- The Explore the Bible lesson for April 12 focuses on Luke 24:1-12.
Almost certainly, most of us have had this experience with Scripture. We’ll be reading, even a very familiar passage and suddenly we step back in wonderment. We may be reading a passage we knew well since childhood, but suddenly we see something in that passage we’ve never seen before. Scripture comes to life before our eyes and, in our heart, we have no memory of ever knowing before.
It’s like what happens when we are driving down a road we use frequently—maybe even daily—and, for some reason, we look left instead of right at a certain point. That’s when we see a house or business we’d declare we’ve never seen before. Yet, the place is obviously old enough that’s it been there a long, long time.
Though the building predates our lives, we may not have seen it before because, when passing that point, we always looked one way instead of another. That might be why, when I read today’s passage, I saw something new, as though I’d never seen it before.
It’s found in the last verse of this passage, verse 12. After looking into the empty tomb, the biblical report is that Peter “went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
It’s the “wondering” part that it seems to be so easy to lose. “Wondering” defined Peter’s first Easter. How I wish it would be mine every day.
What Peter saw when he poked his head in the empty tomb made absolutely no sense to him. He had always defined death a certain way that never included a body missing because, of all things, it was no longer dead.
It’s so easy to do that. To have very fixed, limited ideas or perceptions of all things God-related, especially something like the dead not staying forever dead.
Of course, it’s not hard to believe that Peter had another reason for rushing to the reportedly empty tomb that morning. Depending on how the math is calculated, it had been less than 72 hours since Peter denied Jesus three times the night of his arrest. He had to still be swimming upstream against an overwhelming tsunami of guilt. Who wouldn’t be?
It was partly his fault, Peter certainly reasoned, that Jesus had been arrested, tried and crucified. He had denied Jesus three times the night of his arrest, and Peter didn’t even have one chance to apologize to Jesus. (There are some things for which “I’m sorry” simply isn’t anything like repentance.)
A dear friend reports that, the day his dad left his mom, he followed him crying and pleading, even grabbing the back side of his pants’ cuffs trying to hold him back. Just hearing him tell that story is heartbreaking.
Seeking God’s forgiveness never has and never will mean chasing down a departing Father, hoping he will change his mind and not leave. Jesus did leave but, not of his own choosing. He left and, then, the wonderment of it all is that, of God’s own will, Jesus came back, chasing us down and pleading with us to accept his forgiveness of our sin.
If that doesn’t stop your heart for a moment, perhaps you should dwell on that gospel truth alone until it shapes everything else you believe about Jesus and the resurrection.
Our culture’s tendency to live for immediate gratification sometimes tends to rush us from the cross to the grave and then to resurrection morning without stopping long enough to ponder how that empty tomb impacted the women and Peter when they first saw it.
Lost in wonder, love and praise
The women went to the tomb, fully expecting to find a corpse for which they could provide the final acts of caring for the dead. In other words, despite everything Jesus had promised them, they fully believed they find the dead Jesus in that tomb.
He had promised them that, “on the third day (he would) be raised again.” What a phenomenal thing to promise. One of those promises that demands a patient faith, not a proven faith.
Note the verb tense Jesus used in his promise. He would “be raised.” Jesus didn’t say he’d rise from the dead. He promised that he would be the benefactor of God the Father’s act of resurrection power on his very dead body.
Jesus was dead. God raised Jesus from the dead. It was a blessing over which Jesus had no control. He was celebrating what we can and should celebrate, too. Paul affirms this as recorded in Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus, who died … was raised to new life.”
Peter heard the same words of promise, probably over and over, the women had heard. So, like the women, he sought out his Lord in the place of the dead, not the living.
Not finding Jesus in the place of the dead, Peter was lost in the wonder of it all and was left to question what this all meant.
Is there any other way to celebrate Easter? Is there a better way to leave church on Easter Sunday? Like Peter, to be so overwhelmed by the resurrection God has promised each of us that we have no choice but to walk away, lost in wonder, love and praise at the overwhelming fascination of what this means for us.
Glen Schmucker is a writer and blogger in Fort Worth. He has served as a Texas Baptist pastor and as a hospice chaplain.