Many people love Christmas, but today is my favorite day on the Christian calendar. At about the time I’m writing this, women who loved and followed Jesus were gathering oils and spices in order to anoint their beloved Friend and Teacher Who had been placed in a grave without the proper ceremony, but at least He was in a grave. Poor as He was, they were likely thankful for that small blessing.
As the sun came up they would hurry out and make their way to the site of Yeshua’s burial. How would they deal with the guard? Who would roll away the stone? What other thoughts and questions might have been running through their minds? Did they talk to each other, or travel in silence, each thinking her own thoughts?
Imagine the shock of finding no guard and the stone rolled away. Then the double shock of the missing body. Did they forget the spices and oils? Did they simply drop them in dismay? How fragrant the aroma at that moment if they did. While a lovely sent, it was the smell of death to the Jewish women, a smell that would have served to emphasize their total despair. Not only was their Rabboni dead, He was also gone, out of the reach of their ability to say a final, proper good bye. The emotional pain must have been overwhelming. As Jewish women they may have screamed out their mourning, wailing at the top of their lungs because it was proper and because it would have been the only release for their tortured souls.
Suddenly a light and a voice! Did their sobs and wailing come to an abrupt halt? If they were clinging to one another, did they suddenly push away? If they had not been, were they now? How much more could they possibly bear?
But the voice brought good news, though unbelievable.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen! As He told you while He was with you, ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to evil men to be crucified and on the third day, to rise again.’ ”
That’s when the women remembered! Yes, He had died but this was the third day, the day He would be returned to life, a testimony to His victory over death, hell and the grave! Could they believe? Could their mourning suddenly be turned into joy and celebration?
As they returned to town, did they marvel? Did they celebrate? Did they debate? Did they begin the journey back with awe and a bit of doubt, but get to town with smiles and laughter? Poor Marry Megdaline must have still had her strong doubts about Christ’s resurrection. It seems the others went back to town but she remained, her sadness not in the least soothed by the words that sent the others away. She stayed at the grave, mourning a loss that I cannot completely fathom. She touched Jesus, traveled with Jesus, listened to Jesus in this physical realm. Her loss must have felt amazingly complete.
I do know a little about how these women felt, though, a small piece. I am among those who have followed Jesus and in the trials of this life thought He was “dead” to me, that I was unable to reach Him ever again. Like Marry, the message that He is alive, He is risen, He walks among the living, unable to penetrate my grief. I know what Jesus said, but how in the moment can I truly believe?
Like Marry I cry so hard that when He walks right up to me I don’t even recognize Him. Marry didn’t realize Who she was talking to until He said her name. I know her joy at that moment because I’ve experienced it, the moment when my Savior helps me recognize Him once again (and again, and again) with just the sound of my name on His lips as He calls me to see Him as He really is, ALIVE! And as I see Him again, I am reminded that He sees me just as He saw Marry Magdaline so many years ago. He sees all of me and accepts all of me and loves me at whatever moment I recognize Him. And since He is powerful enough to overcome the grave, He is powerful enough to overcome anything this life can dish out, including my despair.
Yes, I am to walk in that knowledge and the power of His resurrection every day and it is my goal to do so. But by setting aside a day to fully contemplate the fullness of Christ’s victory over sin and death I am reminded of how very profound it is. It’s like stoking a fire that never really goes out, but needs a little more fuel every so often. Today is like the stoking and I remember those women most because I relate to them so well. And with them I bring a message back to town:
JESUS IS RISEN!
JESUS IS ALIVE!