A puzzle

Reading: John 19

40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was near by, they laid Jesus there.

Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.

Letter to his parents, Easter Day, 25 April 1943


For the world the empty tomb is an ambiguous historical fact. For believers it is a historical sign of God that follows necessarily from the miracle of the resurrection and confirms it, a sign from the God who deals with human beings in history.

There is no historical proof for the resurrection. The decision of the historian in this matter, which remains so scientifically puzzling, will be dictated by the presuppositions of one’s worldview. In that respect, however, it loses interest and importance for believers who are grounded in God’s acting in history. Thus, for the world there remains an unsolvable puzzle, which in no way can compel faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

For believers, however, this puzzle is the sign of the reality about which they already know, a mark of divine activity in history. Scholarship can neither prove nor disprove the resurrection of Jesus, for it is a miracle of God. But faith, to which the resurrected One witnesses as the living One, recognises in the very testimony of the Scripture the historicity of the resurrection as an action of God, which in its miraculous nature can present itself to science only as a puzzle.