of what took place through the resurrection, we miss a lot. I am no expert theologian, and I believe firmly that every analogy will eventually break down, but humor me as I draw a comparison that might help to form our understanding of Easter at a new depth. 

Imagine, if you will, that you were a bank robber. Unless you are a bank robber. Then just, I don’t know, be yourself. Got it? Good. So you’re a bank robber, but you're not just any bank robber, you’re a great bank robber. Like, Daniel Ocean has your poster on his wall. You have been robbing banks for your entire adult life and now you live in the lap of luxury. These days you don’t have to rob banks, but you still do the odd ball heist sometimes. Then one day, for reasons you can’t quite explain, you get lazy. Maybe it was old age, boredom, or just plain bad luck, all you know is that you got caught and your entire lifetime of robbing banks is found out. Now you are being charged in a massive federal case. 

As luck would have it, the judge in your case is known for having some odd ball rulings and is a bit of a wild card. He has been known to take legal precedent and twist it like a clown making balloon animals. You may have lucked out. The prosecution gives their argument against you and the evidence is overwhelming. You somehow found a way to be the only successful bank robber in human history who didn’t wear gloves and had no qualms about posing for the bank’s security cameras. 

The trial comes to a close and your defense attorney does his best but there is no escaping the cold hard truth that you are going to be found guilty. When verdict day arrives, no one is surprised when the jury foreperson stands and says, “We the jury find the defendant guilty of all charges”. Now your fate is in the hands of the judge. Luckily enough for you, the judge lives up to his reputation and comes straight out of left field saying, “I have seen the evidence and I know that this trial was conducted with the highest level of integrity and diligence possible.” Turning to look directly at you, the judge continues the address, “You are a terrible person. You have robbed people of their hard-earned money and even worse you have stolen a sense of security from thousands. I should throw the book at you.” Wait a minute, did the judge just say “Should?” You clear your throat and listen intently. The judge continues, “I know that my ruling will be hard to understand but I just can’t help but see my own child every time I look at the defendant. I have been sitting here for three weeks wondering how am I going to throw this person in jail for the rest of their life?” 

In a never before seen decision, the judge clears you of every charge. He even goes back to the charges you had on your record before you started robbing banks and clears those out as well. In one swift motion, you are completely exonerated. The court room is stunned into silence. What is supposed to happen now? After a few more dramatic moments of paused suspense, the judge continues to speak, “Here is the catch, I have the authority to clear your criminal record and I am more than happy to do so, but the warden of the federal prison system has already made arrangements for your incarceration, and he is here to take you away. Unfortunately, I do not have any authority in the federal prison system, so you are going to have to serve the recommended life sentence in jail.” (And.... scene)

This scenario is obviously completely impossible but pay attention to what just took place. You robbed those banks, you went on trial, a verdict of guilty was given, and your criminal record was somehow erased. However, the authority exercised by the judge to clear your record didn’t extend to the prison system. So, despite having no account of your criminal history, you are going to jail. 

This is the power of the resurrection. The work of the cross and the grace that flowed from the crucifixion would have been incomplete without the power and authority over hell and the grave. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another Jewish trouble maker made an example of to keep the peace across the Roman empire. Without the resurrection, your faith is meaningless.

Oh but God, God looked across time and eternity and secured the right and authority to collapse the gates of hell in on themselves. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In 1 Corinthians 15:17 Paul clarifies for the church in Corinth, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” 

The resurrection changes the course of human history. The resurrection secures complete authority over any system that would ever try to enforce the penalty of sin against those who have placed their faith in Jesus. So, what happens when the bank robber meets the empty tomb? Freedom.

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