On Friday they looked on as he was crucified. The sky turned black, and the curtain was torn. The disciples watched from afar, lest their fate be the same as Jesus’ — or maybe even worse. No, better to watch from a distance. Better to be scattered than to be present.
Only the women came close to witness. Only the women were there when the body was taken from the cross, wrapped in the shroud and placed in the tomb.
Then they waited until after the Sabbath to prepare the body properly. They woke early and made their way toward the tomb. It dawned on them that when they get there, they will have no way of removing the stone.
Imagine their surprise as they approached. In the distance they see the tomb — but wait, someone has already removed the stone. Their hearts beat faster as they fear the worst.
You can see them racing to the tomb. Inside they find an angel, and they are told to return and tell the others that Jesus has risen and will be with them in Galilee.
What kind of a cruel joke is this? They knew Jesus was dead. And away the women go, too terrified to say anything to anybody about what they have just seen and heard.
When we look back on that first Easter, we do so from a perspective nearly 2,000 years out. Like a movie we’ve seen over and over or a book we continue to re-read, we know the ending.
But how terrified would we be if we were there? How frightened would we be if we were living the story?
We continue to find it odd no one remembers Jesus’ words. Why didn’t anyone expect that Jesus would be resurrected on the third day? Yet they had seen him die, and they expected him to be there in the tomb.
The women, as they approached, were experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives. In no way did they expect or anticipate that God could help them find hope.
But He did. And he continues to do so today. Amid the deafening silence of solitude, we find the possibility of fellowship. Battered by despair, we suddenly catch a glimmer of positive promise. Beaten down into the very depths of depression, we suddenly glimpse God’s hand and hear him calling us. That is what resurrection is all about.
Just when we think our lives can’t get any worse, God infuses our lives with promise and hope. Just when we think that the burden is too heavy, God alleviates our despair. Even when we find ourselves within the shadows, we know the sun is still shining.
We never know where or when we may encounter God. That is what makes the story that much better.
For, like Mary Magdalene and her friends, we may make our way to the tomb of our lost love, to the grave of our dead dreams, our ruined reputation, our devastated faith. We may look starkly into the depth of despair, hopelessness and depression. And there, just when we are about to give up, we find God — or realize God has found us.
We won’t have to have an angel in shining garb tell us what happened. We will know firsthand the joy that only God can bring to us. We will know firsthand what resurrection is all about. Christ the Lord is risen today!
The Rev. David Wise is pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.