Many people want to find Jesus, but they look for him in the wrong places. If you want to find Jesus, don’t look within yourself.
This is the lesson of Peter’s disappointment when he looked for Jesus in the tomb. Christ had risen, and,
Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings [a]only; and he went away to his home… (Luke 24:12, NASB).
Peter was never going to see the risen Lord while he was “stooping down” (KJV) and looking inside the tomb. He went home disappointed and confused. Jesus was not there. He was risen (Matt 28:6)!
There are many people today who do the same thing. It is a most natural and common mistake. They want to work out whether or not they are real Christians. In some way, they want to meet Jesus. And to do that, they look within the tomb. They do it by looking within. By self-examination and introspection, they try to find within their own hearts something that will give them confidence in their walk with God.
I used to do this too. I used to try to judge my standing as a Christian by looking within myself at my own thoughts and actions. But I was always discouraged. To look within oneself to find confirmation of our faith is a fruitless exercise.
If you look within you will only see death. That’s what happens when you look inside of tombs. Jesus called the Pharisees and the scribes “whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27.) Our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). Even at our best, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). When Peter looked within the tomb, all he saw were the reminders of death: the used and bloodied grave clothes.
Don’t look within yourself to find faith. Look to Jesus.
To try to find the reality of God, or the confirmation of our faith, within our own hearts is like trying to secure a ship in a storm by throwing the anchor into the hold of the ship itself. That could never work! Instead, you must throw the anchor outside the ship. It must be lost to sight under the waves, to grip the rock itself.
If you want to know whether you are trusting in Jesus, don’t look within yourself to see if you have faith. Instead, you must exercise faith, by looking away from yourself, and to the proper Object of faith: Jesus Christ himself. It has been said that “faith is the eye of the soul.” Yet the eye does not look within itself in order to guide the body. Instead, the eye always looks to an external point of reference.
There is no hope in looking within, especially when the risen Lord is right next to you, waiting for you to look to him. A literal translation of Hebrews 12:2 tells us that we must be, “looking away to Jesus” or “looking off to Jesus”.
What must we look away from? Ourselves! We must, like the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, see “Jesus only” (Matt 17:8).
(Inspired by Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John)
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Eliezer has two Master’s degrees in Theology and Early Christian History, and a PhD in Early Christian History.