10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.
12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.
Simon Peter missed the Crucifixion. Having run away from the crowd that arrested Jesus, and then denying his Teacher three times that same night, Peter likely spent the next couple of days in hiding. Fortunately, the following day was the Sabbath, and like all the rest of Jesus’ Jewish followers, he probably rested. (Luke 23:56) But on the first day of the week–a Sunday by our calendar–some of the women rose and went to the tomb to finish preparing Jesus’ body with oils and spices. As my late pastor used to say, “Then the angels told ’em, ‘He ain’t here!'” Amazed, afraid, jubilant, blessed, the women returned to tell the men what had happened. No one but Peter took them seriously, and Peter went to look for himself.
I imagine Peter as still being in a bit of a state that Sunday morning. He hadn’t been able to go out for fear of being recognized, and so he probably hadn’t even visited the temple the day before, on the Sabbath. Cowering in someone’s home for two nights had given him much time to reflect, especially since Jesus had accurately predicted Peter would deny Him. If Jesus had been right about that, and if Jesus had so accurately predicted His own death, then what else had Jesus been right about? Perhaps Peter was reflecting on his Master’s words from a few days earlier, just before they passed through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem.
31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.
32 “For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.
33 “They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
And then along come Mary Magdalene and the other women telling a story about Jesus having risen and gone on to Galilee. The other disciples may have tried to explain it away–much like modern scoffers do today–but Simon Peter wasn’t so sure. His world had been rocked by the events of the past two days, his heart and mind finally opened to a greater understanding of his Lord and the Scriptures. Perhaps he was even reflecting on something Jesus had said that last fateful night.
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
“When you have returned to Me,” said his Master. Jesus did not say “when I have returned to you.” So Jesus knew that Peter would falter that night AND that Peter would return to faith in Jesus. Peter would bend and not break. So Simon Peter spent two nights thinking about these things, and when the women returned with their amazing tale, Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself.
According to John’s Gospel, Peter was the first to actually enter the tomb, only to find the linen funeral cloths folded neatly off to the side, with no body in sight. (John 20:6-7) As he came out of the tomb, Peter was probably thinking, “Could it be true?” He certainly marveled at what he had seen.
That is the same reaction we all have upon first hearing the gospel: “Could it be true?” Could it be true that Jesus rose again? Could it be true that He is the Son of God? Could it be true He died to bring us peace with God? Could it be true He rose to bring us to eternal life? Could it be true that my sins are forgiven? Could it be true I have been living a lie up to this time? Could it be true that if I seek the Lord then I will find Him?
So many questions swirling through Peter’s mind and ours. So many thoughts and possibilities. This is the single most amazing event in the history of the world: a Man who died on a cross before many witnesses and whose body rose from a sealed tomb. What could it mean for us? What could it mean for the world? With all these questions swirling in his mind, Simon Peter left that place and went home to Galilee–a place of comfort and familiarity, yes, but also the place where his Master had said He would meet them.
We know the rest of the story: Jesus appeared to the Eleven, and then to many others over the next forty days. There were some skeptics who needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, but they were soon gratified to know their risen Lord. And Peter? He did just as Jesus said he would do: he strengthened his brethren and the other disciples, and he went on to lay the foundations for the church of Christ Jesus. But that day as he left the tomb, Simon Peter was still marveling at what he had seen, still wondering, questioning, and most of all, HOPING.
“Could it be so?” we ask ourselves. Perhaps there are some who still marvel and wonder about this amazing thing. I know that before I came to Christ, I wondered about the Resurrection. At the time, I doubted and I scoffed and I fought against faith, but God worked in my heart, patiently whittling away at my unbelief. Then a day came when I heard about that empty tomb, and I looked into the Gospels and I came away amazed, just like Peter. I marveled at what I found there, wondering, “Could it be true?” The risen Jesus answered by changing my life, and I knew the answer was “Yes.”
As I write this, today is a Sunday. We Christians typically gather on Sundays because of the Resurrection, because that was when we first got the good news that Jesus had risen from the grave. It is a day of joy and celebration, a day of worship and praise, a day of fellowship and hope. This day and every day, let us marvel at what God did through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Christ Jesus. Let us join others in falling at the feet of our Savior and worshiping Him. Let us come away from the empty tomb with greater faith and greater strength. The Cross and the Tomb were not the end, only a new beginning. Let us embrace that new life we have been given and share the good news with others. Let’s invite them to see for themselves that they need wonder no more. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is alive, risen from the grave to fulfill our eternal salvation.
Our Father in heaven, we praise the name of Jesus, Your beloved Son and our beloved Savior. “He ain’t here!” We hear those words and we are amazed at Your power and Your mercy. You alone could love us so much. You alone could save us. We thank You and praise You for Your salvation, Lord. Amen.