Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When Nothing Else Mattered

"Where have you taken him?" Her throat burned with the words, barely a whisper, after days of sobbing.Tears ran over swollen, red cheeks, blurring her vision as she wiped the snot running from her nose with her sleeve.
Not this. Not now. Not after everything.
She loved him desperately. Because he was the first man, maybe ever, who didn't look at her and see an object he might use.  If a man ever looked far enough North to meet her eyes, she saw disdain. She'd always thought the only alternative would be pity, but god, how wrong she'd been.
The first man who hadn't asked anything of her had won her heart.
And now they'd killed him.
Her chest ached, everything in her wishing bad things could be undone, but years of life made that impossible to believe. It wasn't the first time she'd seen life leave a body, but it was the harshest.  It still made her want to throw up.
Yet, Jesus did the impossible. He healed people all the time, and she wasn't sure why he hadn't healed himself. but he had a reason. He had to.
All those stories he told, all those mysterious things he said while looking so hard at them, like he was willing them to get it, well. She didn't get it, but obviously there was more going on than any of them could fathom.  All those stories ended with hope.
Still, all that had to wait. The heaving loss took up every thought, ached in every joint, weighted every breath.
Even if he was gone, she loved him. And she would see him buried with all the honor she could.  Part of her wished she'd saved that jar of perfume. But he'd been so delighted when she'd washed his feet,  she couldn't really let go of that memory. Still, it'd be nice to have that to go with the herbs she carried through dark streets. Most people would've told her not to go out before the sun came up. It was dangerous for a woman, especially with so many foreigners flooding town. And even though she made it to the graveyard, Roman soldiers weren't known for their high regard of Jewish women.
But none of that really registered. She had no more capacity.
Because he was gone.
Well, it didn't matter. Wherever they'd taken him, whatever they'd done, she'd give him a proper burial. She straightened, pushed the hair back from her face, and lifted stubborn eyes, ready to stand here all day if she had to until they told her why they'd moved the rock set to protect his grave, and what they'd done with his body.  "Where have you taken him?"

I went to a sunrise service on Easter this year. It was beautiful. Set at Red Rocks, with the sun rising over the city, it kind of had to be. But add to that music that ranged from wood flute to operatic to contemporary, encouraging, joyful words, and the breakfast picnic complete with mimosas we brought, and it was a truly memorable experience.

But equally memorable was the quiet, simple Stations of the Cross I visited on Good Friday.  No actors or talks, simple music, and silence.  They asked no one to speak, but handed out readings of scripture that follow the events of that heart-shredding night.  It breaks me every time, not from guilt but from the stunning idea that anyone, even Jesus, could find me lovable enough to choose to die for me.  And to remember the horrid, nerve-searing pain, and loneliness so utter that he called out asking why God had forsaken him...I hate that he had to go through it all.

I thought of Mary Magdalene on Good Friday. Jesus was in the tomb.  His disciples were holed up, terrified for their lives, that they could face the same torture Jesus did. And on top of that, after all his talk of eternal life, he'd died. Brutally. Was any of it true?

But Mary got out of bed after another sleepless night, gathered the herbs and ointments to anoint a corpse, woke up the herbalist and dealt with his vitriol to get the last few items on the list, then hiked out in the dark and cold to a graveyard.  She'd figure out how to move the stone guarding his tomb when she got there.  Because she loved Jesus in a way that went beyond his deity. She loved HIM. She didn't have answers the disciples lacked, and she may not have asked the questions yet, or ever. She didn't feel betrayed, she just felt the gaping loss of the dearest person she'd ever known.

And because of that love, she was the first to see the resurrected Jesus.  She was there, not out of faith, but out of love. And he loved that.  I think it was no accident that Jesus appeared first to Mary and the women. And while it speaks a lot against gender-based scales of spiritual importance, I don't think it was primarily for that reason.  I think it was because they were there. Because they loved him to bits, whether or not anything made sense, and he loved them right back.