Author’s Note: It’s been said that familiarity breeds unsuspecting unfamiliarity. This series is meant to help your God-given imagination to see things that might feel familiar, but perhaps can be new again: the true events of the last week before Jesus’ death. These posts are adapted from a sermon, and were written with two texts for study: the Gospel accounts and The Final Days of Jesus by Köstenberger and Taylor.
With all the questions from last night in Mary’s head, there is one desire guiding her through the minefield of trauma—the need to be near Jesus.
As He was laid on the table Friday night, she sat across from the tomb, weeping and watching over His body.
In the silence of Saturday, Mary ran through her list and packed for this morning, one last chance to say goodbye to her Lord in the quiet of dawn. A wrapping of His body, a final anointing of His flesh, no doubt wet with her tears once again. How many tears had she shed this week?
She just wants to be near Jesus.
Sitting with the dead brings a strange comfort as one sorts through pain. In the presence of a loved one now gone, their lifeless body is the stone image of a lifetime of breath.
And it is image upon image in her mind as Mary heads out in the fading dark. Memories flood her sight as the pain of loss is all that feels near to her now.
Just to sit and be with Jesus, her heavy thoughts on the path in the breaking dawn, “Why are we here? Why is He dead? Oh it was terrible. Just terrible.”
She watched Him with the crowds.
She watched Him weep for the dead, and bring her own back to life.
She watched Him die.
Who would bring Him back now? There’s no one to call for, the Lord Himself is dead.
Mary reaches the tomb as little drops of dew begin to reflect off olive leaves. Then she sees the stone.
In the midst of grief, of the churning emotions in her heart, only one thing makes sense—someone has taken Him.
Her bag drops as she turns, stone jars clanking together as they hit the ground. Her morning errand just became a race against time to tell the others: He’s not there—He’s gone! He’s gone. They’ve taken His body.
Breathless, fighting stitches in her side, she reaches the house and breaks the fitful sleep of Peter and John with her cries. A pounding at the door, the panicked speech, the call to calm down and speak clearly—all giving way to a fear-filled Mary blurting through heaving sobs, “They’ve taken the Lord, and I don’t know where He is!”
Peter and John look at each other. A look loaded with the loss of their Lord, the shame of their weakness, the fear of the moment. They have to go. They have to do something.
Sitting in the now quiet house, can you see Mary, alone with her fears? “What will they do with Him? Haven’t they done enough? I just want to be near Him. Could I not even protect His body in death?”
She sits, her breath returning, and with the rising sun, she stands to head back to the tomb.
Her walk now is less certain than the task of this morning, but in the want to draw near, she heads to where she saw Him last.
Peter and John must have fled already. She’s alone outside the tomb, unable to bring herself to go inside for she knows who she will not see. The dirt at her feet forms dark brown cakes as tears flow once more.
And from the hidden well of strength, or the acceptance of the inevitable, she moves into the tomb.
Mary’s face drops. Her eyes are wide with shock as she takes in just who is there. Two angels, sitting along the table like anchors of a mercy seat—and no body between them.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Behind her a man appears in the garden and asks the same, once more, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
Picture the swirl of thoughts in Mary’s head right now: Who are these men? Wait. They look different. Who is talking to me now? I’m in the garden, it must be the gardener coming to work. Where are Peter and John? Oh, where is Jesus? He’s not here. I need to find Him.
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
He has to know, how could he not know? This place is his job.
“Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
And then the storm inside her breaks into a blinding shower of sadness, of fear.
Just tell me, please. Please tell me where my friend is. I can’t take anymore—I need to be near Him.
It’s hard to imagine the silence of that moment. As if the storm went mute in a heartbeat and her world stopped spinning at the sound of her name. She knew. He is here.
Tears flow again as she rushes to hug the risen Christ. Fear drops off her like lead, her heart rises with joy unspeakable. The distance between them, from the garden to the cross, the inability to help, having to watch Him die—forever closed in a moment. She just wanted to be near him.
And now, He is here. He’s alive!
Jesus speaks, “Mary, we have work to do. Go and find my brothers. Tell them that I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Then Mary ran for the second time that day. The lightness of her step as she felt the growing peace in her heart. The tides of death are gone.
She reaches the door, and instead of knocking, throws it open, looks around—eyes wide with love and says with airy breath, “I’ve seen the Lord!”
Here is our King; He is Risen!