Summary: This is about John beating Peter in a footrace to the empty tomb, but Peter going in first. t’s about Peter’s courage, and how we need to live courageous lives, following God’s plans for us.
John 20:1-9 – Fools Rush In
Today, as we are continuing our series called He is Risen Indeed, where we have been studying Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to us, we turn our attention to the men of the story. We have studied Jesus’ female disciples, but now we look for inspiration from Jesus’ male disciples. Turn with me to John 20 and we’ll read the 1st 9 verses.
Now, let’s recap what has already happened on that 1st Easter Sunday. The women disciples – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and more – have come to the tomb to anoint their leader with burial spices. It turns out that the stock, blocking the entrance to the tomb, has been rolled away. The tomb is not empty, though. There are 2 angels in there, telling the women that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
It’s likely that when John’s gospel says that Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb, it’s only because John was focusing on Mary Magdalene specifically. After all, she becomes the 1st one to see Jesus. So even though John only mentions her, he does refer to others in v2: “We don’t know where they have put Him.” We, as in, more than just herself.
So, at this point Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, presumably John, both run to the tomb. The distance between where the disciples were camping out in Jerusalem and the tomb that Jesus was buried in, belonging to the religious aristocrat Joseph of Arimathea, was not very far. And John outran Peter to get to the tomb when the women brought back the news of Jesus’ missing body.
Now, I want to focus this morning on the fact that John beat Peter in a footrace, but Peter went in the tomb first. I think there’s something there that we can hang our hats on, something that will spur us on in our faith.
In my study for today, I found different sermons on John outrunning Peter. Sometimes they rang true with me, and sometimes they didn’t quite seem to fit.
For example, I read one sermon that said John outran Peter because John was younger. That much is probably true. John sat at Jesus’ right hand at the Last Supper. That’s a Jewish tradition, that the youngest at the table sits or reclines next to the leader of the Passover meal. Jesus was the leader or course, so it’s likely true that John was the youngest at the table. Youth won the race that day, beating out the apparently older Peter. But you know, that’s not necessarily true. Youth does not always win a footrace. I don’t think a person can say that John won because he was younger.
Someone else wrote that John beat Peter because John had stronger convictions. John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead sooner than Peter, and his simple faith and beliefs had driven him faster than Peter’s legs had carried him. Well, again I say, I don’t buy it. After all, even if John got there 1st, once he was there, he didn’t rush right into the tomb for a better view of the situation. John peeked his head in, but Peter took it full force and went in. No, John’s stronger convictions don’t sit with me either.
And then I read that John got there 1st because he was more confident of Jesus’ love than Peter was. After all, John called himself the disciple that Jesus loved. John was so confident of Jesus’ love for him that it shaped his whole identity. Peter, on the other hand, had stumbled and fallen just 2 days earlier. Perhaps Peter was less confident of Jesus’ forgiveness than John was. That’s why, of course, that the angels singled out Peter to the women messengers, making sure that they let him know especially that Jesus was alive.
This explanation sounds good, but it still doesn’t explain why Peter rushed in before John. To tell you the truth, I don’t think there is a good reason why John beat Peter in a footrace. I don’t think the Bible tells us or even hints why it happened. I don’t think it’s about being younger and faster, or having stronger convictions, or being more confident of Jesus’ love. Frankly, I don’t think there is a point to John beating Peter.
I think the point of this part of the story is that Peter ran into the tomb first. Even though he got there 2nd, he went in 1st. I think that’s what John is trying to get at here. I do not know why John only arrived at the tomb and peeked in. Apparently the entrance to a tomb was smaller than the inside, kind of like an igloo. If that’s true, then picture with me what happened: John arrived at the tomb. The stone had been rolled away, and he approached the entrance. He bent down, looked in, and noticed the tomb was empty. Then Peter arrived, bent down and looked in also. Then he got on his hands and knees and crawled in. John followed him in, and that’s when they saw the grave clothes and so on.