It was in a garden ages ago that paradise was lost, and it is in a garden now that it would be regained.
But Mary Magdalene doesn’t know that. For her, the hobnail boot of the Roman Empire has crushed her hope and ground it in the dirt with its iron heel.
Her hope was Jesus. He had changes her life, and she followed him ever since he had cast seven demons out of her, freeing her from untold torment. He had given her life … a reason to live … and a place in his kingdom. He had given her worth and dignity … understanding, compassion … love … and he had given her hope.
Now that hope lies at the bottom of her heart, flat and lifeless.
But something helps her survive the cruel boot. Something resilient, like a blade of grass that spring up after being stepped on.
That something is love.
Love brought Mary to his cross. And love brings her now to his grave.
But as she wends her way along that dark garden path, she stumbled upon a chilling sight. The stone has been rolled away. The tomb has been violated. …
She finds Peter and John and in breathless fragments reports what she saw. They rip through the night on a ragged footrace to the tomb. Mary tries to follow, but her side is splitting. She will catch up, she tells herself, when she catches her breath.
His lungs burning, Peter stoops into the caved entrance. The wings of the dove-gray dawn have extended a soft feather of light into the cave. As his eyes adjust, he takes careful notice of the burial wrappings made rigid by the resin from the spices. The linen cocoon lays intact on the stone slab. Intact, but hollow.
Doubt and faith swirl in their minds like heady wine, blurring their perception as they stumble their way through the dark. Mary is left behind; tears, her only companions. She takes those tears with her as she enters the tomb to take a look for herself. And suddenly, the woman who was once possessed with demons finds herself in the presence of angels.
One stand at the head of the stone slab; the others, at the foot. Like the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle—cherubim on either end. For this, too, is a most holy place.
She is despondent as she tells them the reason for her tears. Then, from behind, another voice reaches out to her,
“Woman, why are you crying?”
She wheels around. Maybe the morning is foggy. Maybe tears blur her eyes. Maybe Jesus is the last person she expects to see. Whatever the reason, she doesn’t recognize him. That is, until—
She blinks away the tears and can hardly believe her eyes.
Overwhelmed, she throws her arms around the Lord she loves so much. She had been there when he suffered at the cross; now he is there when she is suffering. She had stood by him in his darkest hour; now he is standing by her in hers. He had seen her tears; now he is there to wipe them all away. Jesus interrupts the embrace to send her to the disciples with the good news.
“He is risen. I have seen him. I have touched him. He is alive.”
And so, too, is her hope.
In his triumph, Jesus could have paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. He could have knocked on Pilate’s door. He could have confronted the high priest. But the first person our resurrected Lord appears to is a woman without hope. And the first words he speaks are, “Why are you crying?”
What a Savior we serve, or rather, who serves us. For in his hour of greatest triumph, he doesn’t shout his victory from the rooftops. He comes quietly to a woman who grieves … who desperately needs to hear his voice … see his face … and feel his embrace.
Dear Risen Lord,
How hard it is to see clearly when devastating circumstance fill my eyes with tears. How blurry everything gets. Even you get blurry, and the sound of your voice becomes strangely unfamiliar.
Help me to blink away those tears to see that you are standing beside me, wanting to know why I am crying, wanting to know where it hurts, wanting to wipe away every tears from my eyes.
Thank you, Jesus, for being there, for never leaving me or forsaking me, even in the darkest and chilliest hours of my life.
From those circumstance that have shrouded my heart and entombed me, I pray that you would roll away the stone. It is too heavy and I am too weak to roll it away myself.
Where there is doubt, roll away the stone and resurrect my faith.
Where there is depression, cast aside the grave clothes and release my joy.
Where there is despair, chase away the night and bring a sunrise to my hope.
Yet in my doubt, in my depression, in my despair, help me to continue to love you. Even if I don’t understand how you are working in my life.
And I rejoice that no matter how dark the Friday or how cold the tomb, that with you as my risen Savior, there is always the warm hope of an Easter morning . . .