Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb – John 20:1
On the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb she found the stone rolled away. She went straightaway to let Peter and John know. They ran to the tomb. John got there first but didn’t go inside. Instead, he stooped down and looked in. He saw that the tomb was empty. Only the linen cloths were lying there. When Peter reached the tomb, he went inside.
He saw the linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. John entered the tomb saw and believed. Then, the two disciples left and went back to their homes while Mary remained outside the tomb, weeping. She had no idea what had happened to her Lord. She believed that, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” By “They” she might have been referring to the guards posted outside the tomb although I’m not sure why they would have moved the body. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have had no reason to move it either.
This morning when I read this, it dawned on me that the folded linen handkerchief which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head disproved the idea that His disciples had stolen the body at night while the guards slept. If that were true, they would not have had time to unwrap the body, neatly fold the cloths and then carry the body away. And the fact that the disciples were assembled in a room, fearful of the Jews, also disproves the notion that they would risk being caught stealing Jesus’ body.
The empty tomb and folded cloths speak volumes of the resurrection of Christ. Today, let us rejoice that our Lord lives and that one day He will appear a second time to those who look for Him, not to deal with sin, but to bring them to full salvation (Hebrews 9:28).
Have you ever told someone something and he or she didn’t believe you? No matter how much you try to convince that person he or she just isn’t buying what you are saying. How did it make you feel? Hurt? Angry? Frustrated?
When the apostle Peter was arrested and thrown into prison, fellow Christians got together and held a prayer meeting. While Peter was sleeping, an angel of the Lord went to the cell where he was shackled between two sleeping guards, woke the disciple and led him out of the prison. After Peter realized that this was not a dream or a vision, he went to the house where the believers were gathered.
He knocked on the gate and a girl named Rhoda answered. In her excitement at seeing Peter, she ran back to tell the others instead of opening the gate and letting him in. However, her good news was met with doubt. “You are beside yourself!” And when she insisted, they told her that it was Peter’s angel. Short of grabbing them and taking them outside to show them, there was nothing Rhoda could do to convince them. Fortunately for her, Peter continued to knock and this time they heard him and opened the door. They were astonished to see him.
Why were they astonished to see him? Why did they doubt Rhoda? Weren’t they praying for Peter? Didn’t they expect God to answer their prayers? Have you ever prayed for something and when God answered the prayer, you couldn’t believe it? This reminds me of when Jesus had appear to His disciples the first time after His resurrection and even though they saw Him and He spoke to them, they still didn’t believe. They thought He was a Spirit and were terrified. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38). And when the women went to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and what the angels had told them, they didn’t believe them. According to Luke, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).
It doesn’t feel good when you tell the truth and people don’t believe you. If you were Rhoda what would you have done? Would you have admonished the others for not believing you? Or would you just let it go? I think if I were Rhoda, I would have encouraged the others to join me in prayer and we thank and praise God for coming through for Peter. This was a time to rejoice and give thanks, not contend with your brethren.