2. Investigation and Questions

Lk 24:11,12   But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Different personalities reveal different people. That’s what people are, differing personalities. There would have been some of the disciples who would have heard the account of the empty tomb from the women and simply sat there, dejected and angry. Not so, Peter.  Peter was known for his impetuosity. It comes out again and again throughout the Gospels. That’s something else I find encouraging about the Gospels: they reveal different people as they are. They don’t hold back, they show the different men and women with the faults, their failings and their fine features. The records indicate that the disciples were hidden away, fearful of being arrested, perhaps, as potential trouble-makers, as followers of Christ. It seemed only the women who were free and careless about being out in the open. They felt, they had strong feelings about Jesus, and those overcame any feelings of caution. Thus it had been the women who had gone to the tomb on the morning after the Sabbath. They had been concerned to ensure that the final embalming had been done properly. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had already done the preliminary work (Jn 10:38-40) but they were women, they knew about such things and they wanted to check it out and make sure it had all been done properly.
But then comes another authenticating aspect: these very human women, caught up in their emotions, didn’t think about the practicalities, didn’t think how they would be able to get in the tomb that had been shut with a massive stone. So when they turned up there was this great earthquake, an angel appears and the stone is rolled back. Job done! But there’s no body!  But how could that be? The body had been there put in the tomb when it had been sealed two nights before! The tomb was sealed when they arrived. They have been there all the time and now there is no body! Now, that’s tricky because the body didn’t get up and walk out past them – or did it in the confusion of the earthquake? Now you see what I meant about confusion in yesterday’s meditation! It’s not all clear. But the angel tells them to go and tell the others, so they do – with some somewhat negative results. They aren’t believed!
Well they aren’t believed by most –  except Peter and John, it seems. Or is it that Peter doesn’t believe either but his usual impetuous self wants to find out what really happened? That’s what is often frustrating about the Bible; it doesn’t always tell you everything you’d like to know. It leaves you questioning, and that in itself reveals your heart. How will you respond to it? Some of us will be like the other disciples and possibly just grumble about the impossibility of it, but hopefully you will be a Peter who will want to go and look and see for yourself. One of the things that saddens me about much of the discussions of recent days about beliefs about God, is that so many are willing to just read the views of those who should loudest, and then just regurgitate them without thought. The challenge is to look, to read, to investigate, to find out for ourselves. How many when they eventually come face to face with God will come up with Bertrand Russell’s famous but shallow comment that there was ‘not enough evidence’. John records in his Gospel, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” (Jn 12:37).  The Gospels are full of evidence. Modern life is full of evidence, but the truth is that those who don’t want to see, won’t see, whatever happens in front of them.
So Peter runs to the tomb. Now, he too is not concerned about the authorities. He just wants to know and he wants to know quickly. How like us. I want to know and I want to know now! I don’t want to have to take time to investigate; I want answers, quick and easy answers, now! That reveals the shallowness of our hearts. If there is truth here to be found, we are foolish if we don’t take a little time to find it. Peter arrives at the tomb and it is exactly as the women said it was – empty!  Peter actually goes into the cave. He wants a close look. He wants to see all the evidence for himself – closely. He looks, he sees and he goes away wondering. It seems he is not going to get his quick answers. He is left wondering for the moment.
Now there are two scraps of evidence that indicate that that wasn’t the end of it for Peter. The evidence suggests that as Peter went away, at some point he was met by the risen Christ. It is tentative evidence, but evidence nevertheless. Luke later records that when the two disciples later race back from their encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they are greeted by the eleven who tell them, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” (Lk 24:33,34). The apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth, recording the resurrection appearances, said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” (1 Cor 15:3-5).
No Peter, didn’t find his answers at the tomb, but in an encounter with the risen Christ. It was a personal encounter. Yes, he was later to have a further encounter with his Lord up in Galilee (Jn 21) but for the moment he is reassured, this leading disciple, by his own brief encounter. He is in a state of confusion and is no doubt still engulfed by his guilt. This isn’t a time for dealing with deep issues, they will come later. This is simply for affirming the truth – Christ is risen!  Peter has gone looking but it wasn’t the evidence in itself that convinced him; it was his encounter with the risen Lord. Thus a number of weeks later, under the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he was able to declare, “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…..God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:24,32).  Hallelujah!

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