This is the morning that, years go when both my kids walked out the door to search for easter eggs in the front yard, they were instead surprised by a dead baby rabbit on our front doorstep, courtesy out of our outdoor cat, Soren.
Enter a little bit of childhood trauma. Thanks, Soren.
My oldest did her best to shield our youngest from seeing what had happened while my mom quickly went to get a plastic bag. I think everyone survived that day without too much trauma, but it is not lost on me that Maddie’s ability to handle a crisis – and protect people in the midst of it, bringing a stabilizing peace – was her gift. She is now an EMT and working towards her dream of being a ER trauma nurse. I can’t think of a better place for her to put that gift to use! 😊
Family memories aside, today is the day that believers in Jesus across the globe remember and celebrate his resurrection, that wondrous day when the disciples went to get his body from the grave and found it empty. Now, of course given the way death normally goes, they assumed that Jesus body had just been stolen. I have heard in the past what is often skipped over, that Mary was the first one to see the resurrected Jesus – and I have all sorts of thoughts about that (how women, although they never were accepted as valid witnesses, were the first Jesus trusted to see him, how they lingered… how they felt and experienced what had just gone on, probably more than the disciples who just ran back, still thinking his body was stolen). Those recognitions, while extremely important, were not what my head and my soul were drawn to this year in hearing the familiar story.
John also records what Mary saw when she looked into the tomb where Jesus had been buried:
“…two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” (John 20:12 ESV)
It is fascinating to me that John includes this in his narrative, especially since his gospel was written later than the others. He took the time to have so many conversations, time to research, time to think about all he wanted to include in the story he told of who Jesus was and how he met and interacted with the disciples and the people of Israel. I can only imagine he also had more time to think back to and wonder about all that God was doing in the story, detailing the symbolic things being done in and through the story of Jesus. As such, the story of Jesus’ resurrection was no different. Look how similar John’s depiction of what Mary saw in the empty tomb is when we look back to the instructions Moses gave the Israelites of how they were to build the temple and all the things that went in it:
“…make the mercy seat of pure gold… and make … two cherubim of gold… make one cherub on the one end , and one cherub on the other end… the cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another… There I will meet with you, from above the mercy seat…” (Ex 25: 17-22 ESV)
I was sitting listening to someone read the story of this passage a week or so ago, and I was struck breathless when I realized what John was doing.
The very holy of holies, the place where YHWH met with his people for generations…. The place where only (male) priests could go for generations.
Here, now. On the earth. Visible outside the temple, in a place normally reserved for death. How fitting.
The first place and time that all of humanity can come close to God, the very place where the presence of YHWH normally said he would live, the holy of holies… John is proclaiming in this story that it has just broken out from a building into the entire world? And on top of that…
It was a woman YHWH invited in. A woman who lingered in grief. A woman who took time, slowed down, and didn’t rush to fix things but sat in what was, what seemed to be, until her understanding changed.
The beauty of that story. Thank you, Jesus.
Although I know that a much larger cosmic story was being told with the resurrection of Jesus, that of the beginning of new creation, a new kingdom where Israel’s God was now victorious and had forever conquered death… here an even bigger story was being told, a bigger overturning was happening. Somehow, in the story of redemption and theology, where a woman had been blamed for the fall of all humanity (but um, let’s just remember Adam was right there with her…) …. A woman was the first one to witness and experience the reversal of redemption. The first one to receive the gift of walking into the very holy of holies and talk with the risen Jesus.
It still makes my skin tingle to sit and meditate on that truth.
This Resurrection day, may you find hope. May you know that the One who said that death, of any kind, will never have the last word – in this life or in the next. May you know his voice as he turns to you and calls your name.