Ever find yourself in a race you didn’t plan on. The two of you start off for a destination. You want to get there quickly so you walk at a good pace. Soon you find yourselves jogging. You’re side by side until the destination comes in site. Now the pace picks up. One person edges ahead of the other. Not to be outdone, the other responds in kind and pushes in front. No words are spoken but both know: the race is on. It’s an all out sprint to the finish.
I suspect this happened with Peter and John that first Easter morning. Look how John, referring to himself as “the other disciple”, described the event:
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. John 20:3-8
These kinds of races usually end in controversy, as this one did. I imagine Peter and John returning to the disciples to tell the story of the empty tomb. Before much can be shared John interrupts Peter to correct him and let everyone know he in fact “reached the tomb first”. Before any details of the empty tomb can be shared, Peter fires back that no, in fact, he was the first inside the tomb. To which John claims they weren’t running into the tomb but to the tomb, and he was the first to arrive! At this point the rest of the disciples tell them both to shut up and tell about the tomb!
So sixty years later John records his recollections of the first Easter morning and he can’t help but mention an old argument with Peter. He can’t help stating twice that he “reached the tomb first” and that Peter “came along behind him.” Competition does that to you. It raises the stakes, gets you caring about something more than maybe you should. Obviously the importance of who won the race pales in comparison to the reality of the empty tomb.
Yet I kind of like that John is still making the argument long after the fact. I like the passion. I like that he cares. I like the drive that spurs him to run hard in pursuit of Jesus, to seek to be the first to find Him. Of all the races we can run in this life, perhaps that’s the one most worthy of our best – giving our all to follow Him, pressing forward, seeking Him, collapsing at His feet, and finally being raised up as He was raised, victorious over sin and death.