Easter Joy—John 20:1-18
Lungs gasping for air. Arms pumping. Feet pounding on a dusty trail. Rays of early sun light breaking over the horizon. It is Easter morning, the day of the resurrection of our Lord. Peter and “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” (presumably John?) were rushing to the tomb.
Heartbroken women had made their way to the tomb through the predawn light. They had been startled by an unexpected turn of events. The stone had been rolled away. Instead of the dead body they intended to finish caring for, they find an empty grave and the unbelievable message that Jesus has been raised from the dead!
The women rush back to where the other disciples had spent the night and share the incredulous news. Peter and John run to the tomb. John outpaces Peter, but doesn’t go in. He peers inside but doesn’t enter. Peter—breathless from running—catches up and goes inside.
The linen wrappings that had held Jesus’ body were lying flat and empty. The cloth that had covered Jesus’ head had been folded neatly and laid aside by itself. John sees and believes. We are not told what Peter thinks. They go back to Jerusalem. This is all recorded in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John.
Those early disciples did not easily believe that Jesus had defeated death. They were too familiar with mortality and the violence of this crazy world. They had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion. They knew all-to-well the power of death. They had not yet been convinced of the power of life! As these two men struggle with doubt and belief, the story continues with “But Mary…” (John 20:11). Grieving Mary is suddenly back at the tomb weeping. She is still convinced someone has taken Jesus’ dead body. Belief in God and Jesus’ victory over sin and the grave did not come easily for her or any of the disciples. Yet, she too, came to believe in Jesus’ victory and power over sin and death.
The early disciples struggled with doubt and belief. They believed, but their faith had a lot of growing to do. Knowing their struggles with doubt and belief encourages us. Our stories, our struggles and our wrestling with what to believe can be a source of encouragement and strength for each other. The stories of others encourage us.
The lesson in this? Do not struggle alone. Do not be a lone wolf Christian. Stay connected and active in your worship and fellowship life. Stay involved. And, cut yourself some slack when you struggle with doubt and faith. They are intricately connected. The benefit of Christian fellowship is we don’t struggle alone. We need each other. So, let’s press on together!
Pastor Bruce Kolasch