Monday, April 13, 2009

Running in Both Directions

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him”.

On that morning of all mornings, the sun had not yet peeked over the horizontal line that the Lord of all had fixed since anyone could remember. The people of God who had staked their claim on the Teacher from Nazareth were huddled in dark patches of shadow all across Jerusalem behind locked doors that they opened only to familiar voices. Exhausted, grieved in spirit, the Sabbath had been a much-needed rest. But now, no one knew for sure what would happen. The religious and political leaders were likely to strike His followers next. Jesus' words about rising on the third day seemed like a distant dream, the kind where you try to remember the details, but they hover just beyond your grasp.

In this uncertain atmosphere, I am not sure if I would have had the courage, curiosity and conviction of Mary, Peter, and John. Run headlong to the tomb? What if it were a trap? What better strategy to capture His supporters than to lure them with the disappearance of the body? I can just hear myself, reasoning with worldly gravity: “Well, you know that Joseph of Arimathea, on the Council? He paid for the tomb, but how do we know he isn't just posing as a disciple to take us all in? He might be just another Judas.” How mistrust and fear must have run rampant amongst the dismayed believers in these difficult hours, blinding their minds with unbelief.

Mary Magdalene had been momentarily blinded by her grief. She managed to have a short conversation with two angels and a “gardener”before she even realized that something supernatural was going on. Yet, full of courage and curiosity, she persevered in her pursuit of the Lord she loved, even if that meant walking into a threatening situation. Her persistence was rewarded by a dear reunion with her Friend and Savior in the garden, when He opened her eyes personally to recognize Him. She came running back with a firm witness: “I have seen the Lord.”

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first....then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

When Mary returned with the first report, perhaps that nearly-forgotten dream flickered on the edges of their memories. Had He really said He would rise again? This conviction gave them courage to run towards something that appeared not only hopeless, but dangerous. One of my favorite paintings in the Musee d'Orsay depicts these two running disciples, their faces a complex mixture of fear, hope, and urgency. I can only imagine what conflicting feelings were pounding in their hearts as they approached the tomb of the Teacher they loved. In return, they received the happy news, and at least one of the two “believed.”

Sometimes I am like Mary. At first, I am unable to see Him because of the blur of tears. The difficulties of life and my longing to be with Him makes my spirit groan. But He enables me, even at the lowest points of grief, to move towards Him. He somehow makes room in my doubting heart for courage, curiosity, and even conviction. It is such a joy to run back to my friends time and time again, saying: “I have seen the Lord.”

Other times, I am like Peter and John. I vaguely remember His promises, but they're buried deep. Still, with the tiniest spark of life, He inspires me to run, resurrecting my hope in Him as I go. He rolls the heavy stone away from my heart. Every morning becomes a potential Resurrection Sunday, when I can peer into an empty tomb and believe anew.


Henry said...

My dear Abbey, You have touched my heart. Even before I got to the end I was thinking, "Yes, it is Easter everyday!" And then you brought us to that place. This is a wonderful post. May we run. Love Dad

Joyfulartist said...

You have written a thoughtful and imaginative account, filling in the blanks in such a touching way. Thank you, I hope you don't mind that I will be sharing your thoughts with many friends.