Running Towards the Tomb

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection,
Eugène Burnand, 1898.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reaches the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (You see, they didn’t yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.)

John 20:1-9

Often life seems like a tragedy—pain and suffering with no purpose, no redemption.

If not, then why do we try so hard to convince ourselves otherwise?

Wars, famines, and plagues seem less like the exception and more like the rule. Yet, these concepts are too abstract and distant for us. They happen elsewhere, to other people. Not us.

Perhaps, however, you have lived a relatively pleasant life only to be diagnosed with a painful (and maybe deadly) disease. Perhaps your parents have been dragged into an early grave, and you’ve been left all alone. Or maybe it was a sister or a close friend. Maybe you watched them suffer and die. (People don’t die like they do in the movies.) Maybe you’ve never experienced these, but you wake up most mornings with an overwhelming depression. If life is supposed to be good, then why does it so often not feel worth living? Maybe you hate what you’ve become and see no way to change.

It’s not hard to agree with Macbeth when he says that life “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In books and films happy endings come a dime a dozen. In real life they are the exception to the rule.

If I’m wrong, then why do we try so hard to convince ourselves otherwise?

For his followers, Jesus represented the hope that history isn’t meaningless sound and fury. Jesus signified that good will persevere over evil, that love will last, that there’s always room for redemption, and that the story of the life is not a tragedy.

Yet, their hope now lay dead—in a tomb. Hope was a mistake. It was only the most dissonant and painful note amidst the sound and fury.

To add insult to injury, his body was stolen from its resting place. It wasn’t enough for him to die and his tomb to become a place of remembrance. After such great suffering, fate could at least allow him to rest in peace. No, even his remembrance must be desecrated.  

And so they run, Peter and the other disciple. Was it true that even this last thing had been taken from them?

The disciple Jesus loved outpaced Peter. Can you hear in this tiny detail the dread within their hearts? Can you hear in the speed of their pace their great love for Jesus? Love, by death transformed to agony. The disciple Jesus loved ran faster. As great as Jesus’s love was for him, so great is the pain that drives him towards the tomb.

Yet, can we hear instead a different story in the disciple’s gait? Could it be that some strange hope propelled him? An eerie feeling that something greater may be afoot? Maybe in the depths of his heart, this disciple Jesus loved believed a deeper magic was at work (as Aslan puts it). Was it hope, even the dimmest of hope, that spurred those legs to outpace Peter?

If the tomb had stayed closed, then hope was dead within it.

Yet, if it’s open—yes, maybe. Could it be?

No, no, it was surely a graverobber. Son, the world doesn’t work like that.


When the disciple saw inside the tomb, he believed. Yet, how else could he have believed if there weren’t some flame of hope inside his heart, however small?

And he wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t wrong to hope against all odds. The story of life is not a tragedy. Jesus Christ had pried open the tomb.

There was going to be a happy ending after all.   

Our lives are full of tombs where we keep the lifeless and painful things. We hide our hurt and disappointments deep down and out of sight. A disappointing marriage, a lost friend, a moral failing, a wounded ego, failing health. These are the ghosts that haunt us, and we spend our lives running from them.

The resurrection of Jesus means you can stop running away from ghosts. Rather, like the disciple Jesus loved, you can run headlong towards those deathly places. Like him, you cannot be sure what you might find, but a thread of hope will guide you. You just might find life inside that tomb.

And that final tomb, the one with your name on it. Run headlong towards it. Outrun the rest. Don’t let your eyes turn to the right or to the left.

When you get there, be brave. Peer inside. You might just find yourself in there, alive from the dead.   

Author: Tyler F Nunley

My thoughts on God, the world, and the Bible

2 thoughts on “Running Towards the Tomb”

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