I’ve always loved the Sabbath. Time to stop and be with my family. Time to appreciate God’s goodness to us and remember His promises.
The Sabbath of Passover week is always especially a time of joy. We have remembered the escape from Egypt, we thank Yahweh for his deliverance and look forward to the coming of Messiah.
Yesterday was not like any other Sabbath. The day was empty of all meaning. Between the numbness I could not get the sights, the sounds, and the smells of Friday out of my head. How could my Lord be dead?
On Thursday when we heard that He had been taken by the temple guard, we went as quickly as we could to the temple courts, we watched people come and go. Peter was there as were other disciples, mostly keeping a low profile. Peter of course got noticed, how could he not? Big and burly, he stood out among those in the courtyard. I have never seen a man cry like that, at first it was noisy and anguished as he called curses onto his head. As the hours went on the tears did not stop, as if they could wash away the pain of betrayal. No-one could comfort him, there were no words that could bring comfort to any of us.
We felt so sure that Pilate would dismiss the scheming of the Sanhedrin, that he would see through their manipulation and not be a part of it. He chose to do just that, washing his hands of the matter very publicly. I heard that his wife advised him to let Jesus go, that she had been warned in a dream. But he just turned his back.
That night we sat and followed the ritual of the Sabbath, the candles were lit and the little food that we had prepared was eaten. The words which normally brought comfort were empty and without meaning, the food without flavour.
Yesterday I just keep looking at the sky, willing the sun to move faster for the day to be over so that I could prepare for today.
We would go to the tomb. We would wash the Lord’s body and anoint him with oils and herbs. Our last act of love for Him would be to leave Him wrapped in clean linen and anointed with the precious oils that his mother had given to us. Mary told us between tears of the Myrrh and Frankincense, brought by wise men as gifts when Jesus was a small child. Signs of death and priesthood; she had treasured them for more than 30 years, knowing in her heart that the time would come to use them.
The sun went down, and we met briefly to plan and make sure that we were ready to go to the tomb as soon as it was light.
Another night goes by, there is little sleep for any of us. I wonder if I will ever feel peace again? I have not felt like this since Jesus freed me of the demons – part of me hopes that the demons have come back, that this is a nightmare and that I will wake up and Jesus will still be here. The peace that He poured into my shattered life that day has kept me going when times were tough. Knowing that He was always there and that I could bring my troubles to Him, that He would fill me with peace and joy just by being in His presence.
But now He is gone.
We were so sure that He was the Messiah. As they taunted Him on the cross we were so sure that He would give us the last and greatest miracle and defy death itself. We were wrong. We were so very wrong…. I will never forget the anguish of those last moments as He called out “It is finished”.
What does it all mean, what should we do now? Can we just go back to our lives as if nothing had happened?
As soon as it is light we hurry the tomb, carrying our precious loads. Who will move the stone? Maybe the Roman guards will help – or maybe they will chase us away and not let us near.
The stone has been moved; the tomb is empty.
Where is my Lord?
I had thought that my despair could not be greater.
Inside the tomb there are two white-robed men built like warriors. We fall down at their feet, we are in the presence of Angels. One is sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. One of them speaks, “Dear woman, why are you crying?”.
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again?”
I remember Jesus saying those words – we hurry back into the city and tell the disciples. They think that we have gone mad with grief; they do not believe us. But Peter gets up and runs to the tomb, I follow as quickly as I can. Peter looks inside and leaves shaking his head in disbelief and dismay.
As I turn to leave I see someone standing there. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?”
“Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
He says my name “Mary!”. I look at him properly and realise that this is no stranger, this is my Jesus, “Rabboni!”. In my joy I try to hold onto Him but He stops me with a smile, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
This time I run to the city and to find the brethren – if anyone has seen me this morning they will think that the demons have truly repossessed me!
Breathless I rush into the room “I have seen the Lord!”
This is a new day; this is the day that the Lord is risen. I will rejoice and be glad!