Dawn hadn’t yet broken the horizon when Mary Magdalene retraced her steps toward the tomb. She had watched Joseph and Nicodemus bury her crucified Lord on Friday. Still, she stepped carefully: the gray darkness cast trees and rocks into unrecognizable shapes.
Her mind was blank with sadness too heavy to form thoughts. It was the third day since his death. Would the grief ever leave? She peered ahead toward the new tomb. With little light from the heavens—though there seemed an uncanny joy in the air—she thought the entrance-stone had been rolled away. She quickened her pace and brushed at her eyes: his tomb did stand open.
Panicked, she ran for Peter and John. “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb! Where could they have put him?”, she blurted. Her words propelled the sleepy men from the house. Fear of authorities forgotten: they ran through city streets, past Golgotha Hill, into the burial garden. Who could have taken Jesus’ body? And why?
John outran Peter. He bent under the low tomb entrance, saw linen strips lying where Jesus’ body should have been. Peter, panting past John now, pushed inside. Linen burial strips and head cloth neatly laid aside. But no body, just as Mary said. Who? Why? And why leave burial cloths behind? Bewildered, but with nothing to be done, they scrambled slowly from the empty tomb and walked away. They spoke not a word to Mary who, by now, had returned. What, after all, was to be said? Their Lord, humiliated by crucifixion, was now desecrated in death.
Mary wept, peering inside once more, as if a grieving look would return the corpse. And the tomb wasn’t empty! Two angels sat where Jesus’ body had lain. “Woman, why are you crying?” Between sobs, Mary replied: “They’ve taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”
The angels stayed silent, as if waiting for—what? Mary turned from them then, sensing another presence behind her. The gardener. “Woman, why are you crying?” The repeated question momentarily struck her as strange. This was a burial ground. People wept at such a place. But quickly she dismissed the thought as tears fell. “Who is it you are looking for?”
Maybe the gardener had moved Jesus’ body. “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you’ve put him, and I’ll go get him.”
He told her of no place. Instead, he spoke her name: “Mary.” Suddenly, a scene of him driving out seven demons from her flashed before her crying eyes. And scenes of traveling the countryside with him and the other women as he forgave sinners, cleansed lepers, even–yes–raised the dead.
His voice. It drew her toward him. It transformed her mournful tears into breathtaking joy. She reached for him, then, to hold on to him, to never let him go again. He had been brutally crucified and sadly buried in a tomb. But, his body hadn’t been cruelly taken from her.
He was alive!
Death was beaten. The grave was empty. Nothing was impossible now.
And Sunday’s sun broke the horizon.