Summary: How did Peter and John differ in their reactions to seeing the empty tomb?
John 20:1-9 – I Believe it, but I Don’t Get it
This morning we are starting a post-Resurrection series, that is, telling stories about what happened after that first Easter. We certainly believe that Jesus was raised from the dead on that spring Sunday many years ago, but what happened afterwards? How did His disciples react? What words did Jesus leave them with? So from now until sometime in June, we will be studying from John 20-21. Today’s passage is John 20:1-10, and for something different, I am showing you a video about the passage. It’s from a movie called The Gospel of John, and it displays – word for word – the Bible, using the Good News Translation. Let’s watch.
I think we need to understand the emotional state of the disciples before we can grasp the meaning of this passage. Jesus was killed 2 days before, Friday afternoon. These guys had been following Him for several years, going around with Him from town to town, hearing His preaching, watching His miracles. He was their leader, but He was also their friend. These guys were in shock, really. They woke up Sunday morning with broken hearts.
Now, I have to say, the sequence of events that morning is a little fuzzy. As Christians, we can believe all the stories – from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – but putting them together in one unified narrative is a little tricky. This is perhaps how the events transpired that morning.
The female followers of Jesus – Mary the mother of James, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and others – went to the tomb early Sunday morning. They went to anoint Jesus’ body with perfumes and spices. Although they had seen from a distance Joseph of Arimathea taking Jesus’ body, perhaps they did not know that Joseph himself, along with Nicodemus, had prepared Jesus’ body. Or perhaps they wanted to do one last act of service themselves. Either way, they went to say goodbye to their loved leader.
But there was a problem: who would move the stone? The stone weighed a ton… literally. That would be a problem. But when they got there, they found that it was already moved. Apparently they didn’t feel the earthquake, when an angel rolled back the stone. Well, the guards posted at the tomb sure felt it – and saw the angel too. The angel just plopped down on the stone, and the guards passed out because of fear and shock.
So, by the time the women got there, the grave was open and empty, and the guards were unconscious nearby. The women entered the tomb. Suddenly the angel appeared, along with another one, sitting where Jesus had been. They stood up and said, “Don’t be afraid or alarmed. I know you’re looking for Jesus, who was crucified. But why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here – He’s risen! Remember the words He spoke when He was with you in Galilee? He said He would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, but would rise again. Come and see where He was. Now, hurry – go tell His disciples, and especially Peter, that they will see Him in Galilee.”
So they women ran out, trembling, bewildered, confused and afraid. They said nothing to anyone until they reached the place where the disciples were staying. They told them the good news, with Mary Magdalene singling out Peter. At this point, we can follow John’s telling of the events… Peter and John ran to the tomb. Now, there’s a contrast between Peter and John that’s interesting. Peter got to the tomb second, but went in first. He saw everything first, and was left “wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke 24:12).
But then there’s John. He got to the tomb first, waited outside, and went in second. His response was different from Peter’s. Peter wondered what had happened, but John “saw and believed” (v8).
So both Peter and John saw the same thing. They both saw the empty tomb, they both saw the graveclothes, and they both saw the head wrappings. But they came up with different conclusions. Well, Peter didn’t come to a conclusion, but confusion. But John saw and believed. Two equally sincere believers responding very differently to the same thing.
How is that possible? Well, it happens all the time. That’s what makes denominations. Sincere, truth-seeking believers, with the same passage of scripture, reaching different conclusions. That’s why our brothers and sisters in the 7th Day Adventist church see eternal destinies differently. That’s why our brothers and sisters in the Wesleyan church see sin differently. That’s why even among Baptist churches, we see the role of women differently. It’s not so much that one group is right, and the other is wrong. It’s that we see things differently.