As interfaith dialogue increases between the 'three daughters and sons of Abraham', we hear often that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have more in common than they have differences. That all three faiths believe that the tomb of Jesus was empty is hardly the most important common agreement; but the reasons behind it provide varied interpretations of the role that Jesus plays in the three Abrahamic faiths.
In Judaism, Jesus was a very influential and wise rabbi, but not the Messiah expected by Orthodox Jews. Jewish tradition states that the tomb of Jesus was empty because his disciples took him away. Indeed, in Matthew’s gospel (27:62-66), Roman soldiers are requested by the chief priests and Pharisees to guard Jesus’ tomb so that his disciples would not take him away and say that “he is raised from the dead.”
In Islam, Jesus (Isa in Arabic) was born of a virgin named Mary (Maryam). He was an esteemed prophet, performer of miracles, and he held a special place as the prophet who comes immediately before the final prophet, Muhammad. Most of the prophets in Judaism also have an important role in Islam, but Jesus/Isa plays a special role. Islamic scholars have some disagreement on the crucifixion of Jesus, but Jesus’ tomb was empty because he did not die on the cross. Some believe that another person was substituted for him, while others suggest that his family was able to heal his wounds. Some Sunni (Orthodox) Muslims believe that Isa/Jesus ascended to heaven without being crucified. Some branches of Shi’a Islam believe that their last (Twelfth) Iman will return with Isa and unity will be restored among the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews, Christians and Muslims).
For the great majority of Christians, the tomb of Jesus was empty because “He is risen!”