Easter brings joy. I imagine Mary of Nazareth experienced unspeakable joy on that first Easter.
This week’s excerpt is from Chapter Twenty of A Pondering Heart:
After another long night of weeping, the Sabbath passed. On the eastern horizon, a line of golden orange announced the coming sunrise. The streets, well-marked by smoldering torches, seemed barren. Only a few merchants moved in the doorways of shops. A fire kindling in the stone oven beside a bakery lent a smoky fragrance to the predawn stillness.
Following the path to the garden, I trudged beside my sister.
“Will the guards allow us in?” Salome’s question reminded me of the report her older son, James, brought to us the previous day.
A contingent of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Pilate had set his own seal on the rock covering the burial chamber from exposure.
“At least we can ask them to remove the stone,” Mary Magdalene said.
“If they allow it.” My sister Mary squeezed my elbow.
“We could never budge the behemoth on our own,” Salome said, attempting to smile.
My own lips couldn’t respond. A foreign hope burned in my chest. I fostered it by mentally repeating every phrase the messenger said when he announced my pregnancy. The joyful proclamations of the shepherds from that night some thirty-three years before added fodder. Recalling the wise astrologers who visited us before the flight to Egypt stacked another twig on this sputtering flame.
Birdsong burst from a bush on my left. I stared into the foliage, searching for the musician. Fluttering from higher branches drew my attention. Another bird chirruped, and, on the opposite side of the path, a third bird added his voice.
Ahead of me, Mary Magdalene gasped and bolted forward. Susanna and Mary froze in their tracks beside me. Salome stumbled against us at our sudden stop.
An enormous stone lay on the ground exposing a crypt to the early morning light. My heart leapt in my chest, its pounding drowned out the sounds of waking birds.
Mary disappeared into the tomb. I followed, several steps behind.
On the ledge inside, the burial clothes seemed untouched. My gaze drifted toward the head of the tightly wrapped bundle. The napkin covering the face was not on the shelf. More surprising, no face could be seen within the wrappings. It was nothing but an empty shell!
Energy surged through my limbs. Even as my mind whirled at the impossibility of the sight, my heart soared.
Two men suddenly appeared. My companions and I gasped and stumbled backward. My shoulders pressed into the side of the cave. One man stood beside the feet of the empty grave clothes while the other stood at the head.
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” one of the men asked.
Mary squeezed my hand in hers. Her fingers trembled against mine. A quick glance to either side proved that the others stood dumbfounded, aghast at the sudden appearance of the men.
I shook my head. Not men, messengers from God, much like the one who had visited me so many years ago.
“He is not here, but is risen.” The angel beside the head of the wrappings gestured toward the empty shell in the alcove. “Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and the third day rise again.’”
The other three nodded their heads. I couldn’t do the same. Judah had forbade me from joining the cluster of women who traveled with Jesus, caring for his daily need of food. What the messengers said, however, sparked the memory of my companions.
“Go your way,” the other messenger said, “tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”
Joy flooded inside me. I pressed behind Salome as she exited the confines of the tomb. Death was not the end for the Son of God.
Scripture quotations are from Mark 16 and Luke 24.
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