The worst three days of her life started in the middle of the night with a frantic banging on the door. Grabbing her cloak she opened the door to find them breathless. The ones who walked with him were frightened and holding back tears as they tried at once to tell her what had happened. Her heart pounded and her blood ran cold through her veins as she put their words together and realized it was happening. Jesus had been taken by the Roman soldiers. What did this mean? What would become of him… of them? Huddled together in the night she tried to distract herself with caring for the other’s needs. But her hands would shake as she poured drinks and sliced loaves of bread. Nothing could take away the churning in her gut.
The sun finally rose from the horizon and the frightened group set out to discover if maybe, just maybe, Jesus had escaped in the night. She followed behind, holding in the tears and lifting up silent prayers to God. “Don’t let him leave us…” she begged. They found a large crowd gathered outside of the governor’s home and they stood near the back. She caught a glimpse of a figure huddled behind a nearby building, glancing toward the crowd. Her heart sank as she saw it was their friend Peter and she noticed he had been weeping. When she caught his eyes with a questioning glance he turned away seeming ashamed. She was confused but knew something horrible had happened.
Suddenly the crowd grew excited and an energy spread through everyone waiting. She pushed through to see Jesus standing on the balcony with the governor and Barabbas. Hope seared through her heart as she realized what was happening. The governor was giving the people a choice! There were two prisoners and only one could walk free – who would it be? Of course they would choose Jesus to go free! Barabbas was the most vile criminal in the community and no one could possibly want him free to terrorize the people once more. She heard a buzzing at the front of the crowd but couldn’t make out what the elders were saying. She tried to push forward but the crowd was growing more agitated.
The governor asked the question and she held her breath, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” and she gasped. “Nooo!!!!!” she screamed, but realized no sound had actually left her mouth – it was in her own heart and no one had heard her. The governor asked what they should do with Jesus and she fell to her knees as the crowd began to chant, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Tears streamed down her cheeks and fell to the dirt as they led him away.
The crowd followed. They had turned from a community of people busy with working their shops, land, and tending their home to an angry and violent mob. She couldn’t bear to see what she knew would happen next and soon she found herself alone, sobbing in the dirt. It was there that Mary and Joses found her… her closest friends. Had they been in the crowd? Did they know what had happened? As they knelt to lift her up she saw their tear stained faces and knew they had seen. They held each other, praying and weeping, as time passed by.
The crowd began to come back and they looked up to see what looked like an angry swarm of bees surrounding a wounded animal. Her sobs caught in her throat as she looked, horrified, to realized that the unrecognizable creature in the center of the crowd was Jesus. She grew angry as she took in the mocking purple robe, the thorns fashioned into a crown and pressed into his brow, and the sarcastic words taunting him. She watched in furious silence as guards ripped off the robe to reveal his torn flesh before putting his own clothes back on him. And then it came… the cross.
It took six guards to carry it to Jesus and thrust it on his raw back. How on earth could they expect him to bear it’s weight alone? He started walking, stumbling really, down the road. The three women clasped hands, looked at each other in defeated despair, and followed far behind. Jesus fell… and pushed back up. “How is he doing this?” she wondered. She didn’t even notice the tears that continued to fall anymore. She winced as he buckled under the weight of the wood once more. He couldn’t possibly make it up the hill.
The crowd stopped moving, but continued to hurl insults and mock him. A guard grabbed an onlooker from the side of the road. The man looked frightened and tried to run away, but they brought him back and forced him to carry the cross the rest of the way. The group began moving once more and she found herself wishing she could see Jesus’s face. If she looked into his eyes, what would they tell her? She needed his reassurance, but was forced to watch the back of his head, soaked with blood and sweat, as they climbed the hill toward the place where so many had gone to die a slow and agonizing death.
When they reached their destination the three women stood far off. They had heard stories of crucifixions from others in the city. They knew how cruel the Roman soldiers were, and they couldn’t bear to watch them torture Jesus. Huddled together they resumed their pleas to heaven.
Her body jolted as she heard the pounding… metal against metal. Muffled screams. A pause. Then more pounding. Hammer to nail, hammer to nail. She felt sick and buried her head in Mary’s chest. The crowd cheered and she looked up to see his silhouette against the afternoon sky. But it wasn’t over, not nearly. She knew it would be slow and agonizing before Jesus would draw his last breath. She couldn’t bear to watch, but she couldn’t bear to leave him either. So they huddled for hours until the air shifted.
Clouds rolled in and the sky went black. She heard Jesus shout something up to the sky. What did he say? She couldn’t make out anything but the word “forsaken” and her tears began to fall again. Suddenly he cried out again – louder, more powerful. The earth began to shake violently. The women looked at each other in fear and suddenly the rocks split in two and they heard a loud tearing sound. The guards began to run away screaming in fear. They looked up to see Jesus, limp. It was over… he was dead. The whole earth moaned with them as the rain began to fall from the clouds above.
She didn’t know how many hours had passed as they sat in stunned silence in the rain. She looked up to see that Jesus’s body had been taken down from the cross. Where had they taken him? She nudged the others and they decided to go find out so they could give him a proper burial… so they could care for him one last time.
A rich man had asked for him. Why? Where? They got the location of the tomb and ran home to gather supplies. Their arms filled with clean linen and spices, they rushed to the place they had been told. A man named Joseph was coming out of the the tomb as they arrived, breathless. They asked to go in and he consented. They stood, reverent and grateful, as they realized this man was a kindred spirit and had treated Jesus well. He was wrapped in clean white linen and the tomb was new. She couldn’t bear to say goodbye to Jesus so she touched the hem of his linen one last time closed her eyes against the now familiar rush of tears. They walked out into the day and thanked the man who had cared for Jesus and given him the tomb. They stood in solemn silence as Joseph rolled the rock over the tomb and she winced at the sound it made when rock sealed against rock.
Joseph turned to walk away and Joses followed behind him to return home. But Mary stayed with her. They sat outside the tomb for the rest of the day… two women who had loved and cared for Jesus in life and didn’t know how to stop in his death. As the afternoon went on two of the chief priests arrived with guards. They snarled the women but left them alone. She overheard of the elders give directions to the two guards, “Stand watch all night! Do not sleep and do not leave for any reason! His followers are going to try to steal his body in the night and we can’t let that happen. Do you understand?” The guards nodded and took up their watch. The priests glared at the two women before leaving, but she didn’t care anymore. They had taken her Jesus from her – they couldn’t take anything else that mattered.
The sky began to grow dark and Mary turned to her, “We should go home to sleep. It will be safer there. We need our rest and we to eat. We’ll come back in the morning.” She was right, it would be safer to spend the night at home and her body and spirit were so weary. They held each other up along the long path home. She fell into bed and closed her eyes, but she couldn’t stop seeing the images of the last two days. Jesus stumbling. His bloodied body. Him hanging limp on that cross. The horrifying images flashed through her mind. The taunts of the crowd rang in her ears. She turned her face to muffle her cries and soaked her pillow with tears until a restless sleep finally took over.
Morning came and the sun shone bright in the east. Too bright it seemed. Mary was up and waiting outside already. She blinked against the day that seemed so strange in light of the darkness that had taken over her spirit. How could sun possibly rise again? They began the long walk back to the tomb to visit the place where Jesus lay. It didn’t make sense, but they were lost and didn’t know what else to do or where else to be. So she just kept walking back to the only person who made the world feel right.
As they approached the tomb the earth began to tremble again. What was happening? Fear gripped her heart and she clung to Mary. A blinding light flashed down from the sky and they looked up to see an angel, strong and brilliant, grab the stone and break it away from the tomb. She watched in shock as he sat down on it and then turned to see the guards shriek and faint to the ground. The women stood as still as the stone he was sitting on.
He looked up and she saw compassion in his gaze. He started speaking with a clear voice that cut through the air… “Don’t be afraid. I know you came here to see Jesus. But he isn’t here anymore. He has risen from the grave! Come, see where he lay just yesterday – he isn’t here anymore.” Shaking, she and Mary slowly walked into the tomb to find it empty and they looked back at the angel in confusion. “Go!” He said with a kind but urgent tone, “Go tell the others that Jesus has risen and is going to Galilee to meet you!”
She looked at Mary with a mixture of hope and disbelief in her eyes. Could it be true? But they were so afraid and yet so filled with joy at the hope of it that they took off running down the road. A man standing in the middle of the road slowed their steps. He was radiant and strong. They slowly walked closer… he was so familiar. Her heart quickened at the sight of him and then he smiled, raised a hand, and called out, “Rejoice!”
“Jesus!” Tears sprang from her eyes as she let out a cry of the purest joy! She and Mary ran and fell face down at his feet. Jesus! Their Jesus! They cried and worshiped and held his feet. It was true! He wasn’t dead anymore and he came back… for them… for her!!! He reached down to lift them up again. “Go now! Go tell my followers that I’m going to Galilee to meet them there!”
She didn’t want to leave him again. She wanted to stay there at his feet forever, but she knew the others needed to know. One moment of hesitation and then a final shout of praise. She grabbed Mary’s hand and they took off running with their hair flying behind them to tell their friends. She looked over at Mary and saw her own feelings of jubilation, relief, and shock mirrored on Mary’s face. And then it dawned on her. Everything he had been telling them had happened just as he said it would. It was all true! Heart soaring and pounding, lungs burning, she kept running to tell them…
Jesus is Risen!!!!
***This is a narrative inspired by the account of Christ’s death and resurrection told in Matthew 26-28. I imagined the story from the perspective of Mary Magdalene who cared for Jesus and the disciples during his time on earth, was there at his death with Mary the mother of James and Joses the wife of Zebedee, and who was there at the tomb when Jesus rose on the third day.** *
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