The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
In chapter 20, we see the disciples various reactions to the empty tomb and Jesus' responses to their differing reactions including:
1. Mary went to the tomb first, and then later is found weeping outside the tomb. When Jesus first talks to her, she does not recognize him, but when he calls her name she says, "Rabboni", which means teacher.
2. Peter and John have a footrace to the empty tomb. John won the race, but when Peter got there he went in immediately. He saw the linen and cloth that was wrapped around his head, but the text does not say what he thought. Meanwhile when John finally goes in, he sees and believes.
3. In the evening, Jesus visits all the disciples (we are not sure who they are but we can assume they were the 12 minus Thomas) who are locked behind closed doors. When he comes in unannounced, he greets them with the words, "Peace be with you". Then, he shows them his hands and side. The disciples are overjoyed and realize it is him.
4. Thomas, who was not with the twelve, says that unless he sees the nail scarred hands, and puts his hands in Jesus' side, he will not believe. A week later, Jesus shows up again and utters the same words, "Peace be with you!" When he sees Thomas he says, "Put your finger in my hands, and your hands in my side. Stop doubting and believe!" When Thomas does so he exclaims, "My Lord, and my God!"
What is so beautiful about all these vignettes? No two people experience the empty tomb, or the risen Jesus the same. Some to come to faith right away. Some recognize Jesus when he calls their name. Others need the physical proof that he is truly the Risen Lord to believe. Notice Jesus does not lift up one way as any better than the next. He meets people where they are at so they can come to believe in Him. He says, "Peace be with you" every time so they will not be afraid of His presence.
What can we learn? There is not one way people come to know the Lord, and believe He is Risen from the dead. There is no formulas for belief. We cannot think that any two people will come to know Jesus in the same way. This reminds us that God is in charge not us. It reminds us that as smart as we think we are sometimes, God's way is still best. Maybe what we can learn is that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus save it. Jesus came in the flesh to meet us where we were at. If he was so flexible maybe we ought to be too!