John’s telling of the Easter story fits in well with the rest of his gospel. For John, seeing the miracles of Jesus requires faith. In the first half of John’s gospel, there are seven miracles or what John calls ‘signs.’ In most of these, several people stand side by side observing the same miracle. Half of these people see it as a sign that Jesus is the son of God. But other people present at the same miracle, don’t see and don’t take it as anything worthy of notice. At the wedding of Cana, the servants who pour the water that has become wine, see and believe. The master of the feast doesn’t see and thinks that some strange trick has been done, causing the best wine to come last. So, John tells every one of his selected “signs,” down to the story of the raising of Lazarus. At this finally, the peasants of the village believe, but the elders in Jerusalem dismiss the miracle. John’s point? Seeing a miracle requires faith. And I would add, faith is a gift. It is not evenly distributed. That is apparent whenever we do church. Some believe, and some don’t.
Easter is for John the grand conclusion of the story of Jesus. We have once again the women who go to the tomb and believe. We have Thomas who stays home and doubts. But on Easter morning, John switches the story up a little. Peter and John run to the grave. They find it empty. This time they do not observe a miracle, but only the sign that one had occurred some time before. John gives us two people who see nothing, and yet, both believe. Faith comes, not by observing Jesus, listening to his stories, or even by obeying his words. Faith is a gift of the grace of God. We sometimes find the greatest faith at those moments when we have the least reason to trust in Jesus.
In this pandemic year, we have been denied so much. We have reason not to believe. Yet, we do. As difficulties have overflowed, so also has the grace of God.