By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 20, 2008
I awoke early that day. My eyes were swollen from weeping, and for a moment I couldn’t remember why I had cried.
Then it all came back to me in a sickening rush and my stomach lurched. My beloved teacher was dead!
I had witnessed such horrors the previous Friday. The bloodthirsty cruelty of the soldiers. The leering faces of the crowd.
And the sorrow in Jesus’ eyes as he made his way, slowly and agonizingly, to Golgotha.
How helpless I had felt. All I could do was follow along with the other women and with John. Everyone looked stricken, especially Jesus’ mother, who nearly had to be carried to the gruesome place where her son would die.
We tried to shield her from the horrors, but she would not leave even when we begged her to.
My head aching from the memories, I dressed quickly. I had a terrible sense of urgency. I knew that Jesus’ body had been placed in a tomb, but there had been no time to anoint the body properly.
I also knew I should wait until Peter and John woke up and came with me. It was dangerous to go by myself, but all I could think about was him all alone in that tomb.
Carrying the jar of ointments, I made my way in the dark to the burial place. As I hurried along, I remembered what my life had been like before meeting Jesus.
So many people had shunned me because of my sinful ways. But Jesus had cast out the devils from me, and from that moment on, I knew I was forgiven.
I began weeping again as more memories rushed in. There had been that heartrending moment when Jesus cried out and died. And the shattered look on the centurion’s face when he realized that he had helped kill an innocent man.
The sky had grown angry and the earth began trembling, and people were screaming in fear. I thought the world was ending. Afterwards, I heard that some people had witnessed the dead emerging from tombs and walking in the city.
Finally, I arrived at the garden, where Joseph from Arimathea had buried Jesus’ body in a new tomb.
What happened next still makes me shiver from fear. I looked at the grave and noticed that the stone covering the entrance was gone!
In a panic, I dropped the jar and started running until I got to the house where Peter and John were staying. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when I told them that someone had taken the Lord’s body from the tomb.
They didn’t say a word; they just began running to the garden with me a few paces behind them. When they got to the burial place, it took just a few seconds for them to see that the tomb was empty. They left in silence, but I couldn’t leave.
I was overcome with grief, and the tears began flowing again.
And then, stooping down, I peered into the black mouth of the tomb, and I saw light. I was utterly astonished and mystified to see two glowing figures in shimmering clothing sitting where Jesus’ body had been.
One surprised me by asking, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
I told them about Jesus and my fear that someone had taken his body away. Then, I don’t know why, something made me turn around. And I saw a man standing there.
I didn’t recognize him, but I figured he was the gardener. “Woman, why are you weeping?” he asked me. “Whom do you seek?”
I suspected that he had taken away Jesus’ body, so I asked him to tell me where it was.
Suddenly his tone of voice changed. He said just one word then: “Mary.”
And right away, I knew it was Jesus. You see, no one ever spoke my name with such kindness. There was so much I wanted to say, but only one word came out, “Rabboni!”
I was overjoyed to see him and reached out to touch his arm, but he moved away. “Do not hold me,” he said, and the words startled me. But then he said that he had not yet ascended to the Father.
He also told me to tell his brethren that he was ascending “to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
The hardest thing I ever did was leave him that day. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again, but I knew I had to obey, so I left and found the disciples.
“I have seen the Lord,” I told them.
I have never forgotten that moment in the garden. I have often wondered why he revealed himself to me, of all people. He so easily could have told Peter and John.
But then I recalled the question he had asked me: “Why are you weeping?” And I know one thing for sure about Jesus: He could never bear to see someone cry. That’s just the way he was.
Lorraine Murray’s new book is “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist” (Ignatius Press). Artwork featured in the print edition for this column is by her husband, Jef (www.jefmurray.com). Readers may write the Murrays at email@example.com.