Christians desired to see whether Jesus's body was missing from its tomb.
• Wolfhart Pannenberg (Professor at Harvard [and others]): “Christians must have attached great interest to this question.” [Jesus - God and Man (Westminster, 1968), 101.]
We know they had interest in whether the body was missing for three reasons:
• Christians were interested in knowing whether Christianity was false. (A critic might suggest that Christians did not feel that the truth of Christianity depended on Jesus's body being gone. But, this is inaccurate; Christians knew that their faith depended on Jesus's resurrection, and that resurrection was physical (i.e. grave-emptying).)
• Christians showed a general interest in gospel-history,
• Christians showed some interest in the possibility of missing-body apologetics or obtaining some evidence for their personal belief (note: though if they did show interest, it was not much). Couldn't it simply be that they were unable to check(see footnote 2), despite desire?
The physical trek to the grave was prohibitively difficult/undesirable. (That is to say, it was too inconvenient to visit Jesus's tomb to see if it was empty.)
But wait, the grave was right there in Jerusalem.
J. N. D. Anderson (Dean of Law at London): “It is a matter of history that the apostles from the very beginning made many converts in Jerusalem, hostile as it was, by proclaiming the glad news that Christ had risen from the grave-and they did it within a short walk from the sepulchre. Any one of their hearers could have visited the tomb and come back again between lunch and whatever may have been the equivalent of afternoon tea.” [Christianity: The Witness of History (Tyndale, 1969), 95-96.]
The church could not know if the corpse they were looking at was Jesus's because of severe decomposition.