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From Chris's Heart

May 2012
The Race to the Tomb
by Nick Harris

One of the persons who was most deeply committed to Jesus was the woman known as Mary Magdalene. She felt indebted to Him; Jesus had done something for her that no one else could have ever done, and she could never forget it. She had been a hopeless social and spiritual reject, but Jesus had come along and reclaimed her. As a result, she would play a key role immediately following the resurrection of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene would be the first of Jesus' followers to arrive at the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning, and she came very “early.” The Greek word translated into English as “early” is the noun PROI which is a technical word; it relates to the fourth and final watch into which the Hebrews divided the night hours. The fourth watch began at three in the morning and continued until six in the morning. So when Mary approached the tomb, it was still dark. Apparently, she came at this time because she could not stay away any longer.

However, when she arrived at the tomb she was shocked. The stone which the Romans had placed over the entrance of the tomb had been removed. Two things may have entered her mind at this point. She may have thought that the Jews had taken away the body of Jesus so that they could heap further indignities upon Him. Or, she may have imagined His body had been stolen by some supernatural ghoulish creature. People in those days believed that these creatures made it their business to rob tombs.

Mary did not feel that she could deal with this situation on her own, so she returned through one of the gates of the city to try to find Peter and John. In spite of the way in which Peter had denied Jesus at the House of Caiaphas, he was still considered to be the leader of the band of disciples.

When Mary found Peter she told him what she had seen. Peter was also alarmed so he awakened John and the two of them immediately raced toward the tomb. John, the younger of the two, was the first to arrive. He looked into the tomb, but he went no further. However, when Simon Peter arrived, he not only looked inside, but actually entered into the tomb and found it empty except for the grave clothes of Jesus. Peter was simply amazed by this, but John was not. In fact, a question immediately arose in the mind of this young man. He asked himself this: if tomb robbers had been at work why on earth would they leave the grave clothes behind?

Then, another thought struck him. He realized that the grave clothes were not disheveled or disarranged. They were lying on the slab where the body of Jesus had been placed, and they were still folded as if the body of Jesus was still in them. In other words, the grave clothes did not look as if they had been put off or taken away. John must have thought, “It looks as if the body of Jesus has simply evaporated out of these cloths,” and it had.

Suddenly, John realized what had happened and he instantly believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he said he would. The truth is this: it was not what John had read in the Scriptures that convinced him that Jesus had risen from the dead; it is what he saw with his own two eyes.

That is not, however the point I want to make in this article. What I want you to see is the part love played in this episode. It is the key to everything. It was love that caused John to race to the tomb of Jesus like a mad-man, and it was really his love for Jesus that caused him to become the first man to understand and to believe that Christ had risen from the dead. Love allowed him to read the signs and to understand the meaning of what he had seen.

Many years ago a young artist brought a picture of Jesus to the famous painter, Paul Gustave Dore for his verdict. Dore was slow to answer but at last he did so in one sentence. He said, "You do not love him or you would have painted him better." We can neither understand Jesus nor enable others to understand him unless we take our hearts to him as well as our minds. That is what John did, and so should we.

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