Try to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples of Jesus, now a few days after his death. In the last three years their whole life had become the Master; their purpose for living, for waking every morning, for everything they did in a day. He was their hope, their promise, their future. They left everything for him, even when their friends and relatives thought them to be mad, but how could they resist him? How could they say no? And now he was dead.
They were holed up behind a locked door in a small room, anticipating a pounding fist on the door at any minute from the soldiers as they tracked them down. It was only a matter of time. They would track them all down, if it took them a lifetime to do it, just to get rid of the Master's name. The smell of fear was mixed with grief and despondency. Imagine what it must have been like in that room with the Master dead and no hope for tomorrow.
Imagine as well how they must have jumped out of their skin as suddenly fists began to pound on the door. Only it wasn't soldiers; it was the women. Confusion. Panic. The sound of your heart pounding in your ears.
The door is opened and the women almost tumble in. Something is wrong. The colour is drained from Mary's face. Her voice is barely audible, yet they all heard her words.
"They've taken him."
The sound and meaning of the words are not long in registering but the feet are slow to react. What was that about an angel? Everyone looks to each other. What are they to do?
It only takes two heart beats before John takes action. And quick on his heels is Peter. I wonder what they thought as they ran. Perhaps it was pure emotions as rage took over. It had to be something strong to bring them out of hiding like this. Mary said the tomb is open.
John was the better runner, reaching the tomb before Peter. He was the youngest of the group. But Peter wasn't doing too bad for an old man. Sure enough, the stone was rolled to one side. Something held John back. He stood at the entrance and peered into the dark, straining to see anything in the early morning light. His heart was racing and it probably wasn't from the running.
Peter arrived but he did not slow down at the entrance, brushing past John and only stopping when he hit the back wall of the tomb. The only sound was the panting of the two men as they gasped for air, sucking it into their bodies through clinched teeth.
The body was gone.
Just as the women had said, he was gone. The grave clothes were there, looking odd in their placement. The linens that wrapped the body lay there as if someone had somehow sucked the body out. And over in the corner, the grave clothes, the one that covers the head, were neatly folded. Who would have done this? It didn't look like the work of any soldiers.
Peter and John left the tomb, disturbed at what they have found. They walked slowly back without saying a word. Bewildered. Angry. Despondent. Fearful. But mostly lost. They walked past Mary with no acknowledgement of her presence. These were just shells of men brushing past her, so different from who they were just a few days ago. Their purpose for living was gone. And those filthy Pharisees couldn't even leave his body alone.
Mary stood outside of the tomb and watched them go. What was to become of them? How could they go on? And now even his body was taken from them? A wave of grief overcame Mary and she collapsed in a heap of flesh and tears. She could hold it back no longer as a great cry of wailing tore itself from her throat.
Who knows how long she remained there but eventually everything grew quiet again. Had she fallen asleep?
Mary sat up with a start. Was that the sound of rustling she heard in the tomb? Were the robbers back? How did they get past her without her noticing? Perhaps she had fallen asleep? But now rage filled her body, along with a twinge of fear, but mostly rage at the thought that they had come back. She picked herself up from the ground and carefully peered into the tomb.
At first she couldn't see anything. The sun was much brighter now and the contrast between the bright sun and the dark tomb was too much. She stuck her head further into the dark of the tomb. Her eyes began to adjust.
There, sitting at the head and the foot of the linens sat two angels. Mary blinked. They were still there. She pinched herself. They were still there. They were smiling at her. She felt faint. She refused to give into her body and held tighter to the wall of the tomb.
“Woman, why are you crying?”
They had spoken. Angels were speaking to her. She answered without much thought to what she was saying. It was automatic.
“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
The wave of grief that came over her almost dropped her to her knees again. Angels or not she could not handle any more of this. She quickly turned to leave and let out a small shriek of fright. A man was standing behind her. The gardener she supposed. A quiet one. He looked at her, concerned. There was such compassion in his eyes.
“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
The thought suddenly flashed through her mind. This was the gardener? If anyone knows where the body has gone he would know.
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Why was he smiling at her like that? Did she know him? Was he playing some kind of game with her? She felt like her whole world was crashing down on her. Any second now she was going to run off crying again.
Could it be?
At the sound of her name spoken from those precious lips her head exploded with a million different colours. The whole world turned sideways and started to spin. She couldn't breathe. She literally could not breathe. Even her heart had stopped knowing how to work.
As she dropped to her knees yet again she heard her own voice cry out, "Rabonni!" It was him. It was the Teacher. The Master. It was Jesus!
She brushed the impossibility aside as she reached out to grasp his legs. But he stepped back. Out of reach. Her great tears of joy stopped and she looked up at him in confusion. Was she mistaken? Was this not Jesus? No, it was him. She could see it clearly now in his eyes and smile. And how could she ever mistake the way he said her name. Her name pronounced on those beautiful lips. She thought she would never hear such a wonderful thing again in all her life. But why was he moving away from her?
“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
She did not understand much but she did understand this: the Teacher needed her again. She quickly jumped to her feet and ran as fast as her body would carry her. She felt alive again. Excitement flowed from the top of her head to the soles of her pounding feet. Her mind swam with a thousand thoughts but one was greater than all the rest: