So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. John 20:3
Can you draw a picture of Peter and “the other disciple” [John]? I cannot but when we see depictions of the apostles John is tall and lithe and Peter is shorter and burly. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s based on the men of the time and the attributes ascribed to each one in the Bible. If we believe those descriptions to be accurate then it makes sense that John arrives first. Peter, chunky boy that he is, comes huffing and puffing bringing up the rear. That could be why but today I’m wondering if there is another explanation.
Peter and John were both very close to Jesus. John stuck with Jesus to the last breath. Peter ran. He denied their friendship and then he ran and hid. Now, the tomb is empty. Of course they want to see it for themselves. They want to know what happened. Where is Jesus if not in the tomb? So they both begin to run as one might suppose, their thoughts do as well. What would each one be thinking?
They were both with Jesus when he said that he that he would rebuild the temple in three days. As they ran I can’t help but wonder if their thoughts took that path. They are at three days later and what they know is that the tomb is empty. John most likely is excited. It can’t be real, can it? And yet, in his time with Jesus, he’s seen so many things that didn’t seem possible.
Peter on the other hand might very well be a bit nervous. The last time he saw Jesus he was denying their friendship. Were the words “I don’t know the man” slowing his steps? Had Peter lost a bit of his eagerness? Was he thinking it might be better to let someone else get there first? In that moment, what words could he possibly think would be the right ones to say to the dear friend he’d betrayed? And what reception does he anticipate from that friend?
I have no idea why John got to the tomb first but today I am struck with the idea that it very well could be the feet of innocence versus feet leaden with guilt. Then I have to ask myself the question, how often have I let guilt slow my steps? How often have I neglected, just like Peter, to understand that the whole point of the Cross was that nothing, not one thing, not even my own guilt can separate me from the love of God?
Maybe Peter didn’t hesitate. Maybe you don’t either but I can assure you that I have. I have forgotten that it isn’t about me. It’s about Jesus and his sacrifice. Perhaps the foolishness isn’t so much in the hesitation that occurs because I feel unworthy. Perhaps the bigger problem occurs on the days when I foolishly believe that on my own I could ever be worthy.
Peter and John were running to the tomb to learn what we are also privileged to know. Jesus Christ did die on that cross but three days later he walked out of that tomb, clean, free and very much alive so that you and I can live clean, free very much alive and soaked in grace.