(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Easter Morning 2012
13th April 2012
Like all Jesus's followers, Mary hadn’t understood at all that He would rise from the dead. When she found the stone rolled away from the entrance to Jesus’s tomb, the only explanation she could think of was that somebody had stolen his body. So she ran back to town, to find Peter and John, and tell them what she thought had happened.
How bad could things get? Her beloved Lord had been arrested, falsely tried, tortured and executed. She, and all Jesus’s followers, must have been both heartbroken and bewildered. They’d put all their faith in Jesus, and now He was dead. And he hadn’t even put up a fight. He hadn’t even tried to defend himself in court. And, if He was the Son of God, why didn’t God save Him? As his enemies had jeered, “save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40b). Why would Jesus give up the fight? And why so easily? So she ran to Jesus’s two closest disciples. Maybe they could make some sense of it. But they couldn’t.
Even today, many people don’t understand why Jesus chose to die. Of course He could have defended Himself. Of course he could have escaped. He chose to die because His death paid the penalty for our sin – yours and mine. But if you think you don’t need God’s forgiveness, or if you think God could forgive you without any price being paid, then the crucifixion of the King of Glory will make no sense to you.
Peter and John, as heartbroken, bewildered and frightened as Mary, ran back to the tomb, to see for themselves, and try to make some sense of what had happened.
Some people will investigate the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. They will understand that this is important. The greatest man who ever lived disappeared from his tomb three days after he was buried. That man claimed to be the unique Son of God. What really happened?
Few doubt any more that Jesus lived, and taught, and was the most wonderful person on the planet. Jesus preached the Sermon On The Mount – the most amazing words anyone has ever spoken. Was He the Son of God? He claimed that He was (John 19v7). What happened to him? Can you say you care about love and truth and goodness, if you don’t investigate the empty tomb of Jesus Christ?
Verses 4 and 5
Although John was fitter than Peter and outran him, John didn’t go in. We don’t know why but I suspect it must have been because he was afraid. It wasn’t just the common fear of graveyards and tombs – this was the Lord’s tomb.
Many understand that Jesus is important, and that His death and the disappearance of His body must be significant. But for some, fear of the unknown, fear of the supernatural, even fear of “getting religion”, can stop us. We might peer in, without entering in. We might give Jesus our respect, without daring to risk truly understanding Him.
Verses 6 and 7
Peter didn’t hesitate. Three days ago, he'd had been the coward who denied that he’d even met Jesus. Then he'd seen his Lord crucified. He had nothing left to lose. All he wanted now was to know truth about Jesus.
Now, Peter was the first person to enter the empty tomb and see for Himself that Jesus must be alive again. He understood that Jesus’s body hadn't been stolen. A thief wouldn’t take the body but leave the grave clothes. Even if he did, he wouldn’t fold the grave clothes and leave them in a neat pile. Only Jesus would take off his grave clothes and fold them up.
Some hesitate to find out the truth about Jesus. Some don’t hesitate. Some want to see for themselves. And those who really want to know the truth, will find the truth. God will show you enough evidence to let you believe in Jesus – in His death and His resurrection – if you really want it. But if you want to stay outside the tomb, and remain in ignorance, God will let you do that, too.
John, the writer of this story, the witness giving of this evidence, says “finally” – “finally” he also went inside. And when he went inside and saw the evidence for Himself, he believed.
Others may have entered before you. Fear of discovering the truth, and how it might affect your life, may have kept you outside – perhaps for years. It can feel safer outside the tomb than inside. Outside, we won’t have to rethink our ideas; we won’t have to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. We won’t have to go to church, and pray, and sing. We won’t have to give our time and our money to support the work of the gospel. We won’t have to love our neighbour.
But inside, we can believe. We can come to an understanding that Jesus really is the Son of God, that He died to pay for our sins, and that He rose again. And we can discover that Jesus Christ – the Lord of the universe who lives for ever – loves us, and helps us, and heals us, and forgives us, and that, for the first time, we can understand what God is like, and can get to know Him though His Holy Spirit, and can live for eternity in His presence.
And it’s not too late to enter. Look into the evidence.