The Tomb is Empty!
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (John 20:3-9)
A footrace ensued between two very anxious and excited Apostles. Mary’s announcement to them that their Lord’s body had been taken from the tomb rang in their ears and propelled their steps. We can only imagine that her words overwhelmed them–taking them both by surprise and wonder. Surely their thoughts must have run as fast their feet. Had someone taken His body? Were Jesus’ often repeated predictions of His resurrection true? Could it possibly be that their deep sorrow would somehow turn to abundant joy? Perhaps King David’s words in Psalm 30 rushed through their minds, even though surely beforehand in their sadness they had missed meditating upon its promise:
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
-2 Corinthians 1:20
The disciples had often been slow in their understanding of Jesus’ words. Their heart’s desire superseded what their ears heard–they wanted the glory without the cross–the heavenly kingdom without the cost. Don’t we as modern day followers of our Lord fall into that same pattern as well? We decide what would be best for us and we pray to that end. We even become upset when God doesn’t fulfill our perfectly ordered plans as we see fit. We embrace the instantaneous and kick against the pain of true growth which will make us more like Christ. The pain and suffering of the Lord Jesus is a necessity for our freedom. And so it is with us who believe in Christ–there is the cost of the cross:
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
Often singled out by Jesus from the rest of the disciples, it is fitting that Peter and John would be the only of our Lord’s disciples to actually enter His empty tomb. They were most likely the closest to the Lord and more willing to take the lead. They certainly wanted to see with their own eyes what had been reported to them–no hearsay would suffice. John gets to the tomb first and simply gazes rather than goes in. Peter makes the discovery. No enemy or thief in removing Jesus’ body would have taken such great pains in removing the linen clothes in which our Lord was wrapped. Interestingly, the linen cloths wrapped around the dead body with myrrh would have stuck to it like pitch. Considering the spices used in wrapping His body, the amount of linen would have been more than likely no small heap. The clearest evidence of an orderly and deliberate transaction, however, was discovered in the napkin which had been tied around Jesus’ head–it was folded neatly in another place. Certainly this was an indication of order without the hurry and haste that would have accompanied a robbery.
Flashes of truth must have come across John’s mind as we are told that he “believed.” We are told both Peter and John had forgotten their Lord’s predictions while His enemies–Caiaphas and his wicked companions–remembered them:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:62-64)
Take It to Heart
Christ left His grave clothes behind–rising never to die again!
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)