Easter this year was different from me. I am not really sure how to explain the last few weeks, partly because I don’t think the journey is over. This year, on Easter Sunday as I was part of the worship service at Oxford Community Church, listening to the account of Mary Madeleine at the tomb, I realised how strongly I identified with her. Cushioned by the presence of other believers honouring Jesus and all he has done for us, I was able to hear His voice of love and encouragement through the haze of ‘my world at the moment’. I am grateful for that moment.
I don’t know what it must have been like for Mary. She had encountered Jesus and found healing from spiritual and emotional brokenness. She had connected in and found family with the disciples and other followers of Jesus – I don’t think she had had a sense of belonging with anyone before. Perhaps she had even begun to experience hope in of all this.
Then she had watched, helpless as her only family scattered and her rescuer was tortured and put to death. She was stranded in a city that had turned toxic and hostile. Now in her bereavement she has to wait more than 24 hours to perform the burial rituals essential for her to express her grief. I don’t know what it was like for her, immersed in the trauma of a violent bereavement, feeling utterly alone and helpless.
I wonder what reality felt like for her? What were the angels like that she met at the tomb? Did they just look like regular guys or in seeing them was she unable to distinguish in that moment between normal and not normal? Or perhaps she was so emotionally depleted that she simply didn’t have a response to them?
And then Jesus, who she knew so well and longed desperately to see and be with again… she didn’t recognise him though he spoke to her and stood before her. I used to think ‘Wow! she must have been really messed up!’. This Easter I realised that actually if that is the case, then I am pretty messed up too… and so be it. I too have longed desperately to see and be with Jesus. I have cried out to know God’s presence and hear his voice. I have known hot tears fall in anger at feeling alone in the shadows of life; desperate to know that I am not abandoned, longing for his presence. And then, unexpectedly his voice breaks through, ‘Beloved, I am here.’ and I see that he is there, he was there all the time, right in front of me… its just that I didn’t recognise him.
Thank you Mary for your story that tells me that Jesus is right here, he knows us, he loves us and he places us in a family… even, especially, when I cant see that reality.