When Seeing is Believing
The Lord was gone. His lifeless body had been removed from the tomb and lovingly laid in a borrowed tomb. His enemies rejoiced and His followers mourned. Everyone thought He was gone.
Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb on that first day of the week. The stone was not in its place. She thought someone had stolen the body and raced back to tell the disciples. When Peter and John arrived, John looked into the tomb, saw that the body was not there. But he did not go in. He waited for the slower Peter to catch up and let him go in first. And an interesting statement is recorded for us:
“Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed” (John 20:8).
John 20 records several appearances that Jesus made after His death. The disciples needed to know in a tangible way that Jesus was alive. John 20:9 tells us that they still didn’t understand what the Scriptures said about their Master’s resurrection. They needed to see to believe—except for this one little phrase that tells us that John believed when he saw the strips of linen scattered around and the burial cloth neatly folded and laying apart from the linen.
What caused John to believe? The absence of the body didn’t seem to cause the same response in the others. Jesus needed to appear physically to them to cement their faith. But John believed here, inside the tomb. I can only speculate by putting myself in John’s sandals. Why would I have believed that Jesus was alive just by seeing that the body was gone and the linens lying there? Grave robbers could have take the body, or the authorities could have removed it so that the followers of Jesus couldn’t take it and pretend that Jesus was alive.
I think it was the linen. Neither grave robbers or the authorities would have removed the body and left the linen. No grave robber or authority would take the time to neatly fold the cloth.
The trappings of death were left behind because they were no longer necessary. I can picture in my mind a resurrected Jesus carefully folding the face cloth and laying on the stone ledge where His body had lain. I see Him rest His hand on it and smile. The circle is complete. His followers would see His face, not shrouded in death, but animated and alive with His Father’s glory.
John, who seems by all the history we have of Him, to be the sensitive sort, allowed his mind to defy the logic of “someone stole the body” to travel to “these were not the actions of a grave robber.”
And he believed.
I’d ilke to think that I would have picked up on the clue that the cloth represented. More likely, in my grief and panic, I would have missed it. I usually do. It’s easy to miss those subtle messages of God’s presence, His protection, His provision, amidst the stresses of life. The reminders of the miraculous are all around us and we may never know how often we miss them.
Perhaps today is a good day to ask the Lord for a little more of John’s sensitivity to the clues to the miraculous. It might surprise us to discover those “folded linens” in our lives that indicate that God isn’t dead at all, but very much alive.