The Resurrection of Jesus, retold in story form through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. This story is loosely based on Matthew 27:57 – 28:20, Mark 15:42 – 16:20, Luke 23:50 – 24:53, and John 19:38 – 21:25. To catch up on the previous post in this fictional series, read “The Apparent End of Jesus.”
The darkness I felt just couldn’t be lifted. The loneliness that had surrounded me the moment He left us was tangible. Until He took His last breath, I knew we all still had a bit of hope. Standing there with Mary, Jesus’s mother, and John at the foot of the cross, I know we thought that maybe, just maybe, He’d get down off that cross. That the clouds would part and He’d create a miracle like He had so many times before.
Grief. Pure, deep, pestering grief had consumed me for nearly two days.
Saturday was Sabbath, and like always, we followed the law. This was probably the hardest thing of all. At least in work, I could let my mind get caught up in my task. But being on Sabbath felt like an eternity without Jesus. My mind would wander and I kept remembering moments from my life and how Jesus had changed me. He had saved me from being stoned when I was living wrapped in adulterous sin. His words, “Let you who has no sin cast the first stone,” still rang in my ears. His power to convict others and bring forgiveness was unlike any teacher I had known.
Over and over, all day, I kept thinking, “He’s gone. He’s really gone. How can that be? How could He let this happen?”
We were all together, and sporadically throughout the day, various conversations would start. One of us would ask a question. A few would chime in. Thoughts and ideas would circle around among us for a while and then simply dissipate into thin air. No one had answers. No one understood what was going on.
Several times Peter started shouting and then moved to weeping. I didn’t blame him; we all felt that way. Angry and confused, alone, lost.
Sunday morning came with at least a bit of purpose. Mary, James’s mother, and I had discussed on Saturday that we would buy herbs to anoint Jesus’s body and leave for the tomb early Sunday morning.
We each had a basket in hand. The sun was barely visible over the olive trees as we walked down the road to the tomb. We barely said a word to one another. All the words that could have been said had already been said.
After a while, Mary turned to me and asked, “When we get there, how do you think we will get in the tomb? Who will roll the stone away?”
This perplexed me, and I had no real answer but said, “I don’t know. I guess we will just have to see what happens.”
We continued on, both knowing that more than likely our task would end in failure, but at least we were trying. That kept us putting one foot in front of the other. There was nothing else we could do. Seeing His body would potentially allow us to grieve more deeply. It may give us some sense of closure, or direction, or well–anything.
We turned the corner and were nearly there when, all of a sudden, the ground began to shake. Tree limbs were falling, and I could hear the crunch of crashing rocks coming from nearby. This continued for several seconds. Mary and I looked at one another and then started running. I nearly tripped but caught myself just in time.
I looked up to see the stone. It had been rolled away, and sitting there on top of it was an angel! He was glowing brighter than the sun and sitting still and powerful atop the stone.
The guards were standing close and were obviously terrified. They were shaking and unable to move. Mary and I felt similarly, but more than fear, I felt hope rising through the confusion. I couldn’t even collect my thoughts before the angel starting speaking.
“Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen just like He said He would.”
I gasped in shock. One hand flew to my mouth and the other to my heart. He continued, “Come and see the place where He lay. Then go–quickly–and tell the disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’”
In a flash, the angel was gone, and Mary and I stood there for mere seconds before running inside the tomb. Across from the entrance was a stone slab. It was completely empty and to one side was a linen cloth. I looked from my left to my right and back again. I stared at the empty stone slab and was scared, excited, and felt more dazed in that moment than in any other time in my life.
I walked outside the tomb, leaving Mary there inside. I looked up at the stone where the angel had sat. It looked like any other morning now. The guards had fled, and the garden was glistening in the morning sun. I was so overwhelmed that I began to cry. I couldn’t understand what had happened. The angel said He had risen, but where was He? How could I believe such a thing? The emotions of loss and hope mingled with the constant taste of grief overtook me and I wept bitterly.
“Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” A man said from across the garden.
I looked up and saw him. I didn’t know who he was, maybe the gardener. Maybe a traveler. I took a moment to compose myself and said, “I… I don’t know. I came to see Jesus, but He’s not here. I don’t know where He is. If you’ve taken Him away, just tell me where you’ve put Him.” How could I truly believe that He had risen? My doubt consumed me, and I was unable to keep myself standing. I cried all the more as the thought of hope hurt me more than the grief had.
I could hear that the gardener was coming closer. He seemed very calm and steady. He bent down and said, “Mary.”
That voice! My tears immediately stopped, and I looked up. Jesus was looking at me. So kind. So peaceful. So powerful.
I fell completely to the ground, and my hands wrapped themselves around his feet. “Rabbi!” I said. Tears of a different kind now began pouring out. There were no more questions. No more confusion. Jesus was here. He had truly risen!
He reached a hand down and said, “Mary, don’t hold onto me. I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them what you have seen.”
I stood without question and turned to face the tomb. “Mary! Mary!” She came out of the tomb, and I ran to her. “He’s here!” I took hold of her hands and turned back around to lead her to Jesus, but He was gone.
“What?” She said.
“Never…nevermind. We have to go tell the others!”
I started running, and I could hear that she was right behind me. We did not stop until we reached the house. As I pushed open the door, everyone was moving about in silence. My heart was pounding. I felt as though they had to hear it.
“Everyone! Everyone listen!” I said loudly. I could hear people in the back rooms start stirring and coming out. As they began to gather, Mary and I tried our best to explain. Bits of the story were coming from both of us. Our words mixed with loud questions filled the room with almost intelligible sounds.
“He’s alive!” I shouted. “Jesus is alive!”
“There was an earthquake…”
“An angel. An angel was there!”
“What are you talking about?”
“No! He’s alive.”
“He’s alive I tell you!”
Strange, dazed faces stared at us all around the room. No one was believing us. “You must believe me! I saw Him with my own eyes!” This did not seem to convince them but only agitate them more.
I saw a commotion coming from the right side of the room. Peter was forcefully pushing others aside. He shoved right past us and out the door.
“Peter! What are you… where are you going?” I called after him. He didn’t hesitate at my voice or turn to respond. He was running with enormous speed down the road. I walked out of the house calling after him.
The dust of the road was flying up as his feet dug fast and swift through the dirt. I knew in that moment he was going to find Him. To see for himself what we had said was true. Peter believed. Hope began to course through my veins once more. This indeed was not an end. No. It was a beginning. I knew it in the deepest part of me, and I smiled to see him run.
Stay tuned to see how this series will continue with Jesus’s ascension.
Featured Image by jozefklopacka