“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” John 20:15
There was a rumble deep in the earth. The ground shook mightily. With loud cracks, huge rocks split open. People gathered on Golgotha were knocked off their feet as rocks rolled and earth crumbled.
In the tombs, graves broke open and many Godly people who had died were raised to life. They walked about, even into town, and after Jesus’ resurrection appeared to many people. (from Math. 27:52)
The centurion and guards near the cross saw the great earthquake and graves being opened and they said, “Surely this is the Son of God!” A miracle had been demanded and a miracle they received. The mighty hand of God, shaking the earth, tearing the curtain in the sanctuary and raising people from the dead. But still many did not believe.
Near the cross a group of people huddled on the ground, where they had fallen when the shaking began. Mary Magdalene rose to a sitting position. She looked up at the battered figure on the cross. The body of her beloved Teacher and Lord was limp, his head hanging slack. On the ground beside her, lay the mother of Jesus, her heart wrenching sobs and cries the only sounds that were heard. On her other side Mary, the aunt of Jesus and Salome were just sitting up.
Mary raised her tear-stained face to gaze at her Son on the cross. “He is gone!” She wailed. “It is over. It was all for naught. The years hiding in Egypt, the hours of learning in the temple, the preaching, the miracles, the suffering, all for nothing.” Her voice could barely be heard as her words carried the grief of a mother’s heart. “He healed hundreds, He saved others, why in the name of our God didn’t He save Himself?” She fell to the ground as her keening cries rose in the still evening air.
Mary Magdalene put her arms around the sobbing woman and pulled her close. “He also raised Lazareth from the dead. We can not forget that. It is not finished!”
The other women crowded around Mary to comfort and console her. They shielded her eyes when the soldiers came to break the legs of the crucified criminals so they would die before the Sabbath began. Jesus was dead however, so they rammed a spear in his side and blood and water poured out.
The woman who had followed Jesus watched as a rich man from Arimathea, Joseph, by name, took the body down, along with Nicodemus. Wrapping Him in linen cloth and spice, they laid Him in a nearby tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus sat nearby and watched as the men rolled a heavy stone across the opening.
The crowds had gone home shaking their heads. The disciples apparently had fled and were hiding. John took the mother of Jesus home and the other women ministered to her since her heart was torn in two.
All night and all the next day, despair settled on them like a cloak, heavy and dark. Visions of Jesus’ suffering played back in Mary Magdalene’s mind over and over. This was not what they expected. Jesus their Teacher was the Messiah, or God with us, but wasn’t He supposed to reign as conquering King for Israel? Wouldn’t He deliver them from their bondage and lead them to be a great nation? Wasn’t He God? And yet He let them lead Him to slaughter like a lamb. He never said a word. He did nothing to save Himself!
Mary had expected something great. Many angels coming from Heaven to take Jesus from the cross. Or even after He was dead and lying on the ground, she had expected life to come back into His battered body. She thought He would have risen again and walked with them. As He said.
Was He really the Son of God? Was He truly the Messiah? Mary had been so sure. After all He had fed thousands of folks on a few fish and two loaves. Hundreds had been healed from grave sicknesses. He had even brought a few back from the dead. How could things have gone so wrong? Mary had not expected this. Not this darkness. Not this horror. Not evil and death. No not this.
I so often think God will work a certain way. When darkness comes, when suffering comes, when death comes, I am knocked to my knees. I don’t expect it. A mighty God would not work that way. Would He? Would He allow His very own Son to die a horrible, violent death?
Well, yes He would! Yes He did. To save my soul, to save your soul, He did.
Would a loving God allow suffering and trials in our lives? Oh yes He does! To save souls. To test us. To draw us closer to Him. To train us for battle. To develop our faith muscles. So others will see His glory shining in us. So a cloud of witnesses will see our faith in Him. Oh yes, you bet, He does.
The religious leaders were not satisfied with Jesus being only dead. To keep Him in the grave, they secured the tomb by putting a seal on the huge stone at the entrance then posted guards to stand next to it. Why were they afraid of a dead man?
The day after the Sabbath, Sunday, in the predawn stillness, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus and Salome, the wife of Zebedee, walked to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body.
“How will we roll that big stone away?” Mary Magdalene whispered. The others just shook their heads.
Coming in sight of the tomb they stopped. Would the guards let them near. An eerie stillness filled the air. Not a sound was heard, nothing stirred in the gray dawn. Then a Morning Dove called. All else in the garden was silent. The women waited, holding their breath. Expectancy hung in the air like the morning mist amongst the lilies.
What is it? Mary Magdalene thought, What is about to happen?
A rumble started deep in the earth, like a low growl. It grew until it was a roar. Mary looked at her companions, their eyes were wide in fear. Like the hour when Jesus died, the ground began to shake. Violently the earth shook, the trees swayed, rocks rolled from the cliffs near by, the women fell to the ground.
With mouths open, Mary and the others watched as a glowing white figure descended from Heaven and landed in front of the tomb. An angel! Who appeared like lightening, so bright Mary couldn’t look at him, and his clothes were whiter than anything she had ever seen.
The angel took hold of the stone and with a grating sound rolled it away from the tomb. Then he sat on it. The two guards who had been standing like statues, fell to the ground in a dead faint.
Mary and her companions stayed on their knees and bowed their heads.
“Don’t be afraid,” the angel said in ringing tones, “I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, He has risen! Just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. Now I have told you.”
Mary slowly rose from the ground and crept up to the tomb’s entrance. She peeked inside. In the dim light she could see nothing. Stepping in farther she saw a white cloth laying on the low stone bench, a scarf folded at the head, and nothing else. No body of her Lord.
With a gasp she turned from the tomb, ready to tell the others that Jesus’ body was gone, but they had left. Shocked and confused, Mary sat on a stone near by and wept bitterly. She had been strong to this point, but the disappearance of her Beloved’s body was too much.
Mary and Salome hurried excitedly to tell the descilples what the angel had said. Suddenly in front of them stood a man. They stopped.
“Rejoice!” Jesus said, with a smile. “I am alive!”
“My Son!” Mary ran to Him along with Salome and falling on the ground before Him, they held His feet and praised Him.
“Do not be afraid,” He told them, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee and there they will see Me.”
Mary Magdalene was sitting near the tomb and weeping when John ran up and bending over looked inside. Then Peter stormed into the tomb and John followed. After a few moments they both came out and walked quickly away talking excitedly to each other.
Mary wondered what they saw there, maybe she had missed something so, she walked to the tomb. Bending over she peered into the dark cave. Her eyes were blinded by a great light and she saw two angels sitting there. One at the head and one at the feet of where the body of Jesus had lain.
“Woman,” one angel said, “why are you weeping?”
“Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put Him.” Stricken by grief and shock, Mary could not grasp what she had heard from the first angel.
With head bowed and tears running down her face she turned from the tomb. A man stood before her with the rising sun glowing behind him.
Shielding her eyes from the bright sun, and thinking it was the gardener, Mary pleaded, “Sir if you have carried Him away, please tell me where you have put Him and I will get Him.”
Unable to take her pain any longer, Jesus said, “Mary.”
That one word was enough. He called her name and she knew Him.
“Teacher!” she cried. She rushed to Him and wrapped her arms around Him. She clung to Him as if she would never let Him go.
Jesus pried her arms from Him and gently wiped the tears from her face. “Mary,” He said softly, “don’t you know you must not hold on to Me? I must go soon to my Father in Heaven. But what I said before is true. My Father is your Father, My God is your God. If you love Me and keep My word, My Father will love you. And We will come to you and make Our home with you always. Go tell my brethren this.” (from John 14:23-24)
Mary missed the joy because her focus was on her circumstance. Jesus was close to her and she didn’t know Him. Maybe while she sat in the garden weeping, He was standing near by. Her eyes were downcast and she never saw Him. She didn’t know He was alive.
“Just turn to Me.” He might have whispered. “Only open your eyes and look upon My face. I am here with you.”
Are you missing the joy?
Is Jesus calling your name today? Is He standing near by waiting for you to look at Him, to run to Him, to grab hold of Him?
It was not all for nothing! His life, His work, His death was for a purpose. When all seemed lost, God’s plan went forward. Even sealed boulders and armed guards could not keep Him in the grave. It was NOT finished! The sacrifice was done, the price paid, but Life had just begun.
No matter what grief, no matter what pain, no matter what burdens you have, Jesus gives you Victory. Victory over darkness, victory over despair, victory over sin. Death is turned to life in our lives. Life that will go on forever and ever.
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Mathew 14:19-20
Note: I have paraphrased and dramatized “The Crucifixion” and “The Risen” which are based mostly on Mathew 27:45-66, Mark 16:1 (for which women went to the tomb) Mathew 28:1-10, John 20:1-17 and also from The Story which combines all four gospels.