The worst that could happen had happened.
Jesus had died. Naturally all the disciples were beside themselves with grief, and not just the twelve that always seemed to be centre of attention, but all who had found hope and identity, and love and welcome and acceptance of who they were. Some were obviously more broken than others: Judas of course, and rightly so, and had hung himself in anguish and remorse. Mary, his mother had always known that her love for her son would pierce her soul, and now it had. Peter, also, who had found himself lacking in courage when Jesus needed him most.
It wasn’t just that Jesus had been killed, as awful as that was, but the shameful way in which it had happened, being hung naked from the tree of shame for all to see; and at Passover too, so we couldn’t tend to him as any loved one deserved to be lovingly laid out. Thankfully Joseph of Arimathea, long time a follower, at a distance, had finally found his courage and his strength and spoken up for Jesus, requesting his body before dusk and offering his brand new tomb to house him. That was all there was time for though; quickly wrapped in grave cloths and sealed in with death. Pilate, constantly fearful of uprisings and trouble, placed guards on the tomb, so that no-one could enter, and no-one leave.
Whilst each mourned their own way through Passover rather than celebrating the feast, I fretted about Jesus’ beloved but broken body. It was not right that he of all people should not have received the proper burial rights. It was not right that we, the women closest to him, had not been able to anoint him with sweet smelling spices, washing his body clean with our weeping, wailing so that everyone would know that a good and great person had gone.
So early Sunday morning, as soon as Passover had passed, I went, taking the spices with me, my tears bottled up inside ready to be poured out. The spices were easy to gather together, the tears almost to the point of overflowing, but who would roll away the stone? Other women came with me, the men were too afraid, too ashamed to join us and after all this was the traditional role of women, to love the deceased with tenderness of touch. The stone sealing the tomb was taller than any of us, and wider too, and the roman soldiers were under strict order not to move it. Perhaps it was pointless even attempting to come near to the body of the one we loved, but something compelled us, something more than a sense of duty or ritual.
When we arrived though, the stone had already been rolled away. How could this be? The biggest barrier to coming to our Lord was no longer there. The soldiers had fainted. The grave was empty. The spices redundant. Over tears broke free.
The one barrier we had understood to be in the way of us and Jesus wasn’t a barrier at all. We had followed that compulsion and found the barrier had already been removed.
Tearfully, overwhelmed by grief and tiredness, we did not know who could have moved the stone, and who would have taken Jesus’ unloved body. Only a gardener could be seen, perhaps he would know?
And he did. The gardener of Eden was present in this place, more spirit than body, yet when he spoke my name I knew that it was him. I had come, tentatively, tearfully, unsure how to remove the barrier that had sealed Jesus away from me, and discovered that there was no barrier after all.
Will you follow that compulsion? Will you venture out to that garden regardless of the barriers seemingly in your way? Will you hear your voice spoken and know that there aren’t any barriers to knowing Jesus’ love after all?
Read the resurrection story from Mark here.