Witnesses of the Cross:
Mary Magdalene visits the tomb on Sunday morning
Early Sunday morning, in the crisp, the coldest air, just before dawn, I met Mary, Joanna, and Salome at the city gate. We huddled together while we walked to the tomb, more from fear and grief than from the cold. I hadn’t slept for two nights, my thoughts over-wrought with memories and questions. I doubt they had slept, either.
We couldn’t speak of the crucifixion, not of Jesus at all. Some things were just too painful to put into words. My insides felt completely hollowed out. I was a shell of the person I used to be. I couldn’t imagine how I would continue living without his words to guide me. Grief consumed me.
The debt I owed him was perhaps unparalleled in our group of followers. Yes, others had been healed–the paralyzed man at Siloam regained his mobility after Jesus spoke to him. But I had lived controlled by seven demons, making my life a continuous nightmare, my future hopeless. Until he said, “Come out of her.”
Then Friday, I watched him tortured to death. Betrayed by one of our own friends. I couldn’t make sense of how this had happened.
At least he was buried by two admirers. Nicodemus and Joseph from Arimathea got the body from Pilate and hastily wrapped it and laid it in a rented a tomb, just in time for Passover. Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh. We were bringing a little more today.
Pilate posted an armed guard to make sure none of us stole the body to say he had risen from the dead. As if we could even wrap our minds around hatching a plot the day after our leader was brutally murdered! We were barely functional.
And then on the way, an earthquake shook the ground! We arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled aside, the body gone, and a man in a radiant white robe who exclaimed, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”
Gone! We raced back to the city. I’ve never run so hard! I thought my heart would burst from my chest. How could they steal him? Hadn’t they done enough damage already?
We found the disciples and spilled our story, crying and talking over each other. The men thought we were crazy. Emotionally overwhelmed. Distraught.
Peter and John went to the tomb to see for themselves. I followed, heart-broken. Without the body there, I didn’t even know where to grieve. I felt so utterly alone. A little garden surrounded the tomb. I wandered about, eyes blurring from tears, my heart tearing open anew with every remembrance of him. I stood at the entrance to the tomb and sobbed. How do you let someone go whose influence had come to fill every moment of every day?
“Woman, why are you crying?” Two angels appeared inside the tomb, one on either end of the wrapping.
“They have taken away my lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
“Woman, why are you crying?” This time, the voice came from behind me. I turned and saw a man standing there.
Assuming he was the gardener, I responded, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where he is, and I will take him away.”
He took my breath away. Could it be Jesus? Was He alive? Vibrant, commanding, whole. “Teacher!”
“Go and tell my disciples that I am risen.”
Why are you crying? Go and tell. Such beautiful words! Such life-giving words. Stop looking at only what you see here. Look beyond!
How could I do anything but tell everyone? He is alive! He is God, and He is here with me again!
image by Anna Langova