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Sabbath rest—aach! Who could rest on this Sabbath? I know I could not. I did not! So much has happened. There is so much to tell. Where do I begin? How far back do I go to find the starting point? I don’t even know. But, sit...sit down and let me talk. Sometimes things unravel and make sense when I do that.
It was just a few weeks ago when I first got uneasy feelings that something terrible was going to happen. There were rumblings in the street that the Pharisees and Sadducees had found someone else to bicker about.
At first, I thought it was the usual philosophic arguments they shouted at each other. But, this time I noticed that they did not end in arm waving and a mutual agreement to disagree. This time there was a growing animosity and ferocity. I got scared. Always trouble happens when those two join forces.
I tried to warn my Jesus that he was becoming too powerful for them.
“No good will come of this,” I said.
He just smiled in response, gave me a reassuring hug, and continued on his way. I knew a woman could do little, in public view, to change a man’s mind or course of action. I also knew that she could quietly affect a man, if she stayed her course, remaining in the background but never disappearing. So, I decided to make certain I went wherever he did.
That’s how I got to be in the Upper Room with him and the Twelve as we celebrated Pesach together. In fact, I helped Peter to get things ready; then arranged and served the meal. There was such a silence in the room. I shivered. Was this what Moses felt at Sinai? I wondered. “Ah, you are such a fool, Magdalene,” I said to myself as I tried to shake my fears away.
The meal continued, its pattern broken only by Judas’ sudden leaving. This was of little concern since he was rather a strange person, anyway.
Even Jesus’ request for us to come with him to the garden to pray did not startle me for we had often gathered in prayer together. Suddenly, Judas appeared with armed men who grabbed my Jesus and arrested him. I bit my tongue to keep from screaming. Everything became so clear to me. This was the “end” he had been trying to tell us about.
I was filled with all sorts of conflicting feelings. One thing was sure. I was not going to leave him now when he needed me the most. But, I must first run to tell his mother what had happened. She would be sorely pained and I had to help her as well. Each of us would sustain the other.
So many confusing events occurred from that moment on. I still have not sorted them out. All I know is it seemed we were next walking along the streets of Jerusalem, pushing and shoving our way through the crowds of curious onlookers. We got to the hilltop in time to hear agonized grunts escape from Jesus’ lips as the nails were pounded into him. Then that cross beam was put into place and dropped into the earth. I never thought I would feel such pain.
The worst was yet to come. Mary, his mother, and I held each other. We prayed for the end to come swiftly. Each minute was agony. We watched. Even tears would not come to soften our suffering. Why should they? Tears did not wash my Jesus’ face.
One last cry and he was gone. Now we cried. We keened our pain. Pesach was over. Our lamb was dead.
We hurried to do what all women do when their men have died—prepare him for burial. But, even this solace was denied us. It was the eve of Preparation Day and little time was left. Thank God, Joseph of Arimathea arrived. He had heard of all that happened and managed to convince Pilate to have Jesus’ body given to him. Quickly, we wrapped Jesus in a linen shroud and Joseph laid him in a tomb he owned.
Just as quickly, we rushed home. Mary came with me. I insisted she should not be alone this night. At first, we spoke tenderly of all that Jesus meant to us. Then the words became swords ripping us to shreds. In our grief, silence reigned.
We tried to sleep because we knew that would be good for us. Perhaps we did fall into a fitful sleep, I do not remember, but rest was not ours. The night was simply time to let pass until we could get to the tomb in the morning and do what we could to anoint our Jesus as was proper.
Though it seemed never to come, the dawn did break. I waited for no one. While it was still dark, I rushed to the place of the tomb. When I got there, I saw that the huge rock had been moved away and I knew immediately that Jesus was not there. Fresh pain seized me. He was not there! Where had they put him? Who had taken him? Was there no end to this dying?
I was wrenched with the pain of my loss. My whole body ached. A piercing emptiness begged release, yet I could not cry. I could not allow the void to disappear. I was angry.
Why had Jesus done this to me? I had begged him to speak more politically. I had reminded him the terrible envy of the temple authorities was going to bring him trouble. Yet, he continued to do what he always did. Didn’t he love me at all? Didn’t he love his own mother? How could he do this to us?
I was frightened. He was gone. What would happen to the rest of us? What did all of this mean? I ran to tell Peter and John about the empty tomb. Clutched by the ambivalence of belief in the arms of disbelief, they had to see for themselves. They, too, ran to the place and saw the emptiness.
It was then that my tears came. I stood there weeping. As I wept, I felt that I had to take one last look. I stooped to peer inside and there I saw two angels in dazzling robes. They asked me why I was weeping? I was confused. Didn’t they know? “Because the Lord has been taken away, and I do not know where they have put him,” I told them.
No sooner had I said this, than I felt a presence, was moved to turn around, and I saw yet another man standing there. I thought he was a gardener who might know where my Jesus had been taken. When I asked him the question, he simply said, “Mary.”
At the sound of his voice, my heart raced. All my questioning melted into an overwhelming feeling of such deep love. Everything was all right. I did not understand, but I knew.
My Jesus lives!
Pesach is over.
In the darkness, I have seen the Lord.
In the light, I will always remember.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. Reach her at email@example.com.