Mary is the first to wake in the gloom of morning, to realize that this is the third day without him. First to creep to the tomb before even the birds awake, clutching her offering of spices. It is a garden and it is dark and though there are no flaming swords she feels the place is abandoned, perhaps even cursed. The smell of Eden that was beginning to be on his clothes, all gone. Now there must be myrrh and aloes to disguise the stink of death.
And — lo! — she is first to see the shock of a gaping hole where her beloved’s body was meant to be. All is bewilderment. What could this mean? Not even left with the scraps so carefully bound?
She runs to find the others because she cannot find him — she cannot find God.
The men come, running, sleep dust in their eyes, to see what she has seen, but they do not understand either. There is nothing to see here, and so they go back home. Back to bed? Back to a house aching with hopes pierced? Back to breakfast pots and pans all out of tune because the melody of life, the song they had just caught on to, had suddenly dropped out of the score?
But Mary stays.
Oh Mary, she stays. Perhaps she is exhausted from the morning run. Perhaps there is something within her that will not let go. Perhaps she has been wrestling with an angel all night, and that is why she is not surprised to see two of them when she finally screws up her courage to look into the empty tomb.
“Why are you weeping?” they ask.
“They have taken him. I don’t know where he is!”
And here we find our own voice with Mary’s.
We are weeping because of everything that has been taken from us — the husband who did not wake up, the hair that fell out after the second round of chemo, the home that was blasted apart by enemy shelling, the hopes that have withered into burdens too heavy to hold.
“I don’t know where he is!”
God, where are you?
Once upon a time, at the very beginning, God came looking for us in a garden. And we hid. We hid because we had seen ourselves naked and realized the problem was us. We had listened to lies and could not bear the fallout of living without trust in the Maker’s way. And our own thorny way has choked us ever since.
Our race keeps choosing not-trust, not-love, not-peace, and the whole weary world is sick, sick, sick, and what if we are the worst cancer of all?
Is this the bitter end of our march out of Eden? That in our desperation we finally come looking for God but he is nowhere to be found? Could it be the last nail was the last straw, and he has washed his hands of the whole wretched lot of us? Are we left alone in our suffering at last?
Our tears blind us.
But into this tanglewood of grief a man steps.
And the first, fresh word off his lips? — “Woman.”
She turns toward the voice.
“Why are you crying?” he says.
She is crying for Eve and all of us.
“Whom are you seeking?” His voice is gentle, earthy.
Here is a woman seeking, not hiding. But she sees only a gardener, and for the third time this exhausting morning tells her tale of woe.
First, to the disciples.
Second, to the angels.
Third, to the early rising gardener.
How long, oh Lord, how long? How many times must the story of our griefs be told?
And then, into her suffering, the rasping voicing of it all, comes the revelation.
Her name on his lips.
And then the turn, the volta that shifts her whole horizon.
“Teacher!” His name on her lips. Jesus.
Here is the daybreak revelation — finally, we can see him when we hear our own name spoken by him.
The name Mary, deep-rooted in the word for bitter — suddenly her name in his mouth changes her whole identity and begins to change the world right then and there. It becomes sweet. It becomes reborn. It becomes resurrected.
This is worthy of a pause. For all Mary did not yet know or understand, and with the tears still wet on her cheeks, dissolving wrinkles of salt — Jesus speaks her name and the thorny garden of her anguish begins to transform. The birds begin to sing again.
For those who keep seeking, even in their suffering, this treasure is to be found —
For those who keep knocking their calloused knuckles on the sides of stone graves —
For those who keep asking, “Where are you, God?” —
These are the first to see the risen Jesus. To touch the life that begins to strip death of its power and sickness of its lordship and war of its tyranny, to make everything sad untrue. It is only a beginning, but it is enough. A man and a woman in a garden.
We are not alone. We are not abandoned. Here in the freshness of morning Jesus speaks our name, perhaps the only word that can reach deep enough into our sorrow and begin our own resurrection. A name that turns to music in the mouth of God.
Oh Mary, she hears and she sees. Her name. Her God. And all the world is singing, singing, singing…
Read Mary’s story in John 20:1-18
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~ Lindsey Gallant