(Related post: It’s Friday)
The Resurrection is not part of my theology; the Resurrection is a person. “I am the Resurrection.” He is as much my Resurrection as He is my Savior, and my Lord, and my King!” Leonard Ravenhill
With wooden legs and with a heart of granite, Mary Magdalene slowly makes the climb up to the garden tomb where she and the others had hastily deposited Jesus’ body at the beginning of Passover. Two other women accompany her to their wretched responsibilities at the tomb. She does not speak to them, barely acknowledging they are with her. Her face is fixed like stone on the task before her; a task she is determined to complete while loathing the very thought of it. Lagging behind a bit, Salome asks, “How will we move the stone?” Mary does not answer, secretly hoping that they will, in fact, be unable to enter the tomb.
Jesus was the first man – perhaps the only man – in Mary’s life who did not view her as a commodity to be purchased, an object of sexual release; and the only man who had both the interest and power to deliver her from the demons that had ruled her for so long. It had been just such a short time since Jesus had broken the devilish powers that had kept her chained, but in those brief months she had learned what it meant to truly be loved. Jesus loved her openly rather than using her in the shadows. He loved her without demanding; his voice filled with gentleness and acceptance even in the face of stinging criticism that he would even associate with her.
This morning she would again anoint him with expensive perfumes. Today it would not be his feet she would anoint; it would be his corpse.
She stops for a moment. The tomb is just around the next bend in the path. Her heart begins to pound within her chest as tears well up, “Can I do this? Can I really enter that place and look at his broken and brutalized body?” The images from his trial fill her head once again. She hears the sounds — the sounds of the bones breaking in his face under the brutal beating by the Roman guards; the zinging of the whip through the air as it lashes his back. She can hear the tearing of his flesh as the metal and stone shards embedded in the whip ripped through his body. She feels again the spatter of blood – his blood, as droplets flew through the air and hit her face. She begins to feel weak and steadies herself, leaning against an olive tree. Behind her, the other Mary says, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
Mary replies softly as her eyes begin to steel again with purpose, “I know, but we must; let’s go on.” As she rounds the corner to face the tomb she immediately senses something is wrong. There are no soldiers. The centurion had assigned a guard to the tomb, but they are gone. There are helmets lying about and even a sword lying on the ground. A fire smolders, still warm, but the soldiers are gone, as if they had fled in panic; something Roman soldiers do not do. And now she sees it – the stone – the stone has been rolled to the side leaving the tomb open. Pilate’s seal has been broken – Caesar has been defied, and the narrow entrance to the tomb stands open.
“By whom? Who had the strength. . . . . . . . . . . or the courage to do such a thing.?”
Mary can hardly breathe as she bends low and enters the tomb. She stares in disbelief at the stone table where Jesus’ body had been placed just before the onset of Passover. The shroud is empty, draped on the stone and dangling loose to the ground. The napkin that she had lovingly placed on his face on Friday night is folded neatly and lying where his head had been. He is gone! “Why?” “How” “Who?” Her heart is racing now and she is struggling not to faint. The color drains from her face as she spins to run from the tomb into the open garden. “We have to leave this place,“ she says to the others, “We need to go now,” Terror grips her heart and she is unable to speak as they flee the place, leaving a trail of spice packets and vials of perfume along the way. She lets out a startled cry as she turns the corner and sees a man standing in the path in front of her.
“Good morning,” he says softly.
All three women begin to speak at once, each babbling their own version of what has transpired at the tomb. Mary’s voice, shrill with tension, rises above the others, “Sir, we came to anoint the body of our Rabbi for burial, but could not find his body in the tomb where we laid it. If you have any knowledge of who has moved his body or where they have taken it could you please tell us.”
Quietly, the man speaks her name, “Mary”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and instantly – she knows.
She knows because no one has ever spoken her name the way he does. She has heard her name called many times by many men, but never a man spoke her name like he did. It is as if lightning has struck her brain. Every nerve in her body is jolted; she is frozen in time as realization moves from her eyes to her consciousness. Finally, a long, anguished, unintelligible exhale of emotion escapes her as she flings herself at his feet, wrapping her arms around his legs and weeping tears of relief and inexpressible joy. Jesus bends down, dislodges her arms from his feet, takes her hand and says: “Mary, don’t be afraid. It’s really me and I need you to do something for me. I want you to go back to Jerusalem and tell the disciples that I will meet them in Galilee.”
The three of them stand, staring at Jesus as he walks back up the path. He turns, and with a shooing motion of his hand says, “Go; Go tell the disciples to meet me.”
As they turn to go, Jesus calls again out again, “Mary, you make sure to tell Peter that I’ll be waiting for him to come with the rest.”