When the women disciples of Jesus told the men that the tomb was empty where Jesus had been interred, two of the men took off running. The Gospel of John (chapter 20) says that one of the men was Peter, and the other was “the one whom Jesus loved” [a modest euphemism, used by the disciples of John to refer to John]. The account says that Peter was in the lead but John ran faster. [The picture above is my rendition from 20 years ago of the disciples running]. They found the empty tomb, but noticed that the grave-cloths in which Jesus body had been wrapped were … notice this, as the men did … they were “deflated”. They were not scattered around as if grave robbers had invaded the tomb; and the cloths were there – which they would not have been if the body had been moved to another grave as the women first thought. But the head-cloth was rolled separately, as it would have been when it was wound around Jesus’ head. Jesus was gone leaving the death-wrappings behind. Then the men “believed”.
What did they believe? They believed the evidence before their eyes ... an empty tomb and cloth lying just where it had been. “They did not yet know the scriptural prophecy that Jesus would be raised from the dead,” the Gospel of John carefully informs us. In other words, that fuller understanding came from adding the visual evidence to the scriptural testimony.
Easter Day included several other visual experiences by various disciples. John’s Gospel recalls that Mary Magdalene actually saw the risen Lord, mistaking him for a gardener at first. Then the Lord showed up inside the locked room where the disciples were hiding.
All these sightings were somewhat ambiguous until they had been filtered through the lens of scripture. They were random experiences, fraught with emotion, but with imprecise meaning until they had been subjected to study and reflection. Before that there was running, rumors and sightings.
That’s the way faith works.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.