Easter Reflection: The Two at the Tomb
the beloved disciple. Outlined by a halo of light that came from the doorway, he could clearly see John’s eyes which were wide with wonder. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks. No words needed to be spoken. In fact, no words could be spoken. Everything was not yet clear, but both of them knew that something had happened that would change the world forever.
Standing inside the empty tomb, John’s mind began to flood with ideas and images from the past few days. He had seen the Lord crucified. The metallic cadence of nails being pounded into the Master’s flesh still haunted him. He remembered the sight of Golgatha – the place of the skull.
Elevated above those who were crowded around in mourning or curiosity, Jesus’ body had become one with its cross of execution. Bits of flesh still hung loosely from His back as a bloody witness of the scourging that he had endured while still remaining conscious. The crown of thorns, now stained with blood from his brow, continued to mock his kingship.
John thought back to the cries of anguish he had heard at the time of the crucifixion. The wails came from the crowd not the cross. While the people shouted, Jesus spoke only a few times, remaining quiet in his suffering at all other times.
The beloved disciple remembered watching Jesus prepare to speak. He would straighten his body, placing the weight of his frame on his pierced feet in order to breath more freely. In short gasps he spoke both to God and to them. John would never forget when His Master’s eyes fell straight upon him as he was given guardianship of Mary, Jesus’ mother.
He remembered the words that Jesus uttered at the end, “It is finished.” Exhaling one last long breath, He became lifeless. Jesus had died and all of heaven and earth recoiled in response.
Now laying before this disciple were empty linens where the body had been. “Where was the body of the Master? Where had they taken him? Where was he?” Almost as soon as he entertained these questions, words in response began to form deep inside. “He is not here, he is risen. He has risen from the dead, he has conquered death.”
These were not just terms or concepts he was thinking up; he was hearing a voice. Someone was speaking to him. John looked around and saw no one. Only Peter, who knelt silently in front of him, was present.
Whatever he had assumed about the disappearance of the Master before he entered the tomb, a quiet confidence and exhilaration now grew in John’s heart. Call it belief; call it faith… whatever it was, this disciple whom Jesus loved was overcome with the confidence that he would see his friend again. Jesus was not gone, only changed. He then remembered the mountain he had climbed with Jesus, where, in front of just a few of them, He became someone different. No, that was not right. He became who he really was.
Now here, in this dirty cave that same sense of holy awe from the mountain fell upon John. The voices continued to speak as he and Peter walked out of the tomb, “He is not here; he is risen,” they echoed. John looked around, fully expecting that he would see the Master standing there, with his familiar grin and the deep laugh that always conveyed the inner joy he had when greeting one of his followers.
Once before he and Peter had both seen an empty tomb, John remembered. Lazarus had walked out of the grave in his own power at the command of Jesus. He had stood before the crowd, still wrapped in his grave clothes. Jesus spoke again, saying “loose him and let him go!” Unwrapped from his death shroud, Lazarus looked no different than he had a few weeks before. He was alive.
Here, in this tomb, however, the grave clothes remained. This, too, was resurrection but of a different kind. Both disciples knew in their hearts that their lives were forever changed. Walking back down the path with the tomb growing smaller behind them, they remained silent.
Both slowed their pace and then stopped abruptly. Side-by-side, they looked back toward the tomb. John couldn’t stand it any longer. “He’s alive, Peter! He’s alive!”
“I know!” Peter exclaimed. Breaking into a fast run, they raced back toward their homes… toward an uncertain but exciting future.
In St. John’s gospel account, the beloved disciple recalls, from a first person perspective, what happened at the empty tomb: who went, who arrived first, and what took place inside the tomb. However, only John could also tell what happened inside of his being.
What he was feeling and thinking? A small window is given us in the eighth verse of John Chapter 20: “So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.”
There is so much we can grasp from this small nugget of the story. John had not yet seen his resurrected Master, yet he believed. The full account of the Christ’s resurrection was not yet revealed to him, yet he believed. The theological clarification of Christ’s rising from the dead had not been explained, yet he believed.
Do you believe that Christ died on a cross for our sins and rose again? That is all that is necessary to begin. Start there and let the world of faith unfold before your heart. Enter into the tomb, see that it is empty. Leave believing that He is risen! He is alive and active.
Our sins have been forgiven and we have hope in His Name! The Lord, through His Church, can take you now on a journey toward the future of your faith. St. Paul said, in I Corinthians 15, “if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins… But now Christ has been raised from the dead!”
St. John Chrysostom, in his famous Easter sermon wrote:
“O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!”
Begin with Easter faith; that is where it began with the two in the tomb. From that launching pad, the resurrection herald has been heard throughout the centuries and around the world! Just think what He can do in you!
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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