God has a plan!
At first glance today’s reading seems to detail two separate parts of the gospel narrative, with unrelated details. There is a sub-theme though, hidden beneath the retelling of what have to be the greatest moments in human history.
It begins in verse 31:
“Then the Jews…so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath..”
The Jews requested that the legs of the two criminals and Jesus would be broken – to hasten their death and avoid the need for any work to be done on the Sabbath. It just made things “tidier” you might say. However, when the soldiers came to Jesus on the cross, they established that He was already dead – so they didn’t break his legs, but they did pierce His side with a spear. God had a plan. (Modern medicine now tells us that the blood and water that ran out means that His heart had been pierced – so we are left in no doubt that The Lord was most definitely dead at this point.)
Moving forward in our story, we come to the resurrection day. Hallelujah! Mary Magdalene discovers that the stone is rolled away from the entrance to the tomb – but fails to recognise the significance of this and just thinks that the Romans have moved the body somewhere. She runs to tell Peter and John (the disciple whom Jesus loved), who then race to the tomb to see for themselves.
“So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.” John 20:3-8
When I read these two sections of scripture in sequence my attention is drawn to something.
- Two disciples set out towards the tomb.
- They were both running in the same direction, and one raced ahead and arrived before the other.
- The disciple who arrived first gained nothing by racing ahead.In fact, the text is very clear that he didn’t enter in until after Peter did.
- There was no benefit to getting there first, and it made no difference to the outcome.
So the theme I see here is that of trying to rush ahead, to keep things tidy and, you could say “get ahead of God”.
- The Jews wanted to get things over with on the cross for their own convenience – but God had a much better plan and Jesus died at exactly the right moment, according to God’s will.
- The two disciples ran together – one rushed ahead and arrived first – but his being early didn’t change anything.
God had a plan.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a tendency to always be wanting to jump onto the next thing, to be racing ahead, full of excitement. What I see in the above verses is that it’s not necessarily a good thing to be racing ahead – it won’t change anything – you will “enter in”, if you like, when you are ready – no matter how quickly you arrive at your chosen destination – where you think you should be.
Proverbs 16:9 says “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
I used to see this as a negative statement – as if God likes to pull the rug out from under us! More recently I have come to understand God’s love more fully, and realise that what it means is that we don’t need to struggle and strive – we need to listen to God and be patient. That’s a whole lot less work!
I am absolutely NOT saying it’s OK to stay still and do nothing, but if you don’t feel that you are making the progress you would like to, that you aren’t “arriving” as quickly as you thought you would – take a step back and consider the disciples racing to the tomb, and relax.
God had a plan 2,000 years ago, and He has a plan for YOU, today and always.