Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Empty Tomb

This is part 2 of my story The Empty Tomb. Part 1 is too long to publish as a blog. Part 2 picks up just as the darkness that followed Jesus' crucifixion has lifted. The speaker is Mary Magdalene.
The Empty Tomb - Part 2

copyright Linda Goodman 1995
            After what seemed like hours, the light returned.   I turned to leave, when I saw Joseph of Arimathea approaching.  Because Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus, I pretended not to recognize him.  He approached the cross and carefully began to take Jesus down, prying the nails slowly so as not to further tear His flesh.  Mary, the mother of Joseph, came up to me and whispered in my ear, “He got permission from Pilate to take the body.  He is going to bury our Lord in his own tomb.”
            Joseph wrapped Jesus body in a linen sheet and carried it away.  Mary and I followed him from a distance until we came to a garden, out of the sight of the soldiers.  There Joseph stopped and waited for us to walk alongside him.   His face was soaked with tears as he tried to make sense of all that had happened.   “I cannot believe that Jehovah let him die like this.  Why did he have to suffer the death of a common criminal?”  he asked us.  We had no answers.
            Mary and I watched as Joseph placed Jesus body in a tomb carved out of solid rock.  He rolled a huge stone in front of the opening, and then the three of us knelt in prayer, asking God for understanding.....asking Him to heal our broken hearts.  Then we left to prepare for the Sabbath.
            The Sabbath did not bring me any comfort.  Like Joseph of Arimathea, I could not believe that God had let our savior die.  Why?  I asked myself over and over.  This is cruel.  Who will we follow now?  We will disband.  There will be chaos!  How can this be?
            Then a small voice, so soft that at first I thought I had imagined it, spoke to me from my heart.  “All will be well," it said.  “Trust in the Lord.”  And suddenly I felt the peace that passes understanding come over me.  For the first time in days, I slept.
            The next morning, the first day of the week, before sunrise, Joanna, Martha, and I went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried.   Though He had died a criminal’s death, we wanted Him to have a proper burial, and so we had brought spices and perfumes with which to bathe His body. 
            To our horror, we saw that the stone had been rolled away during the night.  Joanna looked inside and screamed, “He’s gone!  His body has been stolen!”
            All that I could think to do was run.  I ran so fast I felt as though my heart would pound its way outside my chest, but I did not stop until I had reached the upper room.  Peter and John were inside, looking lost and weary from lack of sleep. 
            “They have taken Him!”  I cried.  “They have taken Jesus from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him!”  Then I fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably.  All I had wanted to do was to see that He had a proper burial.  Now Jehovah was denying Him even that.
            Peter and John did not tarry to comfort me.  They cried out in anger before running from the room.  I knew they were going to the tomb to see if I told the truth.  Even though they knew me to be an honest woman, they could not believe that God would allow their Lord’s body to be defiled so.  Perhaps they thought my grief was playing tricks upon my mind.  Slowly I picked myself up off the floor and, forcing one foot in front of the other, I trudged back to the garden. 
            By the time I reached the tomb, the others had gone.  Still sobbing, I forced myself to look inside.  Suddenly, a blinding light enveloped me.  I felt a power surging through my body, a tingling sensation from my head down to my toes.  Confused and frightened, I struggled to see from what source this strangeness emanated.  “Who is there!”  I demanded. 
            In what seemed like a dream, I saw two figures dressed in robes as white as snow.  They were sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet.  “Why are you crying?” they asked in one voice that sounded like the beautiful, pure strains of a heavenly harp. 
            “They have taken my Lord away,” I replied, shuddering.  “I do not know where they have put him.”
            They sat there staring at me as if I were insane.  Unable to bear gazing upon their brilliant essence any longer, I turned to leave, thinking all was lost.  That is when I saw the man who had been standing behind me.  He spoke to me in a calm, unemotional voice, asking, “Woman, why are you crying?  Who is it that you are looking for.”
            At first, I thought that he must be the gardener.  I pulled myself up to my full height and held myself proud.  Who was he to question me?  I would show him who he was dealing with.
            “If you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put him,” I demanded.  “I will go and get him and bring him back where he belongs.”
            And then the man smiled at me....a soft smile that told of kindness and compassion, knowledge and understanding.  Who is this man? I wondered.  I know that smile.  Why is it so strangely comforting?  I looked into His pale blue eyes and saw that they were filled with tears.  “Mary,” He whispered.
            “My Lord!”  I cried, as I realized that this was indeed Jesus himself.  But how could this be?  I had seen him die!  I had seen his stiff and lifeless body placed inside the tomb.  But then, in the twinkling of an eye, I realized that none of this mattered.  My savior was alive!
            I threw myself at his feet and wrapped my arms around his legs.  “Do not hold on to me, Mary,” He said gently.  “I have not yet ascended to my Father.”
            I released him, and he smiled at me...the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.  “Go and tell the others,” He said.  I did not hesitate to do as He bid.
            You know the rest.  Jesus appeared to many in His resurrected body before going up into heaven.  Many have said that it was all a hoax -- that His followers had stolen His body to make it appear that He had been resurrected.  I feel sorry for those who believe that.  The do not know what it means to have a hope that cannot be destroyed.  They do not know the peace that comes from sweet surrender.  They do not know the joyous victory of love that was accomplished that day.
            I never tire of telling my story.  I share it with all who will listen.  And when my journey on earth has ended, I know that I will once again sit at His feet and kiss His wounded hands, rejoicing in His presence for life everlasting.   I testify before you now that that my Savior lives, just as surely as you and I have breath in our bodies.  You know that what I speak is true because I, Mary Magdalene, once among the worst of sinners, was the EMPTY TOMB.