Wednesday, April 1, 2015
John 20:1-18, continued
We're running along behind John, Peter, and Mary Magdalene as they go back to the tomb. Take a moment to refresh your memory of the passage. We'll wait for you!
It says in verse 4 that the first to arrive at the tomb was John. Oh, how he wanted to believe! He loved Jesus. Of all the disciples, he had been the most faithful. Instead of denying his Lord, he had been in the courtyard when Jesus was questioned. He had been looking up at Him as He spoke from the cross, and gladly took His mother into his own home, to care for her. We can imagine that John was so excited about the possibility of Jesus being alive, that he ran faster than he ever had before!
But when he arrived, he didn't go in. He looked inside, but did not step in. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe Mary was wrong, and Jesus' body had been moved to another part of the tomb? Maybe he had to catch his breath. Maybe he was afraid that the guards would wake up while he and Peter were inside, and accuse them of moving the body, to make it seem like Jesus had risen from the dead.
A few moments later, Peter arrived at the tomb. Peter always has been a little brazen, a little impulsive, eh? So he walks right in. He sees everything just as Mary Magdalene had said. The linen strips that had covered Jesus' body were all lying in place, as if His body had just dematerialized from inside the grave clothes.
When Peter entered the tomb, John thought, well, I guess it's ok . . . so he went in, too. They both saw all of the evidence -- but they had very different responses.
John saw and believed. (Look again at verses 8 and 9.) John looked at the evidence: the women's story and the empty grave. He believed -- Jesus had risen from the dead! John didn't need to see Jesus to know that He was alive. He had listened to Jesus' prophecies about His coming death and resurrection, and now here was the empty tomb. It was enough.
There are many people like John today. We believe because there is an empty tomb, and because there is the testimony of Christians through the centuries to the fact that Christ is alive. We don't need to see, or to feel in order to believe. We are they that Jesus spoke of later in the chapter, when He said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
So, of the three people we followed to the tomb, John is the one who reacted with belief.
Now, let's look at Peter. Peter arrived after John; we saw that. Maybe it was because John was younger. Maybe with age, there had been some arthritis that hurt his knees and back -- that'll slow you down! Maybe he was afraid of what they might see. We can see that he wouldn't be afraid of the soldiers; after all, he had whacked off someone's ear when they tried to arrest Jesus!
And another thing. He wanted to know . . . but there was a part of him that dreaded seeing Jesus if He was alive. The last time he had looked into Jesus' eyes was just after he had denied him three times. He knew that his sin and guilt would be overwhelming -- could he handle it? The pain was so bad! How could he face Him?
Are we like that sometimes? We want to believe. We want to grow our faith. But there's so much history and pain. It's so difficult to believe that Jesus can wipe away all of that pain.
But it's true. Jesus can forgive, and He can heal.
Peter went in, and saw the evidence for himself. He saw the strips of linen that had wrapped His body and His head. Sure, it proved that something had happened. But it wasn't enough to prove to Peter that Jesus was alive. Our verse says that John believed . . . it doesn't say that they both did. And in Luke, we find that Peter was "wondering to himself what had happened." (Luke 24:12) So, we would have called Peter a skeptic that day.
Do you know what mistake Peter made then? Check out verse 10. He left!
Something this important, and he left without really coming to a conclusion. Why, if he'd hung around a little longer, he would have experienced what Mary Magdalene is going to see. There wasn't enough evidence to convince him, because he didn't stay long enough.
Are we like Peter? Do we stop short of placing our trust in Jesus for some problem or situation, just because we don't hang around long enough? Here's what we mean: perhaps we don't read God's Word enough. Maybe we don't spend enough time around God's people. Perhaps we don't spend enough time in prayer. If we get up from our knees before the still small voice has the chance to speak, or if we leave the church before the Spirit moves in His special way, then we miss it. We need to stay until we see the miracle.
That is what Mary Magdalene did. Peter walked away with a broken heart, and wondering about whether Jesus was truly alive. But Mary "hung around" and we'll see what happened tomorrow.