We won’t go into the burial, since I’ve talked about it here. So we get to my favorite part of the whole story. I understand the necessity of the Cross, both in fulfilling God’s plan and for my benefit. It was the only way I could ever be saved. If there were any other way, I assure you, the Father would've done it. Having said all that, I’m always happy to move from talking about the Cross (at least its narrative details) to talking about the Empty Tomb.
I believe that all the accounts of the Resurrection from the various Gospels are true, and they can be reconciled. But they all tell the story in slightly different ways, with slightly different emphases. Luke tells us that Peter ran to the tomb, but he doesn’t mention John there. John almost makes it sound like Mary Magdalene went by herself, but we need to remember an important principle here: Just because a Gospel writer doesn’t mention someone or something, that doesn’t mean he’s contradicting another Gospel. None of the Gospels mention Jesus kissing his mother. Can we then safely assume that Jesus in all his 33 years never kissed his mother?
Another reason to count this as authentic is the strange description of the linens with which Jesus had been wrapped: "The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen." From John’s description, it sounds like the body linens were completely unwrapped, but the piece that had wrapped his head was still intact (at least intact enough to recognize). Why is this so? Why did Jesus unwrap the body linens but somehow intangibly take his head out of its linens? Beats me! But the reason I call attention to it is because this is a sign of an eyewitness narrative.
As C.S. Lewis pointed out, it’s little details in the Gospels which differentiate between a biographical narrative and a mythological story. Ever notice in a TV program or movie how every little detail relates to something later? If someone just casually mentions that they know CPR, that character will be called upon to perform mouth-to-mouth before the end of the story. It’s not that way in the Gospels. Take for example Jesus writing in the sand when confronted with the adulteress. Theologians debate and forth as to why he did it. The Gospel just adds it in without any explanation for it. That’s the sort of thing an eyewitness would include, while somebody making up a story wouldn’t.
I’d like to focus on one more thing before we move on. John, speaking of himself in the third person, contrasts himself with Peter. Verses 8-9 have an interesting take on John’s interpretation of the events. It says that neither of the disciples (and presumably nobody else) “[understood] from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead." But John believed anyway. He didn’t know his Bible as well as he should have. But he'd heard Jesus say—multiple times—that he was going to rise from the dead. And when he saw the empty tomb and what lay therein, he believed that Christ had risen.
This is an important point about getting the right priorities. John had a very incomplete understanding of God’s plan as outlined in his word. It’s there for all to see, at least everything we need to know. But if you don’t understand everything that’s written there, that’s fine. This isn’t to discourage in-depth study. This is to encourage you that if you’re trusting in the plain and simple words of Christ, you’ll end up where you need to be. Certainly it’s true that simple trust in him is better than full understanding with deficient trust.
Father God, I want to understand your word as best as I can, but more than that—MUCH more than that—I want to trust you better.