Sunday, April 12, 2009

The New Beginning

Four thousand years. From generation to generation the understanding had been passed down. The Eternal had spoken the world into existence during six days. The seventh day was His day of rest. The eighth day was for starting over. A new cycle of time. Whatever had taken place before was gone. It was a new beginning.

But how could she begin again? The work that was completed on Friday was too final. Others had left their jobs to follow the Teacher. She had left hell. Was she doomed to go back?

She shuddered as she remembered the voices. Her months following Jesus had all but washed their memory away. He was gone -- would they return? One by one would they seize her, pulling her into the degradation that was once her life? Would she spend her evenings with the filthy men hungry for her touch, then leap on them clawing and screaming, only to face the dawn whimpering in the corner of some dingy room? After those nights -- every night -- the voices came. They reminded her of her worthlessness. "Destroy yourself!" they wooed.

Yes, others had left their jobs. Some had endured separation from their families. But Jesus had delivered her from the voices. What would be her destiny now?

Timidly she had asked a few of the other women to come with her at sunset on Friday. The Sabbath, with its travel restriction, was upon them. She was brave, though. And they all wanted to know where the Teacher's body would be taken. It was their duty to make sure he was properly prepared for burial.

The final rays of the golden orb were dropping behind the hills and into the Great Sea to the west when they took note of the burial place -- a tomb in the rocky hillside. It was too late to take care of Jesus' body, though. They would need to return Sunday morning.

All day on Saturday, the women waited. As they provided food for the mourners, they choked back their own tears to gather the necessary spices. They would arise early enough to be at the tomb before the sun woke up. It would be a busy day of travel from the city following Passover and they wanted to be ahead of the crowds.

In the dark stillness, she arose. Her fitful dreams had wandered from the Teacher doing miracles to the unbelievable events of last week to...the voices. With the others, she slipped out into the night, noticing the faint light in the eastern sky. The smell of their spices permeated the air as they walked through the city gate.

They steeled themselves in preparation for what they would say to the Temple Guards who were watching the tomb. They hoped for someone who was kind enough to let them in and help them with the large stone. Maybe they wouldn't be perceived as a threat.

Rounding the last boulder near the tomb, they stopped in shock. The stone was rolled from the entrance and the Guards were gone! Had someone already stolen the body? Would they blame it on the disciples who were grieving inside the city walls?

The other women were glancing around fearfully. "Someone must look," she said and stepped quietly to the opening. "It's empty!"

They dropped their spices and began to run back into the city. The sun had not yet risen, but two familiar figures were walking toward them. "The tomb is empty!" she cried. Peter and John began to run toward it.

The other women, afraid and distraught, started back into Jerusalem. "I'm going back." She was crying now. They didn't understand. She had nowhere else to go. The memory of the voices pounded in her head.

The two disciples were completely inside the tomb when she arrived. She stood and wept as they left it and hurried past her toward the city. They didn't try to make her leave. Finally, with the sun up over the horizon, she went back to the entrance. At least she could touch the place where they had laid him.

Looking into the shadows, she almost fainted. Two men, dressed completely in white, were sitting at the head and the foot of where he had lain. "Why are you weeping?" one of them asked.

"Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him."

Noticing a shadow in the entrance just behind her, she turned. A man looked down at her, but she didn't recognize him -- the sun was in her eyes as she looked up at him. It was probably the gardener who had just arrived for work. "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"

"Sir, my Lord was buried here on Friday, but he has been taken away. If you took him, please tell me where he is and I will see that he is properly prepared."

Jesus said her, "Mary!"

To my readers: the eight days we have come to know as "Holy Week" is detailed graphically in Scripture. The parts we don't know much about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' closest followers. My attempt this week is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the last few chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. My hope is that the reading of my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.


Rachel Cotterill said...

Beautifully told :) I know you said it was to be a week of stories, but I hope you'll return to this project for the Ascension.

Happy Easter!

Dina said...

I agree with Rachel. It has been wonderful to read all of your stories and has added to the experience of Easter for me. Happy Easter!

Sandra said...

I agree too, Sam. This has been very special and I hope you'll continue it.

C. Beth said...

I love Rachel's idea of returning to this project for the Ascension!!

On Sunday Kenny's message really just spoke to me. My favorite part was when he said, "When did Mary recognize Jesus? When he called her by name." And then he talked about Jesus still calling us by name. It was so encouraging and inspiring.

Sam said...

Beth, tell Kenny that I love his insight -- hadn't heard it and it's great. Thank you all for the encouragement! Re Ascension...thinkin' on it!