Robert E. Surgenor
John Running - His Concern
It was a woman that was the first human being to sin against God. It was a woman that was first to declare the news of an empty tomb. Both women were in a garden. The first woman was beguiled, the second woman was ignorant of what had really taken place. However, she had the wonderful privilege of being the first one to actually see the risen Christ. The first woman after sinning had her eyes opened to see her ruin.. The second woman after seeking had her eyes opened to see her Redeemer. What a difference between Mary and Eve!
I can just picture Peter and John sitting in the house discussing the Lord and His shameful death. I am sure that their sorrowful hearts were occupied with Him. He had died and all their thoughts of His immediately establishing His kingdom on earth were now cast to the ground. What heaviness must have been theirs.
All of a sudden an excited woman bursts into their presence. Mary had news! Disheartening news! The look of despair must have been evident on her face. 'They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him" (John. 20:2). Immediately the house is vacated by two concerned men. They ran! There is no casualness on their part. They certainly didn't say to her, "Mary, settle down, we have a few things to do here and will see about that later." Oh no! There is no taking second place when it comes to the things of God! Years ago brethren lived for three things in this order; (1) The assembly; (2) Their family; (3) Their employment. Today there is a reversal of priorities. It is now; (1) Our employment; (2) Our family; (3) The assembly. Not so with Peter and John, they are earnest men. Let me ask you, are you earnest concerning the things of God? Or are you casual? Casual about attending meeting? Casual about reading and meditating on God's Word? Casual about your dress at holy gatherings? Casual in the presentation of the gospel? Let us be honest, casualness has raised its ugly head amongst us.
I am certainly not endorsing fleshly excitement, but I wholeheartedly recommend holy fervency in spirit, like Apollos (Acts 18:25). If you, my brother, stand to preach the gospel and simply read note after note from your sheet of paper, let me suggest something. Throw your paper away, get on your knees and wrestle with God for a message from Himself. Prepare your message in your heart as if all depended on you. Then when you rise to P reach, declare your message as if all depended on God. Be fervent in spirit! If this is an impossibility for you, if you are not gifted in that avenue, be man enough to tell the brethren that you are not gifted to preach the gospel and let them ask a brother who is. It will be no disgrace, but to your credit.
I remember when a suit was a suit. Heavy wool. There was no such thing as "summer weight" suits. Also, there was no air conditioning. Consequently, our older brethren sat through summer meetings, sweating and with a paper fan in their hand. Everybody was waving their arms. What a sight! No, they were not excited, they were just trying to keep cool waving the fan. You say, "Why didn't they take their coats and ties off?" Well, it's like this my friends, they simply saw the dignity of the gathering and with the Lord in their midst I perceive that they were afraid to look casual. You may say, "Well, that's old fashioned and there is no Scripture stating that we have to wear a suit." To me this kind of reasoning is very interesting, for folks that talk like that seemingly are always dressed their very best at their children's weddings or at funerals. Why is that? Because they consider that sacred occasion important, warranting proper and respectful dress. Isn't every assembly meeting sacred and important? I believe so. That is why we wear our best, the occasion demands it.
People complain about heat. Open hearth steel workers endured heat from 120 to 300 degrees on a daily basis. It was a job, and those conditions were endured, in order to feed their family. However, I consider the fires of Calvary. No human mind can conceive the temperature, if I may put it that way. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18 ). Isn't a little discomfort worth it to display the dignity of the gathering? If corporations require their executives to wear conservative suits, at all times, when representing the company, is our standard lower for the Lord's business? Business suits are required for members of the United Nations; uniforms are required for Commercial Pilots, State Troopers, and a host of other employments. The President wears a conservative suit when addressing Congress. Even the undertaker wears a conservative suit. Why? Because of who they are representing. Their representation must be the best. Aaron and his sons were required to wear specific clothing when ministering, "that they die not" (Ex. 28:43). just think, the death penalty for not dressing properly! I know that we are not under law, but brethren, when we are in the presence of Him Who endured the fires of Calvary for us, let us not be casual, let us look our very best. We are His testimony and He is worthy!
"So they ran both together." There was the exertion of all one's effort. These men were far from being casual - they were earnest! Some have suggested that John outran Peter because he was younger. But was he? Scripture is silent on that point. Let me say, John, at this point of time, was closer to His Lord than Peter. Peter's restoration was yet to come in Chapter 21. It is the devoted man that runs the best. Upon reaching the sepulchre, John stoops down and looks in and sees the linen clothes lying. It was an act of simply seeing. In respect, taking second place, he graciously waits for Peter to arrive. Not many men can willingly take second place, but a man devoted to Christ is quite willing to take the lowest room. Ask yourself, do I esteem others better than myself? "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3). It is interesting that the great man that penned these words also said concerning himself, "who am less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8). Two men at the sepulchre's entrance. What lessons they afford us today.
Peter, upon arriving, enters "and seeth the linen clothes lie." He viewed attentively. The napkin that was about His head was still in the same place, not connected with the rest of the body's wrapping. Another reading states, "But still rolled up - wrapped round and round - in a place by itself." The head being separate from the body is the thought. Peter also observes the strips of linen still rolled in their original convolutions around where the Lord's body had laid. Amazing! The grave clothes were absolutely undisturbed, but the body was gone! This indicates four things; (1) A calm awakening; (2) No body thief would ever take the time to unwrap the body for theft; (3) No thief could ever, after loosing the body, put the linen strips back in their original convolutions. (4) Only a true resurrection of the body could have taken place.
When John enters he says that "he saw." That particular word is used of one perceiving with understanding. It is the thought of examining one through an interview. Peter simply viewed attentively ("seeth"), but John "saw." Not only this, "he saw and believed." It is said of Peter, that he "departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass" (Luke 24:12). Peter wondered, but John believed! John's perception was deeper than Peter's.
May God give us the grace to be constantly, earnest, humble, gracious, devoted, and perceptive in divine things, as we serve the risen Lord. God willing, next month we shall consider various types of faith relative to the risen Lord, and the last expression of John's devotion to Christ in his gospel. Until then, may the blessing of the Lord rest upon you.