Peter and John at the Empty Tomb

“So Peter got up and ran to the tomb and looking in he saw the grave clothes only and he departed on his own, marveling at what had come to pass.”

(Luke 24:12)

“Therefore, Peter went out along with the other disciple and came to the tomb. Now, both ran together but the other disciple was quicker than Peter and entered the tomb first. Looking in he saw the grave clothes lying there, but did not enter. Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb. He saw the grave clothes lying there and the face-cloth, which had been on his head, was not with the grave clothes that were lying there, but was by itself, rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple entered in, who had reached the tomb first, and he saw and believed — for they had not understood the Scripture that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples departed on their own.”

(John 20:3-10)

What Luke summarizes in a single verse, John expounds upon a bit (indeed, John was there!). The women have been to the grave already, now it is time for Peter and John to witness the empty tomb for themselves. They race to the tomb, John is quicker, so he beats Peter to the entrance, but stops to peer in. Peter thus, enters first. And, in addition to the grave clothes, they find the face-cloth set to the side and even folded (or at least, not casually discarded like the grave clothes). 

The question of the face cloth, either folded or rolled up (depending on how you translate the terms, though “rolled up” may be more literal) has caused no end of speculation. In the early church (which was closest to the Jewish culture of Jesus’ Day), the argument was made that a folded (or rolled) cloth would not be something that robbers would leave behind — it would be discarded in haste, not carefully rolled. Thus, it is meant as a testimony once again that Jesus’ tomb had not been burgled during the night. Others go to great lengths to try and see it as a message to the disciples from beyond the grave…yet, if it was a “message,” that message fell on deaf ears because the accounts that follow still betray much confusion on the part of the Apostles. 

What is more important is what John actually records about the disciples not really understanding the Scriptural bit about Jesus rising from the dead…and then John believing. In other words, when confronted with the empty tomb, John’s response was a response of faith. A point that we have already discussed in these reflections is the importance of evidence to support the faith we profess. Yet, it cannot be emphasized enough that true Biblical faith is not a matter of acting blindly, but it is the spiritual sight needed to see and understand the testimony that God presents in nature and the events of history to see his hand at work and then believe. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all of history, for this is the event that proclaims that death has been destroyed. And thus, we are given evidence — not just the eyewitness of several women, but now two men have seen the empty tomb as well (not to mention some Roman Guards). And things are only going to get more interesting from here as Jesus appears to the Eleven and then to others. The faith we have as Christians is not just grounded on stories or legends, but it is grounded on historical facts…the most important of which is that this man, Jesus, has risen from the dead.

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