One of the things that amazes me the more I think about it is how individually Jesus treats us.
Think about it. When the women came to the tomb, they saw angels and, because of this miraculous appearance of angels, they hastily ran back to tell the apostles. Angels! Just think! How astonishing would that be?
So, these are two of the biggest names of Christianity! You might even expect an even greater miracle for them, right? After all, the women who are at the tomb who, other than Mary Magdalene, aren’t really big names of early Christianity… at least not compared to John and Peter. After all, they even wrote parts of scripture! That’s a big deal.
But that doesn’t happen.
John’s gospel describes it as such:
3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
That’s right. No angel. No Jesus. No special fanfare. Just them discovering the empty tomb with some burial cloths.
Romanelli depicts the scene as such:
Saint Peter pulls up the burial cloths while Saint John watches him, astonished. In the background there is another figure… Mary Magdalene, perhaps. And yet, the moment is focused on the astonishment of these two apostles.
It’s not a scene that is usually depicted in religious art. Most artists would rather focus on the miraculous sorts of scenes, such as the scene in which the angel(s) appear to the women, or the other various scenes that will follow when the Resurrected Jesus will appear to the people, starting with Mary Magdalene and continuing onward until the Ascension.
And yet this scene, as ordinary as it is, is a reminder that God is kind and will approach us as individuals.
Before this happened, Peter and John were hiding in fear for their lives. They were scared. John was too scared to even go into the tomb without Peter, for goodness sake! Reread the scripture again… it takes a while for John to even dare to come into the tomb. And, remember when Jesus signaled out Peter later and Peter was too ashamed to even say to Jesus, “I love you”? There were issues that had to be slowly resolved before these apostles were ready to follow in the Lord’s path.
Yes, an astounding miracle might have shaken them up, just as it astonished the women who ran to proclaim the Good News to the apostles. But God knew that this wasn’t what they needed at the moment.
They didn’t need anymore excitement in their lives.
They needed the Lord’s peace.
In a way, this revelation of the burial cloths, as simple as it was, helped them come to terms with what had happened in a far more powerful way than any other more dramatic method would have done.
And isn’t this the way in our own lives? Sometimes, of course, we might see a full-blown miracle. But in many other cases, the Lord leads us gently so that we only see a little bit of God’s handiwork. The fingerprints of God, so to speak.
And yet, this is enough for us to see and believe.
The Lord knows what we need — and praise God for that! May we continue to trust in Him and allow Him to guide our lives!