So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (verses 3-8)
This story gives a snippet of how personality and temperament and experience all work so differently within each of us as we encounter Jesus.
On the road, running, are two disciples. One of them is Peter, who is impetuous, doesn’t hold back and jumps right in. He’s the one who stepped boldly out of the boat on to the surface of the water, took several steps in audacious faith, and then sank. He’s the one who declared to Jesus, with revelatory insight from the Father, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He’s the one who impulsively swore he would lay down his life for Jesus, then, within hours, swore up and down he’d never even met him. And now, running on this road, he’s full of the same eagerness to arrive at Jesus’ tomb, but clearly doesn’t have the same capacity as his running mate.
That “other disciple” is presumably “the disciple Jesus loved,” the author of this Gospel, the Apostle John himself. John was one of the Sons of Thunder, given the name directly by Jesus, telling us something of the fire and spit of John’s temperament. He, with brother James, were ready to call down fire from heaven on those Samaritans who would not welcome Jesus. He, with his brother, prompted Mom to request that Jesus give them the favoured places at his right and left hand in the coming Kingdom. Yet, he is the tender-hearted disciple who speaks of the Master’s love, who reclined at table right beside him, and lingered at the foot of the cross when all other disciples seemed to have scattered. Plus, in this instance, he was the one who could run faster than Peter.
But their response at the tomb is entirely different, one from the other. John arrives, bends over, peers in, takes stock of what lies inside on the stone ledge (strips of linen), and lingers at the entrance. But Peter arrives and plunges right in. That’s his style – ever impulsive. Up close and personal inside the tomb, he views the strips of linen, together with the head piece wrapped neatly at the top.
It’s Luke that tells us that Peter, when he saw these things, went away puzzling. He couldn’t figure it out (Luke 24:12). Mystery filled his mind. He stewed on it. Clearly, he later believed, overwhelmingly convinced of the certainty of an empty tomb and a living Lord. But he didn’t arrive there immediately.
John, on the other hand, “saw and believed.” We don’t know how much he clearly understood at this point. We don’t know what gaps remained in his thinking. But sight turned to faith. With the whole of his being, he believed.
I love this vignette of sight and faith and different approaches and different temperaments. It takes all kinds, as they say. Indeed, what we find, is that the Lord himself takes all kinds.
Blustering, impulsive Peter. Fiery, tender John. You. Me.
Receive us all, Lord Jesus. Those who are quick in the approach and those who are quick with faith. Those who linger, and those who take longer. Those with fire and bluster. Those with reflective pondering and quiet meditation. Receive us all, Lord Jesus, all whom you have created. Give us faith to receive all you have accomplished for us. In your name. Amen.
Reflect: What’s your style? Are you quick to the draw or slower in contemplating? Do you jump right in or hold back? Give it all to the Lord and ask him to meet you where you are. Ask him to build faith. Receive.
Picture: Eugène Burnand, The disciples Peter and John running to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection,1898, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons