“His divine power has given us everything for life…”
(2 Peter 1:3)
Take a moment and contemplate, gaze and study with me this picture. This painting is an illustration of how that first Easter appeared to Peter and John as they ran to the empty tomb. The artwork is a classic by the nineteenth century Swiss Artist Eugène Burnand. The artist boldly attempts to imagine and to recreate the day that redefined all our days. Burnard was an artist who was intrigued by photography and with the early days of cinema. What we see in his painting is an action-packed movement. It is like a primitive slide show. At first blush we might ask, “Why all the fuss? How come these two? What’s going on?” But, as with most artwork, there is more to it than initially meets the eye.
When we are told that this painting is of Peter and John running to the empty tomb on the first day of Easter, we quickly catch on, focusing our attention on the two disciples and the look in their eyes. Their eyes don’t necessarily give a look of fear, especially after we are reminded that they have just been told by the women the tomb is empty. But from our perspective, we see that they are the ones who are now asking, “Why all the fuss?” They are the ones who wonder, “How come me?” They are part of the story and they are trying to figure out what’s going on. Their questions emerge — if not out loud — from within. There is an inner dialogue that fills their hearts, their minds and their very souls, much like the breath they suck in as they run. We see them as fully alive as they make their way to the tomb.
Sure, we have a hunch as to what they might be thinking. Jesus was crucified. He was buried. He is dead. He is now past tense. It is over. Done. But as we look at the two of them in this painting, we are not sure if they buy it. They want to know more. They want to know what is true. They want to see for themselves. They need an answer. First-hand. Now.
Keep looking at Peter and John. Their jaws are pointed-out and not retreating. They are not ducking or avoiding. They do not appear as if they are shying away or running from someone or something. They have a movement about them that is not slow or unhurried, but it is intense and focused. In other words, they have a sense of direction, purpose and meaning.
As we gaze at Peter and John, we let our minds now race with theirs. We identify, in part. We have been there, to a degree. We know what it is like, sort of. We can identify, kind of. We have seen that look in others. They have the look of a first-responder. We have seen that intensity in the eyes of emergency room doctors and nurses. Code blue. Yes, at times, we have seen the look in our eyes. There is a job to do. Time to act. It is not the time to analyze or strategize. There is a cry within that says, “Get ‘er done.” On Easter, with Peter and John, we go.
Fast-forward with me to when the two disciples of Jesus arrive at the tomb. They see something in there. In the corner is a linen shroud. And then rolled-up is a cloth that covered Jesus’s head. But no Jesus. Don’t you see?
When they stooped down and looked into the emptiness of the tomb, they suddenly saw everything. They saw everything that Jesus had told them. And it was true. He had risen! Life with God is never-ending. Life never ends; it is an immortal, eternal, everlasting life with God. The empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus provides a vision of life like never before.
We are not human beings who are looking for a little spiritual something in life. But we are spiritual beings who are trying to live a human life that has been given to us by God. God Almighty is the source of our life and it is God’s kingdom that is revealed to us on this first day of Easter. Standing there in the empty tomb with Peter and John, we hear the words of Jesus who says to all who have ears to hear: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Well? Do you believe this? Don’t you see, like an X that marks the spot, Easter signals the beginning? It is not the end of life with Jesus but Easter opens us to receive the vision of everything found in the kingdom of God that is made known to us on earth, as it is in heaven. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done. It’s stated beautifully in the Lord’s Prayer. It is time to say it like we mean it.
For further reflection see, May You Live in Christ: Spiritual Growth Through the Vision of St. Peter.
Image credit: The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulcher on the Morning of the Resurrection, c. 1898 (oil on canvass) by Eug̀ene Burnand (1850-1921). Muse d’ Orsay, Paris. The Bridgeman Art Library.