“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away 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.’ So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together . . .” (John 20:1-4 ESV).
Those of us who already know the gospel story are so accustomed to the plot that we can lose touch with the real drama—and emotion—of its unfolding. But what can make the story new for us is not necessarily further or deeper reflection on pivotal moments, but on the moments in between them. We encounter one of those beautifully rendered in Eugène Burnand’s famous painting, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.
What can make the story new for us is not necessarily further or deeper reflection on pivotal moments, but on the moments in between them.
Here we find a serene, seemingly ordinary day bathed in morning’s golden light. Above, a few scattered clouds in hues of purple and rose float above the landscape. And then, in contrast to all this peace, are Peter and John—both part of Jesus’ inner circle—abandoned to their anxiety. And while scholars will debate that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” mentioned in John’s gospel might not be the author himself, what matters here is not the accuracy of the names but the empathy of Burnand’s vision.
It is Sunday morning, the first day of the week after the darkest Sabbath they’ve known. Having gone to the tomb in the day’s early hours, Mary Magdalene sought them out, frantic. And from her lips they heard the shocking news: The body was gone. And with that, they started running.
Look at John’s worried eyes beneath a confused and determined scowl, hands clasped tight against his body, as he presses ahead in a posture of supplication, perhaps pleading with God for a good outcome.
Imagine the feeling in the elder disciple’s pounding chest as he runs onward, palm against his beating heart. No doubt Peter is filled with an ineffable combination of wonder and despair, and perhaps in some small corner of his heart, a hope that he doesn’t yet understand.
In all of this, a single thought must have propelled the men onward: Where did they take Him?
It’s helpful for us to linger in this moment, with this question—to run with Peter and John in our hearts, pondering the loss of Jesus, desperate to reach the empty tomb, eager to find Him.