Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
— John 20:3,4
By the time the women reached the apostles, they must have sounded very confused! On one hand, they reported that the angels said Jesus was alive from the dead. On the other hand, they were confused and operating in fear, so they exclaimed, “…They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2).
Fear always produces confusion, and these women were so confused that the apostles didn’t take what they said seriously. Luke 24:11 says, “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” The words “idle tales” are from the Greek word leros, which means nonsense, idle talk, babble, or delirium (see April 28). Who did these women think removed Jesus from the tomb? Which story was true? Was He resurrected and alive as the women first told the apostles, or was He stolen away?
John 20:3,4 says, “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple John did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.” When the Bible says Peter and John “went forth,” the Greek tense indicates that their feet were moving before the conversation with the women concluded. When they heard that something had happened at the tomb, both men were on the move to get there as quickly as possible.
We also know from John 20:11 that Mary Magdalene soon followed Peter and John back to the tomb, for she was present at the site and remained there after Peter and John returned to the apostles.
I find it interesting that when Peter and John raced to the tomb to see whatever it was that the women were trying to communicate to them, none of the other apostles joined them. The others apparently just sat and watched Peter and John put on their clothes and start running, but they didn’t join the two men. Instead, the rest of the apostles probably stayed behind to discuss what they had heard and to debate about what it meant.
Because Peter and John ran to the garden, they experienced something the other apostles missed by staying home. It is simply a fact that if you want to experience Jesus Christ and His power, you must get up from where you are and start moving in His direction.
John outran Peter to the garden where the tomb was located. As soon as he arrived, John 20:5 tells us, “And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.” The Greek word for “stooping down” is parakupto. It means to peer into; to peep into; to bend low to take a closer look; to stoop down to see something better.
John bent down so he could take a close peek into the tomb, and he “…saw the linen clothes lying….” The word “saw” is the Greek word blepo, which means to see. It was just enough of a glance to see the linen clothes lying there. The words “linen clothes” is the same identical word used in John 19:40 (see April 26) when referring to the expensive Egyptian-made garment in which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had buried Jesus. If Jesus had been stolen, whoever took Him would have taken this expensive garment as well, but John saw that these linen clothes had been left lying in the tomb.
Graves were a place of respect for the Jews, which may explain the reason John was hesitant to enter the tomb. It is also quite possible that he observed the broken seals and realized that it looked like an unlawful entry had occurred. Perhaps he was thinking twice before he found himself connected to an alleged potential crime scene. Regardless of why John hesitated, the Bible tells us that Peter didn’t hesitate but promptly barged right into the tomb to check it out for himself: “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (John 20:6,7).
John only glanced into the interior of the tomb, but the above verse says Peter went into the sepulcher and “…seeth the linen clothes lie.” The word “seeth” is the Greek word theaomai, from which we get our word theater. It means to fully see or fully observe, like a patron who carefully watches every act of a play at the theater.
When Peter entered that tomb, he surveyed it like a professional surveyor. He looked over every nook and cranny, paying special attention to the linen clothes and the way they were left there. He saw “…the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” The word “napkin” is soudarion, and it refers to a napkin that could be used for wiping perspiration from one’s face. This word was also used in connection with a burial cloth that was gently placed upon the face of the dead at burial.
When Lazarus came out of the tomb, Jesus instructed that his grave clothes be removed along with the soudarion, or napkin, from his face (John 11:44). Apparently Jesus’ entire body was wrapped in a large white linen sheet (see April 26), but His face was covered with such a napkin in traditional Jewish burial style.
The most fascinating fact about this facial cloth was that it was “…wrapped in a place by itself.” The word “wrapped” is the Greek word entulisso, which means to neatly fold; to nicely arrange; or to arrange in an orderly fashion. The reason this word is so interesting is that it tells us Jesus was calm and completely in control of His faculties when He was raised from the dead. He removed the expensive Egyptian-made burial cloth from His body, sat upright, and then removed the burial napkin from His face. Sitting in that upright position, He neatly folded the burial cloth and gently laid it down to one side, separate from the linen clothes He probably laid down on His other side. Now as Peter gazed at the scene inside the tomb, he could see the empty spot where Jesus had sat between these two pieces of burial clothing after He was raised from the dead.
John 20:8 says, “Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.” This verse says that when John saw the empty stone slab where Jesus’ body had previously lain and the burial clothes lying to the right and to the left, forming the empty spot where Jesus sat after He was resurrected, John then “believed.” I find it truly amazing that even though Peter had spent a longer time than John inside the tomb, he was still uncertain as to the meaning of it all. Luke 24:12 says that Peter “…departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.” John, on the other hand, left the tomb believing Jesus was alive.
Later that evening, Jesus would appear to all the apostles and breathe the Spirit of God into them, giving them the new birth (John 20:22). But at this moment, because the Holy Spirit was not yet resident in them as their Teacher, there was much they could not understand. Even though Jesus had told them He would die and be raised from the dead, they simply were not yet able to comprehend it. That’s why John 20:9 says, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”
Although the apostles had heard this scripture from Jesus Himself, the reality and full impact of its truth had not registered in their hearts. After this historical and momentous day, the Bible tells us, “Then the disciples went away again unto their own home” (v. 10).
It is remarkable to me that Peter could stand in the middle of Jesus’ empty tomb and still leave uncertain about what it meant. How in the world would it be possible to be in the very room where Jesus’ dead body had lain, to see the neatly folded napkin, to recognize the spot where He sat upright between those garments, and to still not be able to figure out that Jesus was now alive?
Yet it starts making sense when I think about it. God has done so many unquestionable miracles for you and me as well. How many times have we walked away unaffected by the power and miracles we’ve seen and experienced? God has delivered us, saved us, and rescued us from harm time and time again; yet we still tend to wonder if God is really with us or not. How in the world could we ever question the faithfulness of God after all He has already done for us?
We need to make sure we don’t remain unaffected by the miracle-working power of God that has worked in our lives. Instead, we should make the decision to fully embrace every good thing God does for us — to soak it up so entirely that it changes us and our outlook on life. God is good! He has been good to every one of us. If we fail to remember this, it is only because we are not opening our eyes to see His hand of protection, provision, and safety all around us.
So make the choice today to recognize what God has done in your life. Remember to thank Him for it, and then never forget it!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, it is true that You have worked so many miracles in my life. If I were to try to recount all the times You have saved me, delivered me, rescued me, gotten me out of trouble, put me on a right path, and blessed me when I didn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t have enough time to recite them all! So how could I ever question that You would be with me right now in my present challenge? Of course You are with me and will help me. Forgive me for being so hardhearted as to forget what You have already done for me. And I thank You right now that You are going to help me this time too!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am not forgetful of the many ways God has worked in my life. I am mindful of His mercy and grace and I praise Him for it every day. I am a living testimony of His power. He is my Redeemer, my Healer, my Deliverer, and my Provider. He is the One who rescues me from harm and who meets my every need. I am fully supplied in every area of my life because of the promises God has made to me in His Word!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Be honest! Haven’t you had times in your life when you were like Peter? In other words, have you ever been standing right in the middle of God’s gracious provision when a new challenge caused you to wonder if He was going to be faithful to help you make it through in victory?
2. Why don’t you take a few minutes right now to reflect on the miracles God has done in your life? Make a list, and see how many instances of supernatural provision you are able to write down.
3. Since you have a responsibility to tell others what God has done for you, why don’t you find an opportunity today to tell someone one good thing God has done for you? Then ask that person to tell you one moment when he is sure God did something supernatural for him. You may be surprised at how people respond to this question!