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17 APRIL 2023 - Running to the Empty Tomb

There in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, hangs one of the greatest paintings of Easter: The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection by Swiss painter Eugène Burnand.

On Resurrection morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb. They found that the stone had been moved and the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene ran to Peter and John and told them what had happened. Both Peter and John ran together to the tomb. Here the Swiss painter Burnand captured the moment of their running to the tomb. Burnand tells the Easter story through their faces and hand gestures.

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, squeezed his hands together anxiously. He was the only disciple to stay by Jesus’ side and saw how Jesus died. He was there was the soldiers brought Jesus down from the cross. He likely followed the soldiers to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was the body was interned. He was with Jesus to the end. Burnand painted John’s facial feature as if he unsure and barely believing Mary Magdalene’s words that Jesus was risen.

Burnand painted Peter in a different way. Peter, in the weakness of his faith, had denied knowing Jesus during His darkest hour just a few days before. Burnand depicted Peters as terrified yet hopeful, ashamed yet desperate to see Jesus again. Peter’s hand grasped his chest, denoting a need for courage to face the risen Christ.

Putting John and Peter together, this painting tells the story of “desperate hope and anticipation”. On hearing the news from Mary Magdalene, they both walked briskly and then broke into a run as John recounted the story in his gospel.

On this Eastertide, we are reminded that in empty tomb of Jesus, there is a way back to God. We been bearing the burden of our sin and brokenness and maybe we have betrayed Jesus in so many ways, the empty tomb reminds us that He loves us and forgives us.

It is a very simple painting of two men running, desperate for hope of His resurrection and the anticipation of what is to come. We run to Jesus for His forgiveness of our sins and feeble faith.

May this Eastertide be a time when your faith would increase, and your brokenness healed. May you run to Jesus with the same desperate hope and anticipation that Peter’s and John’s were on that resurrection morning. Finally, we are reminded of God’s faithful love for us: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13).

Rev. Dr Timothy Chong

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