Summary: An Easter Message.
FIRST DAY FOOTRACE
INTRO: Let me tell you a riddle. It concerns a footrace between two individuals. The one who arrived first at the finish line lost the race. The one who arrived last won the race but failed to capture the prize. The one who lost the race captured the prize (REPEAT THESE THREE POINTS).
The explanation to this riddle is found in our text. The runners were two disciples of Jesus. The footrace was on the day we are celebrating today — early on that first Easter morning.
Let’s look at John 20. The first person mentioned is Mary Magdalene. She was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. In Matt. 27:61 we find her watching when Jesus was buried. Here in John 20 she came to the tomb early in the morning and found to her surprise and fear that the stone was rolled away.
She responded by running to tell the disciples. Her announcement to Peter and John was like a pistol shot that started their race to the tomb. Thus started one of the most interesting races in all of history. Who would get there first? The proud impulsive fisherman or the “beloved disciple” who had also been called one of the “sons of thunder”? Who would win the prize?
We need to define the finish line in order for the riddle to apply. We also need to determine the prize. I consider the finish line as the entrance to the tomb. From the outside, one could see that the body was not there. Mary had probably seen that. But inside the tomb a person might be able to receive a great insight. That insight is what I consider to be the prize. It was the realization that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Remember, Mary did not know that. She thought the local authorities had taken His body. LET’S LOOK AT THE RIDDLE AGAIN.
I. THE ONE WHO ARRIVED FIRST AT THE FINISH LINE LOST THE RACE.
The other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. I can picture him standing there, huffing and painting, victory right in his grasp. But he stops short. He doesn’t cross that line. Instead he stoops over looking inside, squinting to see through the dimness. “He saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in” (NASB).
We can sympathize with him. There is something about walking into a tomb, going among the dead, that might hold us back too. We avert our eyes; we pull back. it is a region to which we defer and give respect. It would take more bluster than this “son of thunder” could muster to go barging in.
So while John hesitated, blustery impulsive Simon Peter crossed the finish line and won the race.
II. THE ONE WHO ARRIVED LAST WON THE RACE BUT FAILED TO CAPTURE THE PRIZE.
Peter went blazing right on into the tomb. He also saw the linen cloths lying there. The Gospel writer used three Greek words all translated “saw.” John “saw” at a glance (blepo) in verse 5; Peter “saw” (theoreo), observing carefully the details, theorizing.
Peter noted that the napkin that had wrapped Jesus’ head was separate from the other grave cloths. It even had a rolled-up appearance. The Greek word suggests it was coiled or rolled as though the head around which it was wrapped had suddenly de-materialized and vanished. Peter saw all this like a detective, examining the details, searching for clues. He was trying to figure out what “they” had done with Jesus’ body, where “they” had taken it. he was puzzled that they would leave the grave cloths behind. Why would they unwrap the body and then roll up the cloths again and lay them just where the body had lain?
Then John, “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” (NIV), also went into the tomb. In verse 8 he reminds the reader that he was the runner who reached the tomb first.
Again he “saw”, but this time it was (eidon), both a physical seeing and a mental perception. While Peter was theorizing, John had a flash of insight. He experienced the eureka moment.
These three kinds of seeing cause me to relive the experience of teaching my children to drive. When I ask, admittedly with some tension in my voice, “Do you see that big truck about to pull out in front of you?” they assure me, “I see it.” But I worry — do they just blepo, glance at it; is it a nice truck, are they noticing the details of it, theoreo; or do they see the danger and the response they must make, eidon?
The study of these three Greek words helps us to solve the riddle.
III. THE ONE WHO LOST THE RACE CAPTURED THE PRIZE.