A PERPLEXING ABSENCE
Mighty God, you are ever able to do more than I ask or think. Let your Word of hope and resurrection fill me with joy.
Read JOHN 20:1–10
The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Using Romans 8:38 and 39, pray for those known to you who are burdened by grief, disappointment, or struggles. Ask for Easter joy to renew them.
Grief and loss demand that we reverence the remains of our loved ones. Mary’s first witness is that the body’s gone – that they don’t know who’s taken it or where they’ve put it. Adding this spiteful indignity to Friday’s cruelty drives Peter and John to get there as fast as they can. As they pelted along, panting, leaving Mary in their wake, anger and fear must have been mingling in them.
John arrives first – I love the fact that he puts it on record that he was a faster runner than Peter, an incidental detail that feels utterly real. He looks through the entrance but doesn’t enter. Peter arrives later and boldly steps into the tomb.
Whatever they were expecting as they were tearing along, it wasn’t this. Far from a desecrated grave, they find an ordered scene, with linen lying there (this could mean placed rather than dropped) and the face cloth rolled up by itself, off to the side. This doesn’t look like a robbed grave. Although John starts to grasp that much more has happened here than they understand and that God may be involved (v 8), neither conclude that Jesus has risen from the dead (v 9). Unwilling to risk staying in the open, as they legitimately fear arrest, they return to their lodgings.
The first witness is to an unexpected and unexplained absence, not to resurrection – just one factor that reminds us that the disciples have no possible motive for staging this and that none of them profited from it in any way. An absence that perplexes has yet to give way to a presence that stirs inextinguishable hope.
Bring the questions perplexing you to the Father. List them somewhere precious and commit to praying for answers and for God’s sovereignty to be revealed between now and next Easter.
Merciful Father, make me the kind of Christian who invites rather than hinders faith.
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