Have you had one of those Murphy’s law type years? A year where it seems that everything that could go wrong did? You suffered loss after loss, disappointment after disappointment. It has been so filled with pain that you could not wait to turn the calendar on that year? Now that you have weathered that storm it is time to deal with your life that was laid waste. You have survived blow after blow, so much pain, so much suffering all at once. You are grief-weary. You have been beaten down by life. There is no room for joy in your life these days. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is not working for you.
As you approach Christ’s tomb after the resurrection, you feel guilt. You are supposed to come to the tomb to find comfort and peace. The empty tomb is the place where suffering is replaced by Easter joy, but it is not so with you. The hard seasons of suffering and pain have left you with a mournful spirit. You want to put the pain of the last season behind you and find encouragement and happiness in the comfort of the empty tomb, however, the grief is too real. The pain is still too close to the surface. Good Friday mourning has replaced all that Easter joy.
We visit another face, standing at the empty tomb. This time, we find a woman: Mary of Magdalene. Let me tell you more about this woman: She is a woman from whom seven demons were cast out. Imagine the weight of evil that was released from this woman’s spiritual load. What was life like having that much evil and darkness taking up residency in your body? She goes from that reality to being “numbered among the disciples.” From demon holder to Jesus follower. She was there ministering to Jesus, ministering alongside Jesus and in his name. She was there at the cross. She watched them as they took him down from the cross after the world rejected him and God forsook him. She was there to see his battered and limp body hurriedly put into the tomb.
When she came to the tomb that Sunday, she had lost a dear friend, her champion, her soul liberator. She knew which tomb he was in. She did not go there that morning expecting to witness a miracle, nor a resurrection. She went there to mourn, to grieve her loss. She did not go to get a joyful Easter sermon. She wasn’t looking forward to shouts of alleluia. She went to perform His wake. To take care of the necessary finishing touches, to say her final goodbye and try and figure out how life moves forward now that He is gone. Which path will I take now that my champion, teacher, the rescuer is no more? How will I stay on the right track? Life has been so hard, so dark, so scary. Jesus gave her hope, a new reality, a higher sense of calling and direction. He pointed her to this new kingdom he was ushering in. She was so looking forward to being there with him. Now those hopes and dreams are shattered and broken by a mock trial and swift execution. What Mary is left with is grief and a sealed tomb. Her resurrection comes wrapped not with beautiful bows and bright spring colors. Instead, they are replaced with a dark, cold, gray stone of sorry and pain. Her grief did not allow her to get resurrection joy because she was wracked with crippling pain.
Do you relate to Mary? Whether male or female? Are you there at the tomb this season of your life? Maybe you have been at one too many tombs this year, one to many hospital beds, or received one too many rejection letters from love interests or employers. All this talk of alleluia’s, Christ is risen, and Sunday celebrations are difficult for you because you are carrying a boatload of grief. Maybe someone precious recently died, and you are still stung by the anger and severity of that pain.
It is possible your loss was job-related, you can’t find full-time employment, and you are feeling the sting of that loss. You could be dealing with a relationship that’s died and a dream of some different future that went with it. Maybe your health has gone south. You have a routine doctor’s appointment, and she finds a spot, now you have nine months of painful cancer treatment. In your mind, you believed if you ate enough pine bark, loaded your body with the latest vitamin supplements, swore off red meat and replaced that with bean sprouts and exercised you would just go on living forever. But then your doctor said, “This is going to kill you.” Now instead of planning for that dream vacation you are planning a funeral.
So as you grieve the loss of something very special at this moment, grief can blind your vision and coat your heart so thoroughly that you, like Mary, can’t see Jesus standing right in front of you.
If this is where you are today, Jesus has a message for you. Know that you have a Savior who is familiar with your situation. You have a Messiah who understands sorry and suffering. Peter writes about those trials you are facing, “These things show that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials…” 2 Peter 2:9. And Moses reminds us in Deuteronomy 7 that in these moments of trails and sorry God shines the brightest, “…don’t be afraid of them! Remember, instead, what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and all Egypt: the great trials that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and wonders, and the strong hand and outstretched arm the Lord your God used to rescue you.”
Though this season may be rough with grief and pain all you know right now, remember God Almighty is with you, and he will shine through your pain. He is your rock and your fortress. He is your strength when you have no strength. Rest in Him, find strength in him and joy will return in the morning. We live in the power of the resurrection.
Other faces on the first Easter, Peter and John.