I made my way numbly to the tomb that Sunday morning. I hadn’t slept a wink since Friday, when my world fell apart, when I saw my Lord being laid to rest in that cold, dark tomb. I spent most of the time since then weeping. That man, my Rabbi, wasn’t just any other man; he was the one on whom I had pinned my hopes. And I watched him die. It was so awful.
Before he came along, I was nothing – an outcast, plagued by seven demons; evil spirits that raged inside me – voices I neither recognised nor wanted to recognise. They wouldn’t leave me alone. And then Jesus released me; he allowed me to hope again. So I followed him and witnessed incredible things. As well as that amazing teaching he performed incredible miracles: he healed the sick, cast out demons and even raised the dead. Amazing. Surely this man was the Messiah – the promised king who would rescue the Jewish people from all of their oppressors. As time passed, my hopes grew – my hopes and all of the others too. Only last week he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey as the crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The excitement grew … and then … and then … I could scarcely believe it … it all went horribly wrong. The reports came on Friday morning that he had been arrested and the next thing I knew I was watching him die. Crucifixion was an awful thing, but it was even worse when the man being crucified was the man you’d loved and on whom you’d pinned all your hopes. People mocked him, saying that he should save himself if he were the Son of God – and I hoped that he’d do just that – after all, I knew he had the power to. And I continued hoping, but that hope got smaller and smaller the shallower his breathing got. And then finally, he breathed his last with a final cry, “It is finished” and my hope had gone. I was devastated. It was all over.
The rest of that day are a blur really. Me and the other Marys, and Salome, who’d been with him when he was dying, we began to wonder what would happen to Jesus now. Who would look after him? Thankfully a kind man, Joseph of Arimathea said he would ensure Jesus was laid in his own family tomb. He arranged for Jesus’ body to be taken down from the cross, and took it to the grave. We followed; we wanted to know where they would lay him, so we could pay our last respects and care for him. We went back to our lodgings in the city and got spices and ointment ready to anoint his body. But the Sabbath was just starting, so we had to rest. It was so hard. We were reeling from all that had happened, all that we had lost.
Early on the Sunday morning, we went to the tomb. This was our chance to serve Jesus one last time, by giving the body the care it deserved. But the stone had been moved – Jesus body was no longer there! As if Jesus hadn’t undergone enough already, now his body had been stolen. It added insult to awful injury. I ran to tell Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved, saying, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Impulsive Peter and the other disciple didn’t believe me, of course, and ran off to check out my story. I was left behind. In bits. Now I was weeping, not simply because Jesus was dead, but because they’d stolen his body. The one thing that had been left to me – the simple act of giving his body the treatment he deserved – even that had been taken away from me. My head was spinning. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went back to the tomb, stumbling there through the tears. Why? Because I probably didn’t have anywhere else to go. I felt that by being at the tomb, I would somehow feel closer to Jesus.
But then, something very unexpected happened. I was standing outside the tomb, weeping. I bent over to look into the tomb, double checking I wasn’t imagining it all, and there were two angels in white there, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked me why I was crying, so I told them, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”
I don’t think I was really comprehending I was talking with angels – not your everyday occurrence, is it? All I could think about was the fact my Lord’s body had gone. It was all too much – shock, grief, bewilderment – were all swirling round my mind.
Suddenly I saw someone in the corner of my eye – perhaps he could help. I didn’t know who he was, I couldn’t see properly, my eyes were so blurred by tears.
He asked me, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
I thought he was the gardener; I wasn’t sure who else would be hanging around. Perhaps he had something to do with the disappearance of Jesus’ body? “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Everything changed with one word. “Mary.” The penny finally dropped. It dawned on me who this man was – that the man who’d set me free from those demons, who’d taught incredible things and done wonderful works and who I’d watched die just two days previously; this was the man who wonderfully, incredibly, but truly, was alive. I couldn’t believe it. All I wanted to do was hold on to him and never let go, to stay in this moment, hoping it would never end.
Jesus extracted himself from me with a smile. “Mary, don’t cling on to me. I need you to go and tell my disciples. Tell them that I’ve risen from the grave, just as I said I would. So, I tore myself away from Jesus, then rushed off back to Jesus’ disciples, with this most incredible news, “I have seen the Lord!”