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. 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!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.
He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Let’s look at the three responses of Peter, John and Mary at Jesus’ tomb. John, pauses at first, even though he was at the tomb ahead of Peter (which he makes a point to tell the reader). But, Peter runs headlong into the tomb to see if Jesus is in The Greek word for “saw” is “theaomai” which is where we get our word theater. It means to be a spectator that fully sees or fully observes, like a person who is carefully watching a live play. Peter noticed the cloth was lying separately from the linen. This is significant because the word cloth in Greek is “sŏudariŏn.” It is a napkin or handkerchief that could be used for wiping sweat off one’s face and was also used to cover someone’s face after death. The cloth was still lying (folded) in its place (which would be where Jesus’ head had been laid). The body of a corpse was wrapped in strips of linen. The strips of linen were lying in place where Jesus’ body would have been, separate from the cloth that had been on His face. Luke 24:12 tells us what Peter was thinking after his careful observations, “he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” John indicates in verse 8, that he finally goes into the tomb (so it took some time for him to enter). But, when he saw, he believed. The Greek word “saw” here is “ĕidō” which means perceived, had knowledge, to understand. The Greek word for believe is, “pistĕuō” a verb, “to believe” which can be translated as: have faith; believe; to entrust one’s spiritual well-being. Elsewhere in the gospel any absolute use of the verb “to believe” indicates a robust, complete faith in Jesus. John took a look and immediately understood and believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Verse 9 makes it clear that he didn’t understand from the Old Testament scriptures, on a theological basis, but He was convinced Jesus must have risen from the dead.
Mary Magdalene had been the first at the tomb and when she saw the stone rolled away, she ran back to tell others. Mary is stricken with sorrow because she thinks someone has stolen Jesus’ body so she returns to His tomb to mourn. Matthew 28 tells us that another Mary was with her. As they weep and cry out in front of the tomb, Jesus appears to them. Although, Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize Him (this could have been because it was still dark out in the early dawn or His body was transformed and unrecognizable), she knew His voice when He called her by name, “Mary.”
Jesus meets us where we are and understands us completely.
These are three very different responses by three of Jesus’ followers. God made us each unique. We will respond differently to a similar experience depending on our personalities and our spiritual growth stage. Which one can you identify with the most? Peter, who is brave, runs right in to the tomb, observes all the details and wants to go tell others Jesus isn’t in the tomb as he wondered what was going on. His spiritual growth stage would be: spiritually curious, but not completely sold out to believing in God for all things in life. John, who hesitates, but finally goes in and as soon as he sees, quickly believes and comes to the conclusion that Jesus has risen from the dead. His spiritual growth stage would be: sees and believes, but needs to study the scriptures more to fully understand. Or, Mary, who stays at the tomb to process her deep feelings and tries to decide what’s really going on. Her growth stage would be: emotionally driven and trusts God, but needs to hear His voice. Jesus meets us where we are and understands us completely. It isn’t that one is better than another, it’s embracing and knowing who God is and who we are in Christ so we can grow in our relationship with Him.
Which spiritual growth stage are you in and how can you grow more in Christ? Examples:
For additional reading on the sequence of Jesus’ resurrection and harmony of the accounts in the four gospels, you may want to review: