Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Running to an Empty Tomb


On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
John 20:1-9

This is my favorite Easter Gospel Reading. There is much that impresses upon me in this particular passage: the description of the carefully rolled and set aside burial cloths, the obvious deference paid to Saint Peter by the younger Saint John as he patiently waits for Peter so that he might be first to enter the tomb. The point that has stayed with me most over the years is that they ran to the tomb. Imagine the dejected, desolated, despairing Peter having denied Christ three times, abandoning Him to the crucifixion, after having promised to follow Him anywhere, even to his own death. Unexpectedly, Mary Magdalene comes to him and tells him the Lord's body has disappeared. In excitement, and possibly a little confusion, he runs to the tomb and indeed it is empty. Peter needed that tomb to be empty, because without an empty tomb the sacrifice of the cross could only continue to leave him in despair. Suddenly it makes sense, HE HAD TO RISE FROM THE DEAD!

A blessed and very happy Easter!
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