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  • Writer's pictureSam Martin

What Would 24-Hours with Mary be like?

Saturday:The Sabbath

The guttural sound of his mother’s wailing layered on top of the mocking laughter of the soldiers as they gambled over his clothes. The texture of the dirt when she fell to her knees, overcome by the horror of it all, and the taste of her own tears rolling down her cheeks when she finally closed her eyes, able to look on no more. 

Now when she closes her eyes, she can still feel the trembling of the earth. The weight of the midday darkness settling like a heavy cloak. As if the very earth herself mourned his death. As if it was he who held all creation together, and without him, the sun no longer knew how to behave. 

From the moment they took him down from the cross until they laid him in Joseph’s tomb, time seemed to warp into something unwieldy and foreign. She has no concrete memory of how she got from Golgatha to the cave. It felt like sleepwalking, like someone picked her up and plopped her back down again in a new place. And when the time came to go home for the night as the Sabbath was rapidly approaching, she wasn’t sure how she’d be able to pull herself away from him. But apparently she did. For here she is, on the morning of the Sabbath waking to the horrifying realization that it was all real.

She longs to attend to him, to prepare the spices and anoint his body and let all of the love and pain she feels welling up inside, pour out over his body. But she’s stuck. Unable to perform any of the traditional burial rites, for the laws of Sabbath prohibit it. She can do nothing but replay the memories of the day before over and over again on a loop. She can’t even manage to pray or embrace the traditions of Shabbat because she is so heartbroken. She’s so angry. And confused. Wasn’t he the Christ? Had she misunderstood it all along? How could he really be gone? How had they let this happen to him? Perhaps she’ll observe the Sabbath by going back to sleep. 

Sunday: The Call

She wakes on Sunday, well before dawn again, ready to finally do something. Anxious to embody her emotions. The grief felt stuck all day yesterday. Stagnant. Perhaps moving her hands, putting them to task will work out some of this pain.

She meets Mary and the other women at the road and they walk together in silence. She wonders to herself what Peter, John, and the other disciples are doing today, and for once she is grateful to have “women’s work” to attend to. A way to be useful. Something to do. Anything to do.

The sun is just peeking over the horizon as they see the tomb in the distance. For the first time, it occurs to her that she and the other women may not be strong enough to move the stone on their own, and she wishes she thought to ask some of the men to come. While she ponders this, she notices that the stone looks like it has already moved. Has someone moved it for them in anticipation of their arrival? A knot forms in the pit of her stomach. That doesn’t seem likely. Her throat catches as she gets closer and realizes that yes, the stone has definitely been moved. She starts running now and drops her basket of spices. The tomb. It is empty. Someone - who??? - has removed his body. Why would anyone would take him? Where could he be? How can they can get him back? Slowly she steps into the tomb, sobs racking her body. But the tomb isn’t empty. There are two men inside. They ask her why she is crying, and through choked out words she asks if they know where he is, if they have taken him. 

And when she turns around there is yet another man outside the tomb, again asking her why she is crying. Maybe he is the gardener. Perhaps he was here when the body was taken. She begs him to tell her if he has seen anything, if maybe it was he who took her Lord away. 

But then, amid the tumult of her soul she hears her name, clear as day. “Mary.” It sounded like Jesus’ voice. Stunned, she whirls around looking for him. But of course he isn’t there. Slowly it dawns on her that it was this gardener who spoke her name. But it couldn’t be. He doesn’t know her. She’s never seen him before. Gradually, she lifts her eyes to look again at the gardener, confusion knitted across her brow. But as she meets his gaze, she sees him and she knows him. Or more accurately, she is seen by him and known by him, for it is Jesus. 

She falls to her knees, a mirror image of her posture two days ago when she realized he was really gone. But this time, he is really here. She grasps his legs and holds on for dear life, as if he is dry land after weeks of being lost at sea. As if he alone can pull her up of the depths of despair and save her from drowning. 

Gently, he bends down, grasps her elbows and lifts her back up. After a short embrace, he looks her square in the eyes - purpose and love and calling flooding her senses as he says, “Come, Mary. I’ve got some work for you to do.”

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