It was the darkest night of my life. Now when I think back on the days and weeks leading up to that day, I can remember a growing, swirling storm of confusion and uncertainty. Things before that had been so wonderful and peaceful; more full of joy than I and so many others ever thought life could be. So none of us were sure what was happening, or where all of the discord and distrust was coming from. It really seemed to be coming from every direction at once, but at the same time from nowhere discernible. It just felt like something huge was coming.
When it came, the day began like any other. I woke and dressed early, ate a little breakfast and then went out to pick up a few things. It was promising to be a bright, sunny day, the dawn filled with happily chattering birds and brilliant blossoms dotting the landscape. As I made my way down my to-do list, I chatted for awhile with a neighbor of mine, then stopped in to see another friend’s new baby, so tiny and sweet and unaware of all of the troubles and wickedness of this world. But the just-waking neighborhood was beginning to buzz with some sort of commotion, like angry bees around a disturbed hive - concerned faces, angry faces, hot tears, harsh whispers. The news reached my ears that a terrible traitor was in our midst, and that his betrayal was fierce and more costly than any of us could have imagined possible.
How could this be? How could someone that we all trusted be so vile? The rumors were flying. The commotion grew as people everywhere were offering their opinions and venting their frustrations. Who could be trusted now? Why hadn’t anyone seen this coming? No one was untouched by the sudden dark cloud of suspicion and hatred that threatened to envelop the whole community. The anger and rage rolled like a storm, and touched everyone in its path. We were all swept along, no one sure where this was all heading, few caring, all just caught up in the growing storm.
The crowd swept through the streets early that morning, carried along by something very real, though unseen, out to the courts in front of the governor’s palace. Many had been following the storm all night. The religious people and lawyers had already brought their witnesses and spent their venom, and now the local government would have its turn. A half-hearted attempt was made to get to the truth, but the furious crowd was beyond reasoning and drowned out everything. Many in the crowd were the same who gathered just a week earlier, caught up with the prevailing emotion of that day, too; laughing and dancing and crying “Hosanna!” This time their rage exploded, and the sentence was handed down.
I soon found myself standing somewhere I never dreamed I would be, helpless to do anything but watch the events unfold. The next hours stretched on for what seemed like days, and at the same time flew by with such an intense feeling of helplessness. The beating, the blood, the mocking and jeering, the insults and ridicule of many, the desperate sadness of others. A terrifying earthquake shook the whole city, disrupting graves, and it was said that the veil in our beautiful temple was ripped in two, right down the middle. Even the sun stopped shining, and darkness swallowed everything. “It is finished.”
Slowly, the crowd dispersed and everyone went back to their homes or rooms at the inns, back to life as usual. The adrenaline and intensity of the moment was past, it seemed like it had been absorbed somehow, and many just picked up right where they had left off. But so many of us were devastated. Who could we trust; who could lead us and show us the way? Some people were so frustrated with Peter, James, and John, who had always been closest. How could they have been so blind as to not seen what was happening, and done something to stop the wicked traitor from hurting Jesus? If they had, people reasoned, maybe none of this would have happened. Now Peter had denied Jesus and all the others were hiding in fear. We didn’t know where to fix our eyes. We didn’t even feel like any of what we had seen could have been true, after all. Everything seemed like just a dream at best, or like a terrible lie at worst. I stood a ways off from the grave and watched them place His body inside; I watched the huge stone rolled in front of the tomb, and then sealed by the Romans.
Sleep evaded me that long, dark night. I tossed and turned, and tried to pray as He had taught us, but struggled to do so. A few of us met behind closed doors the next day to weep and try to comfort one another. Too many people were still jeering and mocking us anytime we went out, but we busied ourselves in making a plan for the morning, after Sabbath was finished.
We woke very early that morning, and quietly made our way back to the tomb. Everything had happened so fast, and there had been no time to properly prepare His body before Sabbath began, so we intended to do that this day while everyone else was busy with the new week. My grief was so deep, and seemed to increase with each step I took towards the place His body lay. He was so wonderful, and it was so hard to imagine that He was really gone. My heart and mind were trying to make peace with the fact that His life had made such an impact on everyone He encountered, but He was gone much too soon. All of our hopes and dreams were gone with Him. The same old questions about who to trust now, and who to follow now swirled in my mind, threatening to fill my heart with despair.
But as we reached the tomb, something was definitely not right. Something was happening. What was happening? My heart began to race and my mind felt like it was going to explode! The earth began to shake again as we drew close, and a light brighter than anything I’d ever seen blinded us all for a moment. Before any of us could react, we all watched as an angel rolled the enormous stone away from the tomb. The Roman guards were frozen in place - none of them could process what was happening, either. The angel turned and looked at all of us and spoke to us, “Do not be afraid, for 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: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.”
It took just a moment for us to overcome our shock, and we ran, crying and laughing and shouting all the way! My heart was almost bursting with joy and wonder and amazement - He had risen, just as He said! As we raced back to where the men were, my mind filled with so many other things that Jesus had said…
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
I am willing…Be clean!
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Don’t be afraid.
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Our beautiful Jesus - God the Son; Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting One, Prince of Peace! We shall keep our eyes only on Him, the One who gave His life to set us free from our sin, and the One who bore our terrible shame. He has overcome death, hell, and the grave, and has made a way for us to be in relationship with God again. We will follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the One whose voice speaks the words of life and causes dead men to live again. I know Him and have seen Him - He is Risen indeed!
-The Other Mary
(read more about her in Matt. 27-28)
On this special weekend of Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the birthday of the Church, may your eyes fall only on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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