The other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first…he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
I’ve been asking myself, why did this “other disciple,” “the disciple whom Jesus loved” show deference to Peter allowing him to enter the tomb first?
The last time they had been together, things hadn’t gone so well. This disciple had access to the High Priest’s house, allowing both himself and Peter entrance. Perhaps one of his parents was of the priestly family. Note the complexity of relationships, the blurry boundaries of allegiance in such a small society. And whereas Peter is questioned about being in Jesus’ company, no one seems to put this other disciple on the spot.
Peter denies knowing Jesus. Could he really conceal that from his fellow disciple? Perhaps they parted company because the next time we meet this disciple, he’s at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother. But Peter isn’t in sight.
From that hour he took Mary into his home. So the next Sunday, where did Mary of Magdala find Peter and this disciple? Were they in different locations? Or was Peter now also in this disciple’s home? Wouldn’t that be like a scene from our own lives, the awkward mix of tensions and contradictions!
Perhaps Peter had already learned, by default, how deeply he missed his Lord, how much his self-protecting denial had hurt himself. Such self-doubt, such despair in my own powers can be the most persuasive way to really let God into my life.
And this other disciple, did he follow an easier, steadier path? For a while he was estranged from Peter. But is that any way to treat a real friend with whom he had shared so much? Did Jesus’ mother, who had lost so much, mediate one to the other?
No one, faltering or steadfast, has an easy pilgrimage to God; we all take wrong turns. Perhaps this Beloved Disciple recognized the depth of change and the depth of capacity in Peter after his fall from grace. Perhaps he saw both that depth and a vocation that was not his and never would be; so he instinctively did the right thing, going with Peter to the tomb and then letting him enter first.
They did not yet understand the Scripture that [Christ] had to rise from the dead, we are told, but both are already caught up in the Resurrection. Their old lives are dead and gone; they are already at the threshold of the fullness of life.