Three women made their way to a lonely tomb just after sunrise. The sky still had that rosy pink hue – but instead of feeling warm and comforted, they were reminded of the bloodshed only days earlier.
Never again would they look at a cross the same way again. Before, it had been a symbol of punishment, a tool used by the Romans to keep the people in line. Now, it was where their teacher had been martyred. It stood for all of his truth and goodness and they would forever remember him upon that cross.
They were journeying back to the place where they had laid his body. They were going to mourn but also to honor and glorify his broken body. They were going to say goodbye.
A million thoughts raced through the minds of those three women. Chief among them – what’s next? Would they, could they, return to their old lives? With Jesus dead, there wasn’t really any among the group of disciples who seemed ready to continue sharing his message. No, it all ended on the cross. All of their hopes and dreams, all of the promises of the Kingdom of God ended on the cross. It was finished.
They brought with them the spices and oils they would need, but as the three women neared the tomb, they began to wonder what on earth they were doing. Were the Romans who crucified their Teacher watching them? What about the Jewish leaders? And if they made it there safely, how were they going to roll back the stone covering the entrance on their own?
Despite their doubts and fears, they kept moving forward, step by step, clutching one another’s hands, until they came to place where he had been laid.
The stone… That big huge obstacle they thought they would have to overcome. It was gone. And a young man sat on the cold hard slab just inside the tomb. What was he doing there? And where on earth was the body of Jesus?
The man looked at them and the women instinctively flinched. He had a strange aura about him and was dressed in dazzling white. They were absolutely speechless.
Don’t be afraid – he whispered to them…. You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, but he’s not here! He has been raised, just like he promised. Go – tell the disciples and Peter that he will meet you in Galilee. He’s waiting for you!
The hearts of the women literally stopped beating for a few moments. They had come to honor a dead body and they were met by a mystery. He has been raised?! He’s… waiting for us? Was it a trap? Was it true? Could it possibly be?
It was all so completely overwhelming. They felt like they were standing in the presence of the holy – like Moses before the burning bush – like Elijah standing on the side of the mountain and hearing God’s voice in the silence… and yet nothing made sense. Nothing that was happening fit with their understanding of the world! If the massive stone could be rolled away without any human effort, if Jesus really was raised from the dead, what other assumptions and truths that they had known would be proved false? If the very power of death had been overcome, what was next? What else was going to change?
The world was turned upside down for these three women by this radically holy encounter. Terror and amazement seized them and they turn and fled from the tomb. Was it unworthiness? Was it the weight of the message that they were called to proclaim? Was it fear and awe that come from being face to face with God’s power? The world may never know. But Mary Magdelene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome said nothing to anyone… for they were afraid.