As we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection today, I thought I’d share the last installment from the “Journey to Jerusalem” series posted in years past. Happy Easter, dear friends–He is risen! He is risen indeed. May that truth and hope fill your hearts today.
“Therefore you too have grief now, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” ~John 16:22
The birds twitter in the pearly pre-dawn as we make our way up the stony path to the tomb. I want to shush them. No one should sing, not even these little creatures. Not now.
I have to remind myself again and again what has happened, forcing myself to face it, despite the sickening of the truth as it rips through me again and again. But worse is to start to forget, even a little, as at night when I manage to sleep…and then have the living nightmare of these past few days crash full over me again.
I can barely even cry anymore. There is just this terrible hollowness, this crushing ache that numbs my mind and makes me wonder how I can ever go on. How can any of us go on, without Him?
It would be horrific enough were He just our beloved friend and teacher. But without Him, all the hope He brought to us hopeless ones is gone too. And I don’t see how we can ever get it back.
Through the haze of grief and disbelief, I keep trying to make sense of it all. Did He know what was going to happen? At times I think He did, from things He said that we did our best not to hear.
Murmuring from the other women rouses me, and I realize we have reached the tomb. I brace myself for the looming, sealed, death-silent rock. But the tomb gapes open, the monstrous stone rolled away.
Joanna and Mary confirm what I instantly fear—He is gone.
The tears I’d thought exhausted come again, and I turn and run, not wanting to see. After all this, couldn’t they leave Him alone? Wasn’t it enough to beat and crush the life out of Him, that they couldn’t even leave His body for His loved ones to grieve over?
I stumble into the upper room where Peter and John talk in subdued whispers and gasp out the news.
“They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
They take off for the tomb, slender John sprinting ahead of Peter, whose huskier build holds him back.
I follow, but lagging behind, sobs stuttering my steps. There is nothing more to hurry for anyway. He is gone—His body now as well as His spirit. Jesus, who saw me when everyone else tried to look away, who touched me with love and compassion and set me free when no one else could.
My Master, my Rabboni.
My tears dry cool on my cheeks in the early morning breeze, and I draw a long breath. I will never go back to being the woman I was before. Jesus changed me—and whatever wicked men may take, they cannot take away that.
The sun has risen when I reach the tomb, rays of light gilding the silvery olive leaves and blossomed branches in the adjoining garden.
Peter and John step from the grave and leave, shaking their heads.
But I cannot go yet. Cannot leave this place where His beloved body last was, wherever it may be at present. And now, standing here alone, the tears come once more.
I bury my face in my hands and let them flow, raining through my fingers.
Why? Lord God, why? How can this be part of Your plan?
And suddenly I have to see, to know for sure He is gone, to see the place where they laid Him. I step to the tomb’s opening and bend to look in, and see through the streaming blur in my eyes two figures strangely bright and gleaming. I can scarcely find thought to wonder who they are, and when they ask why I am weeping, can only speak the simple truth from my aching heart.
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
And then I turn away, still tear-blinded.
A man stands near, where no one had been before. The caretaker of the garden, perhaps.
“Woman, why are you weeping?” he asks, his voice gentle. “Whom are you seeking?”
An odd, desperate hope springs in my heart. Maybe he has taken Him—or knows who has.
I clench my fingers together, not meeting his gaze. “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will…take Him away.” My voice breaks at the last, try as I might.
And then . . .
“Mary!” He says.
My heart stops, then races, faster and faster. Dashing the blur from my eyes, I turn to look full at this man.
And His loving, familiar, glorious eyes meet mine, and the darkness and anguish of the past three days explodes into a galaxy of wonder and color and light—Light that somehow has swallowed the worst this horrible darkness could give and beaten it.
“Rabboni!” The word tears from my throat.
And I throw myself at His feet, kissing them and weeping and clinging to Him, never to let go again.
But His hand touches my head. “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and Your Father, to My God and Your God.’” His voice is gentle, loving, yet rings with authority, with triumph.
And I run back to find Peter and John and the other disciples once more, this time not tear-blinded and stumbling but skipping, dancing, laughing through the sobs still catching my throat.
For it is not over—He has not left us, and though we may soon not see Him for a time, we will again. He has conquered death itself, and more that I sense but don’t yet fully comprehend.
But I will understand someday. I know I will.
And singing through my heart comes the message I shout to the bewildered group I burst upon in the upper room:
“I have seen the Lord!”
Originally posted Spring 2013.
He is Risen. He is risen indeed! Glory Hallelujah!