I wonder what was going through the heads of Peter and John as they ran toward the tomb where Jesus had been laid. Mary Magdalene had just told the disciples, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him (John 20:1-2, NASB).” Peter and John then take off to see for themselves what has happened to Jesus.
Verse 3-4 tell us that that they were running together until John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. I have this picture of them looking at each other as they ran and then John smiled and surged ahead. Yet when John arrived at the tomb first, he did not go in. The stone is rolled away, but he hesitated to enter. I wonder if he was confused or scared to see that Jesus’ body was gone.
John 20:9 tells us, “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” This is the moment they begin to see that Jesus’ crucifixion was not final, that something new is astir. John hesitated to enter, but when Peter arrived he “entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself (John 20:6-7). This is the same impulsive Peter who climbed out of the boat to follow Jesus walking on the water.
I picture John standing outside the tomb, catching his breath, wanting to know what’s inside; hesitating to go in, then seeing Peter immediately go inside when he arrives. I envision Peter standing inside the tomb also catching his breath and seeing it was true that the tomb was empty, studying the “linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself (John 20:7).”
John then joins Peter inside the tomb. I picture the two of them standing there staring at the empty tomb, surveying the linens that once held Jesus’ body. This showed Jesus’ body was not hurriedly stolen in the night. Who would take time to to carefully roll up the face-cloth before whisking his body off in the night? Verse 8 tells us that John “saw and believed” when he finally entered the tomb. I picture John and Peter standing together inside the tomb, looking at each other in awe, pondering the revelation that the tomb is empty.
How would you respond to the news that Jesus’ tomb is empty after seeing Jesus crucified — after seeing his lifeless body removed from the cross? Would you run toward the truth, pursuing the good news, running with all your might? Would you hesitate at the opening to the tomb, or immediately run inside and see only the linens that once held Jesus’ body? I encourage you this Easter to run to the empty tomb. Whether you hesitate at the opening or run inside, stand with others this Easter inside the empty tomb. Study the linens lying there and know they could not contain death. Take in the moment when Peter and John began to grasp that Jesus lives. Know that Jesus conquered the grave, that we have new life in Christ Jesus.
© 2020 CGThelen