4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to
look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples went back to their homes. – John 20:4-10
They saw the empty tomb. Jesus’ body was not there. The burial shroud was, but Jesus was not.
For John, seeing is believing. He sees the empty tomb. He believes that Jesus’ tomb is empty. John believes that Jesus’ body is not there anymore. John may even believe that Jesus has, indeed, been raised from the dead just as Lazarus had been raised from the dead just a few weeks before.
For John, “seeing is believing.”
But it isn’t enough.
Peter and John’s initial reaction to the empty tomb of Jesus is to go back home.
It would not be until later that evening that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:45-47).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is pretty amazing. He is on a very short list of people the Bible records as coming back to life after dying:
- The son of a Zarephath widow (1 Kings 17:17-22)
- The son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:30-37)
- Lazarus (John 11:38-44)
- Another widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17)
- Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 8:28-43, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39)
- Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12)
- Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42)
But Jesus’ resurrection is different. His resurrection from the dead was not – or at least should have not been – a surprise. The Scriptures say that Jesus would rise from the dead.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. - Psalm 16:10
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. - Hosea 6:2
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? - Psalm 30:3,9
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. - Isaiah 53:10
Even Jesus Himself – whom John calls the Word – told the disciples on numerous occasions that He would rise from the dead.
Ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus Christ can only be truly understood and believed because of Holy Scripture.
Personal experience of the resurrection is very important. I have been changed by the resurrection of Jesus. My heart nearly bursts with joy at the final scene of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Because Jesus lives, I live my life (or try to live my life) differently from the way the world says I should.
But this personal experience isn’t enough. If I watch the movie enough, the emotional impact will fade.
But there is something that will not ever fade, something that doesn’t change, something that is ever-living.
The Word of God.
Only when John, Peter, and the rest of the disciples had the Scriptures opened to them could they take the resurrection to the ends of the earth and actually be changed themselves.
They saw the empty tomb. They saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. But that wasn’t enough. Only when the Scriptures were opened to them did they truly understand the resurrection.
Personal experience of Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing. But only when that personal experience is grounded in the never-changing truth of God’s Word will the resurrection change your life.