From His arrest in the garden to the burial of Jesus in the tomb of the Arimathean, it seemed like darkness was winning. The first Good Friday felt like anything but good. Jesus’ followers went into hiding. The women who had been at the cross, including His own mother, had entered the Jewish process of mourning and care for the body of the deceased. Despite the fact they had been told, they hardly seemed prepared to find the stone of darkness had been rolled away and the true light had already begun to shine. The darkness could not overcome it.
What follows is from the disciple John’s account of the luminous discovery:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9)
I love the way the Apostle John wrote. You can almost feel the pent up tension in Peter and John as Mary Magdalene, the unlikely first witness to the emply tomb, alerts the disciples to the suddenly missing body of Jesus. The two men are spurred on to release by running towards the burial place with the abandon of children headed towards the playground. As John Stott described, Peter and John set out on a “dramatic early morning race to the tomb.”
In the Apostle John’s description you can certainly pick up on his sense of humor. He makes sure his readers know that he, calling himself “the other disciple,” was clearly the winner of the race. Notice the three statements in verses 4, 6, and 8, respectively: “the other disciple (John) outran Peter and reached the tomb first,” “Then Simon Peter came, following him,” and “Then the other disciple (John), who had reached the tomb first, also went in…”. Dude, we get it. You won the race. Peter was like 150 years old anyway.
But then, John gets to the heart of the matter. He says (paraphrase), “When I got there, I saw the burial clothes still lying there. The head cloth was separated from the body wrap, but it was still wrapped up in its place. It was as if the body had just evaporated. When Peter got there, we both went in. Though I didn’t fully understand what all of this meant, even though I should have from the Scriptures, I SAW AND BELIEVED.”
Again, John Stott: When Peter and John entered the tomb, it was is if the body had just been vaporized…”The strips of linen hadn’t been touched, folded, or manipulated by any human being. They were like a discarded chrysalis from which the butterfly had emerged.”
The crucifixion was marred with darkness. Literally. But it was not the end. Darkness only held its ground for a couple of days. In the end, the true light overcame and darkness began to pass away. It continues to pass away to this day.
We know what Peter and John did not know during the dark days when Jesus’ body was in the grave. We know the end of the story. We know that you must have the crucifixion before you can have the resurrection. But with resurrection…we have life; life in its fullest.
May you run to the empty tomb this Easter. Run with release and abandon. Run with hope, for in the magnificent victory of the resurrection we bear the Light of the World.