“Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed” (John 20:8).
Some things you know. Some things you really know. You feel them in your gut. You can’t even logically consider any other possibility. Every experience backs up common-sense facts. Like death. Final. Irreversible. No going back. No reset button. No escape hatch built into the human condition.
What they saw
Peter knew what he saw on Good Friday. The Romans weren’t the inventors of crucifixion. They were, however, expert practitioners of the torture. The brutal execution of Peter’s teacher and friend left him devastated. All his hopes for a better future were dashed along with the death of Jesus.
Sullenly sulking, Peter sat with John and the other disciples early Easter morning. The appearance of Mary and her incredible report punctured their silent gloom (John 20:2). Confusion. Chaos. More questions. The follow-up report sounded too fanciful (Luke 24:11). Peter didn’t wait for a rendezvous with Jesus in Galilee. He and John bolted for the tomb.
Doubt, confusion, and skepticism have met their match in the One who rewrites the rules for how our lives are supposed to go.
As he raced to the tomb, his brain berated him for his foolishness. He always was the one to act first and think later. Now it was his chance to realize what a waste of time this race would turn out to be. Peter knew what he saw. Jesus was dead.
His gasps for breath slowed him a bit as he spotted John just outside the tomb, but he didn’t stop. He barged right into the rock-hewn resting place of their revered rabbi. The grave clothes were not scattered as if hastily discarded by robbers. Folded linens and face cloth were still there, not left in a heap as if criminals were working against the clock. Valuable materials were left behind. The only thing missing was the corpse.
What they believed
How did Peter reconcile this with what he knew? Was he still confused by the incomprehensible events following the Passover meal; Jesus’ stubborn refusal to defend himself under interrogation; and, worst of all, his own failure to stand up for Jesus and count himself a disciple when it mattered the most? Filled with shame, Peter watched as Jesus refused to use his power to put a stop to his ignominious execution on Friday. Everything Peter did and failed to do haunted him and held him back from properly reading the clues inside the empty tomb.
But when John finally entered the tomb, he let the words of Jesus do the explaining. Jesus told them, “The Son of Man . . . will be delivered over to the Gentiles. . . . They will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18:31,33). It was just as Jesus said. What they didn’t understand then now became clear: betrayal, rejection, execution, resurrection. Just as he said. John now saw what the plan had been all along.
If Jesus is no longer in his tomb, then he is who he says he is. If the body of Jesus isn’t lifeless and listless, then Jesus is more than any of his disciples expected him to be. If Jesus has defeated death, then the dark cloud of guilt and shame is dissipated. If the grave no longer holds him, then heartbreaks over personal failures are no longer dealbreakers either. Doubt, confusion, and skepticism have met their match in the One who rewrites the rules for how our lives are supposed to go. Hope is alive in the resurrection of Jesus.
Author: Jeffrey Enderle
Volume 109, Number 04
Issue: April 2022