at Jesus’ Tomb
by Max Lucado
Mary had been there. She had heard the leaders clamor for Jesus’ blood. She had witnessed the Roman whip rip the skin off his back. She had winced as the thorns sliced his brow and wept at the weight of the cross.
In the Louvre there is a painting of the scene of the cross. In the painting the stars are dead and the world is wrapped in darkness. In the shadows there is a kneeling form. It is Mary. She is holding her hands and lips against the bleeding feet of the Christ.
We don’t know if Mary did that, but we know she could have. She was there. She was there to hold her arm around the shoulder of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was there to close his eyes. She was there.
So it’s not surprising that she wants to be there again.
In the early morning mist she arises from her mat, takes her spices and aloes, and leaves her house, past the Gate of Gennath and up to the hillside. She anticipates a somber task. By now the body will be swollen. His face will be white. Death’s odor will be pungent.
A gray sky gives way to gold as she walks up the narrow trail. As she rounds the final bend, she gasps. The rock in front of the grave is pushed back.
“Someone took the body.” She runs to awaken Peter and John. They rush to see for themselves. She tries to keep up with them but can’t.
Peter comes out of the tomb bewildered and John comes out believing, but Mary just sits in front of it weeping. The two men go home and leave her alone with her grief.
But something tells her she is not alone. Maybe she hears a noise. Maybe she hears a whisper. Or maybe she just hears her own heart tell her to take a look for herself.
Whatever the reason, she does. She stoops down, sticks her head into the hewn entrance, and waits for her eyes to adjust to the dark.
“Why are you crying?” She sees what looks to be a man, but he’s white—radiantly white. He is one of two lights on either end of the vacant slab. Two candles blazing on an altar.
“Why are you crying?” An uncommon question to be asked in a cemetery. In fact, the question is rude. That is, unless the questioner knows something the questionee doesn’t.
“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She still calls him “my Lord.” As far as she knows his lips were silent. As far as she knows, his corpse had been carted off by grave robbers. But in spite of it all, he is still her Lord.
Such devotion moves Jesus. It moves him closer to her. So close she hears him breathing. She turns and there he stands. She thinks he is the gardener.
Now, Jesus could have revealed himself at this point. He could have called for an angel to present him or a band to announce his presence. But he didn’t.
“Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:1-18 NIV).
He doesn’t leave her wondering long, just long enough to remind us that he loves to surprise us. He waits for us to despair of human strength and then intervenes with heavenly. God waits for us to give up and then—surprise!
And listen to the surprise as Mary’s name is spoken by a man she loved—a man she had buried.
God appearing at the strangest of places. Doing the strangest of things. Stretching smiles where there had hung only frowns. Placing twinkles where there were only tears. Hanging a bright star in a dark sky. Arching rainbows in the midst of thunderclouds. Calling names in a cemetery.
“Miriam,” he said softly, “surprise!”
Mary was shocked. It’s not often you hear your name spoken by an eternal tongue. But when she did, she recognized it. And when she did, she responded correctly. She worshiped him.