“He saw and believed.”
John the Apostle has claimed first belief.
It almost sounds like the breaking news that news stations like to claim. “We were the first on the scene. We were the first to report. We were the first to tell you what happened, and how, and why, and where, and when.” Congratulations, but in the end there were 100 news stations there and no one will remember you showed up five seconds before your competitor.
But St. John? He’s kind, thoughtful and quite courteous, unlike many news stations. John arrives at the tomb first, but doesn’t go in first. It sounds like John the Apostle was a sprinter, whereas Peter the Apostle was a marathoner. A nice thought the day before the Boston Marathon.
John the sprinter sprinted to the tomb of Jesus when Mary Magdalene reported the body of Jesus missing. We can’t blame Mary there. That’s not the type of news you want to keep for yourself. The missing body of Jesus from the tomb is not news that qualifies for the seal of confession. You have to find your friends and share it.
But John stays back, not stepping in after peeking in. He allows Peter the honor of all Christian honors. He allows the Chief Apostle, the one on whom this Church of Jesus Christ is built, the one who today is in the person of Pope Francis, John courteously allows Peter the first step into the tomb where Jesus is not to be found…forever. Peter was allowed by John to be the first to step into resurrected life, and see what it looks like. John understood his role and stayed back so that Jesus’ self-chosen Rock, Peter, could enter the rock where death was destroyed for us. Maybe this is why Peter is the one who waits at the Pearly Gates. So he can tell everyone entering how awesome their empty tomb will be one day when the Lord returns. Peter’s first step into the tomb is a witness to Jesus’ first step into God’s promise for us.
Depending upon the faith situation of families at funerals concerning the loss of a loved one, there are times when its necessary to ask the question, “What is it going to look like when you’re reunited with that person?” The grief and sense of loss, and sometimes even no hope, makes it necessary to plant a seed of truth that will hopefully grow and remind us that we are here but a short time, and that our Risen Lord has waiting for us what is called “The Reunification of Indescribable Joy.”
Peter took the first step into this tomb of life. The tomb of Jesus Christ.
But there’s still the other guy in this Resurrection Gospel. The sprinter. He claims for himself the “breaking news,” if you will. And he has every right to. And we should be overjoyed that he does. John’s “breaking news” is at the heart and soul of Christian living and faith. Without it, we are wanderers. “He saw and believed.” John was the first believer in our Lord’s resurrection. The disciple whom Jesus loved. The sprinter who sprinted his way to belief that Jesus is raised from the dead. So how is our
sprinting going in this regard?
Whereas Peter was the first to step into life, John was the first of billions to believe in life after death. It tells us how profoundly deep John was in tune with,and touched by, and open to the Spirit of life. He was the first of countless hearts and souls over the centuries, with many more to come, to have hope. This is what belief in an empty tomb does. It offers us the hope we are in need of in the present – the short present time – until we meet again.
The three followers of Jesus in this Gospel, three people touched by the presence and love of God in their midst, offer to us as witnesses the whole of our salvation. Peter walked into life; John believed in life after death; and Mary Magdalene, in John’s Gospel, was the first to see, touch, and speak to that life.
To follow the example and witness of these three giants is to be on the path of being reunited with our loved ones. We live in truth and hope, for he is truly raised from the dead, and so are we.