John 20:4-10

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached 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; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

There is in John’s Gospel, for those who read closely, a curious and almost humorous rivalry between Peter and the disciple named by John the one “whom Jesus loved.” My guess is that this disciple – likely the founder of the community for whom this Gospel was written – was not only remembered but revered by his community. And that they, in turn, were a bit disappointed that their beloved leader didn’t get more attention in the other Gospels. (Most scholars assume that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written a decade or two before the Gospel of John.

And so at various points in the second half of John’s Gospel (which is devoted entirely to the scenes between the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples and the events just following the resurrection), he is juxtaposed to, and even compared with, Peter. And the comparison is always favorable. Perhaps that’s to be expected. After all, we know Peter as, well, Peter, whereas we know this disciple as “the one whom Jesus loved.” So you pretty much know how things are going to turn out.

In this scene, after hearing the report of Mary Magdalene that Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb, Peter and this other disciple run to see for themselves. The other disciple gets there first. Except the Evangelist doesn’t just say he got there first, he tells us that this disciple “outran Peter.” The beloved disciple is apparently faster, simply a better athlete.

He is reflective and patient as well. When he arrives at the tomb, after all, he pauses and does not go in immediately. Peter, naturally, charges right in. This is what we expect of impetuous Peter. But when Peter sees the empty tomb and the linen clothes, he is confused and leaves not knowing quite what to think. The other disciple, by comparison, upon following Peter into the empty tomb, sees “and believes.” So I guess he is more perceptive, or faithful, or – probably according to this Gospel – both. 🙂

I don’t quite know what to make of all this, except that this early Christian community loved its pastor, was grateful for his testimony, and wanted us all to know that. And I think that’s kind of cool.

Prayer: Dear God, may we value those who have shared the good news with us and lead our communities of faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Post image: “The Beloved Disciple arrives at the Sepulchre before Peter,” by James Tissot ca. 1886-94.