The first gleams of morning broke on the horizon, promising a glorious day. But it was not a good day. It was the worst day of my life.
Numb. I was numb. I had felt numb for the past three days; living in a kind of daze; waiting for the nightmare to end.
A little over a week ago Jerusalem joined in a parade, welcoming Jesus as king. “Hosanna,” we sang, and threw our coats across the path for Him. I walked on clouds that day. Change was in the air.
Then came betrayal by our own. And lies. So many lies. Within hours He was trailed and sentenced to death on a cross. I was dumbfounded. How could someone who knew no wrong, face punishment for the most heinous crime? There was no justice; only cruelty, perversion and violence.
They crucified Him. The body Mary cherished enough to break open her costly perfume, was nailed to a cross. Soldiers pierced His skin and dislocated joints in excruciating pain. He bore it. He bore it all. As if there was purpose in the suffering.
There were times I looked away. Others ran away. He deserved better than that. So I stayed. For six hours of death.
But was it my sense of loyalty, or because there was no where else to go?
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life,” Peter said. It was true. Where would I go now?
The sky turned dark and I stayed. The soldiers mocked and gambled over His clothing, and I stayed. I stayed until He cried, “It is finished.”
And it was. Finished for me.
Downcast and defeated we removed His body. Lifeless, Joseph lay Him in the tomb. Jesus was dead. Never to heal. Never to love. Never to give. Again.
In one last act of honour I was returning that Sunday morning with spices and burial cloths. We were few and walked in silence; no one willing to shatter the somber tone of our final memory – preparing Rabboni for burial.
“What will we do about the stone?” the whispered voice of Joanna interrupted my thoughts.
I shrugged. Mary would know. She always knew what to do.
The chill in the air matched the chill in my heart. It was spring. There were blossoms on the trees. New life was thriving.
And I was dying.
We arrived at the outskirts of the garden and trudged forward in single file.
In the dim morning light I caught a glimpse of the tomb. But things were not as I remembered them. Something was different; the garden deserted.
Bottles of perfume shattered on the rocks, their beautiful aroma infusing the air, but wasted. Who could be so clumsy to squander her offering for our Master? As I stepped into the clearing I saw it was Mary, staring with hands over her mouth; transfixed.
The stone was rolled away.
My heart began to race. I felt light-headed. Intoxicated by the strong fragrance or circumstance before me – I did not know.
Out of the corner of my eye I shot a glance at Mary. There was hope in her eyes. I knew what she was thinking.
Could she be right?
“I’m going in,” I said, surprised by the loudness of my own voice.
Mary’s arm shot to my chest. “No, let me,” she offered. I nodded but followed two paces behind.
With trepidation we ventured into the land of the dead and I prepared myself for the stench.
But there was no stench. There was no body. Mary reached for my hand and I saw them – angels gleaming in all His glory.
We stood motionless; breath caught in our mouths.
As if he knew our thoughts the angel responded,
“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!”
The world spun around me. Could this be happening? Was I hallucinating in my grief? I looked to Mary. She heard it too. Her tear stained face showed soft laughter marks.
Jesus is alive.
Mary smiled and light returned in her eyes, as I am sure it did mine.
“Now go and tell His disciples including Peter.”
Then they disappeared.
But we lingered.
Because that was the moment. The moment I would remember all my life. The morning when death was beaten. The morning when I truly believed.
I had no hesitation. There was no other explanation. He is alive. All my doubts, my questions suddenly did not matter. It was a new day and I had good news. Better than everyone He healed. Better than the miracles He performed.
Jesus is the Christ. It was a new beginning for me. A new beginning for us all.
[FYI, the photo was taken of my husband and me at the Garden Tomb in Jersualem, 2008.]