This post was originally shared at Durham Church’s Easter Vigil worship service by Carynne McIver, a member of our church family. Carynne rewrote the story of the women approaching the tomb on Easter morning.
She lay in bed, gazing at the ceiling.
Yet another sleepless night.
The past few days seemed like a blur. Had it only been a week since they came to Jerusalem?
All the crowds, the palms, that donkey that seemed both ridiculous and majestic all at once. So many stories–angels and demons, bridegrooms, lamps, vineyards… She had heard from John about the dinner where they had all promised to remember him with bread and wine.
Nothing he said made any sense when she tried to puzzle through it, but then when she stopped thinking and just LET GO of the clatter in her head, it felt more right than anything else she’d ever heard.
The way she’d felt for the last few months–she didn’t remember feeling that before, ever. Not in the temple, not listening to the pharisees or praying on the sabbath. Even that sense of peace she felt when she was able to wander alone in the fields didn’t really come close to the confusing glow she felt now.
Or had felt.
The faint predawn glow peaked through her window.
“Mary?” she whispered.
“Is it time?” asked Mary, the quick reply betraying her own insomnia.
They rose decisively but with the plodding movements of bone-deep exhaustion. Gathering the ointments Mary had traded for her only remaining valuable cloth, they broke their fast with just a few sips of water and quietly stepped into the silent street.
Walking along the familiar path, Mary felt a shudder at the memory of the steps taken here just three days before. She had held her breath for what felt like years as he slowly made his way through those awful crowds. She hadn’t known what to do–she never felt like she knew what to do around him. But it hadn’t seemed to matter. Nothing seemed to matter, really.
They crept closer, feeling a heavy mist weighing on them with every step. There it was–the stone. Mary’s heart beat faster. She wanted to run, or to fall screaming and curse the Lord, as she had done every night since.
Why? Why, when it was all finally starting to come together? She didn’t care that he seemed unsurprised, that he spoke of the sign of Jonah and the kingdom of heaven. What was a distant kingdom compared to here? And what did it all matter if now he was gone forever?
Now they were just steps away from the tomb. Mary reached out and took her friend’s hand, squeezing it and somehow finding renewed strength between them. Taking a deep breath, she lay a finger on the cold stone.
A violent shake seized her, knocking both women to the ground. Breathless, they looked up and where Mary’s hand had been touching stone just moments before was now a hollow opening. The rock was moved to the side and a misty creature sat on top of it, gray cloth swirling frantically about it despite the still morning air.
“Do not be afraid.”
That was all she heard, but it was enough. She had heard this before–and with the same conviction. Time seemed to freeze. She felt a rushing in her ears and everything she had seen came flying back through her mind. Sheep…kingdom…bread of life…the crossed wood that held his body for an unnaturally short time.
“Do not be afraid.”
She heard this in her head, repeated over and over in that kind but firm voice. She felt herself letting go–all the painful images, the clenched fists and the gritted teeth vanishing. The rest she had been craving for days suddenly arrived all at once and she felt a deep and powerful energy in her very core.
The angel was still speaking but Mary took in nothing else. The other Mary was gazing at him with wide eyes and seemed to be drinking in his every word. Something about the disciples, someone was raised, go to Galilee…she didn’t care. It didn’t matter what the words were, because she knew what the message was: Do not be afraid. She wasn’t quite sure why or how, but she knew now that somehow it would all be put right. The nightmare was over.
She felt Mary take her hand and, still dazed, they both slowly walked away.