Psalm 118:14-24; John 20:1-18
“The Bible is held together by a single plot; God creates the world, the world gets lost, God seeks to restore the world to the glory for which God created it.” (Frederick Buechner)
Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, rose from her bed, but she had hardly rested. Her Sabbath had been disturbed by things both done and undone. One does not walk away from an execution of a loved one easily. She stayed, through the trial, through the mocking, and until death. She stayed until the end, hoping, praying that God would intervene. She remembered so many times, with one word, Jesus had saved a life. But no word was spoken. She sat at the foot of the cross until her beloved was lowered and then begged for his body. For three years there had been no rest. Now he deserved eternal respite. She pleaded with officials that Jesus had been mocked enough. There was nothing more they could do to humiliate him and mercifully, they agreed.
The sun was beginning to set as she, Joseph and others carried his body to the tomb. The Sabbath was upon them and it was too late to complete the ritual of burial. It would have to be done the day following Sabbath. They placed Jesus in the tomb. Each kissed his lips and caressed his broken hands. Then they placed the stone over the hole to protect their beloved from anything that might disturb his sleep.
Mary arose early on the Sabbath and made her way to the synagogue to pray. She hoped to arrive before the Rabbi. All she desired was to say a prayer, sit in silence and then slip away before others arrived. She wanted answers but desired no earthly conversation. This moment, this hell, would remain between her and God.
Mary entered the synagogue and walked to the table which held the Torah. It was opened to the Psalm for the day. She slowly read, “O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever.” She stepped away from the text and cried out loud, “God if you are so good where were you yesterday? I needed a show of strength. I prayed for your salvation but none was forth coming. He was a good man, a Godly man and you sat silent. Does Rome control even you?”
The harshness of her words shocked even Mary. She stepped back from the table, wondering if God, disturbed by her blasphemy, might strike her dead. But nothing happened. Only her heart beat disturbed the stillness of the moment. Almost as if drawn by habit, Mary returned to the Torah. Her eyes focused on the last words of the Psalm, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
She turned and left the holy structure swearing she would never return. What is holy about suffering? What is holy about death? If God has made this day then why can’t God do a better job of preserving this day. She looked to heaven and thought, “God, this might be the Sabbath, but this is no time to rest. Your world is slipping away from you. The good are dying young and the old are living only through compliance with those killing the young. If this is your day, I want nothing to do with it.”
Mary longed to go back to the tomb, to finish the job she had started the night before, but without the help of the others, she dared not go. And so she wept for the one she loved. She wept for herself. She wept for God in whom she was quickly losing faith. She wept because she could no longer rejoice.
The night was an eternity. Darkness covered her soul as anger and grief blended together causing toxin thoughts to enter her heart. Why was Jesus so reckless? What was he doing in Jerusalem? Why didn’t God……. It always came back to God. This day, this day that God made, is devoid of rejoicing and gladness. How can God be my salvation? How can God be the one I trust? I placed my hope in God’s anointed, no more than that, I loved the one God appointed and now he is gone. May night forever remain. May darkness completely cover the earth. Do not mock me O God. Do not let your light shine on another of “your days”. Do not expect me to rejoice with the dawn.
But the sun did come. Unrepentant, yet determined to finish what had been started, Mary made her way to the grave. No one else had arrived. She quietly walked to the spot where Joseph had left him. She would sit, compose her heart, and not burden others with her complicated thoughts.
Even this was taken from her. The sacred was trumped by the appalling as Mary saw the stone had been removed. They had promised to leave him in peace. What kind of cruelty was this? He was dead, how could they torment him any further. “God, is this another indication of what your day has become?”
Mary left the desecrated scene and headed back to Jerusalem. Along the way she met Peter and John. Through tears of grief and anger she shared what she had found. The disciples left Mary and ran to the tomb. Mary followed not far behind. The two disciples stepped into the tomb to confirm what Mary had told them. Mary stepped aside and wept.
Was it a vision, was it real was, or was it imagined? Each thought went through Mary’s head as two majestic figures stood before her. “Woman, why are you weeping?”
“They have taken my Lord and I don’t where they have laid him?” Now her head was swirling. Was this a dream, a nightmare or worse? She sensed a presence behind her and turned to see a man she presumed to be the gardener.
Again she was confronted with the reoccurring question. “Woman, why are you weeping?” Don’t they know? Haven’t they heard? Was she the first person to weep among the dead?
The gardener looked into her eyes and into her soul and spoke a single word, “Mary”.
Time and creation itself stopped. Grief which had turned a heart to stone was transformed and reborn with one word. Resurrection, that absurd comedy of which Jesus had spoken was now standing before her. Death was no more. Easter trumped humanity’s attempt to limit the imagination of God.
After Mary encountered the risen Lord she quickly ran after the disciples. I would like to think along the way she sang, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”