A creative crime scene investigation

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By Pastor Scott Rosekrans

CSI Jerusalem – The crucifixion and execution of Jesus Christ. Not only the crime of the century but the greatest crime of all time. I’ve often thought about what it would have been like if Mary Magdalene had gone to the police after she discovered Jesus’ body missing from the tomb rather than immediately running back to tell John and Peter.

Detective Rosekrans from Jerusalem PD gets called to the scene to investigate, just like I did when I investigated crimes as a police officer in Houston. I begin by asking Mary to tell me what happened without interruptions. She tells me that she has been a faithful follower of Jesus Christ from the start as he cast out the demons plaguing her, and now, she has been redeemed. That raises my antennae as I think to myself, I may be dealing with someone with mental health issues, but I let her continue.

Mary tells me about the deceased’s ministry, which is not relevant to my homicide or missing person investigation. Still, it is her story, so I nod politely, making a few notes. She tells some pretty wild stories about feeding over five thousand people with a few small fish and some loaves of bread, healing sick people, restoring sight to the blind, and enabling the lame to walk again.

Right now, Jack Webb pops into my mind: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Then she gets to last Sunday when Jesus has a couple of his disciples steal a donkey so he can ride into Jerusalem. She describes the impromptu parade as excited people welcomed his arrival. She then tells a few of the things that happened during the week, like Jesus pitching a fit in the temple and turning over tables and chairs of the money changers and dove salespeople, which seemed to anger the Jewish leaders. They began to challenge his authority to say such shocking and upsetting things.

At this point, Mary begins to spin this incredible conspiracy theory where the religious authorities try to concoct some story to discredit this self-proclaimed messiah. She describes this last meal they had together where they had Passover, and Jesus told them about being betrayed by one disciple and denied by another. With tears in her eyes, she talks about how he was betrayed, arrested and taken before the council to answer falsified claims with two witnesses who lied about him threatening to destroy the temple.

They then took him to Pilate, the Roman governor, for a trial. Pilate could not find where Jesus had broken any laws and attempted to release him. Still, the Jewish leaders raised such a fit, playing the Caesar card, that Pilate caved in and ordered that Jesus be whipped and then taken to a hill called The Skull to be crucified with a couple of other criminals.

Jesus hung on the cross in the hot sun and mercifully passed at which point a Roman guard pierced his side with a spear to make sure he was dead. She then said a wealthy disciple named Joseph from Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate granted the request, and Joseph retrieved the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. After he rolled a large rock covering the tomb’s opening, he went away.

Mary said she and the other Mary were there, sitting in front of the tomb. Good, another witness who might be able to corroborate this story. Hopefully, one who wasn’t previously demon-possessed. After taking a hiatus, I asked her to continue. She said that she and several others spent the weekend in hiding in fear that the authorities might be looking for them.

Finally, she said, on Sunday morning, she went to the tomb while it was still dark. She didn’t know what else to do. When she got there, she saw that the stone had been rolled away, and when she looked in, she saw that Jesus’ body was gone. She ran back and told two disciples, Peter and John, what she had seen, which prompted them to run to the tomb to see for themselves.

This is promising—a couple of men who might not be like this hysterical and delusional woman. I spoke with them, and they verified that Jesus’s body was not in the tomb when they got there. I asked them to describe what they saw, and they said they saw his burial cloth lying right where Jesus had been laid to rest and that the fabric that had covered his face was neatly folded where his head would have been.

Now I’m thinking to myself; this is interesting because if grave robbers were responsible, why would they have taken the time to undress the body and neatly fold the head cloth? If you’re going to steal a body, you will make it quick, lessening the chances of getting caught. These two disciples seemed credible, and I couldn’t pick up any tells that would make me think they were lying. I asked them whether Jesus had said anything before his execution that might shed light on his disappearance. One of them said that now that he thought about it, Jesus said something about dying and rising again on the third day. Okay, interesting, but it could have been more helpful.

I then went back and talked to Mary, who told me that after Peter and John left, she saw two angels sitting in the tomb and then talking to whom she thought was the gardener, asking him where he had taken Jesus’ body. Then, this gardener revealed himself as Jesus, telling her to return and tell the others that he had risen from the dead. This is interesting, as neither John nor Peter said anything about angels, gardeners, or risen messiahs.

A reasonable defense attorney will tear Mary up on the stand. I’ve got to find witnesses who can prove or disprove her story. If not, the chief of detectives will laugh me right out of the squad room.

I knew I had to follow up on this, so I looked for the two guards stationed at the tomb to see what they had to say. I wasn’t too optimistic as they were probably drunk or asleep. I separated them to make sure their stores matched. They both claimed they didn’t know what happened and had no idea how Jesus got out of the tomb. They didn’t see anything or hear the large rock being rolled away.

Yeah, typical night shift, I thought, drunk and passed out.

They said that when they reported this to the chief priests, they were given a large amount of money to say that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole the body while they were sleeping. They also said that if the governor heard about it, they would be cared for and have nothing to worry about. So, they took the money and did as they were told.

Great. This case is going nowhere. If I’ve learned nothing else investigating homicides, it’s that if there isn’t a body, you have no crime. Call me crazy, but this theory that Jesus has risen from the dead is starting to make some sense. Maybe what that Centurion said at the foot of the cross about this guy being the Son of God has merit.

The investigation will be continued. Come Sunday, as we solve the case of the missing Messiah.


Scott Rosekrans serves as pastor to the people of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, Washington.

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