Easter Sunrise

The Women's Experience

It was an early Sunday morning twenty centuries ago. Actually, we would say that it was still night because the darkness had not yet been mixed with the faintest light of dawn. A small group of women--three or four--were up and on their way to do something that would break their hearts. They were going to finish preparing the body of their dear friend and honored teacher for his burial. Over the past days, these women had been on quite a ride emotionally. Just seven days earlier they had been convinced that their teacher, leader, friend was finally going to be acknowledged and embraced as the Great Deliverer their people had been expecting for centuries.

Such excitement; such hope they had on a few days ago. Their expectations were all going to come true. Now? Well, it had ended so suddenly. So tragically. The previous Sunday--just seven days ago--Jesus of Nazareth had entered the great city to the acclaim of the cheering masses. He had entered the holy temple and taught packed and eager crowds. His enemies had tried to discredit him and found themselves embarrassed before those crowds. It had looked like the Messiah and his Kingdom had actually arrived at last.

Then on Thursday, Jesus and his closest followers sat down to Passover--the traditional celebration of their people's deliverance from slavery long ago. During that extended meal he taught them as usual with words about the Kingdom which was coming. But this time it was more personal. He addressed them as friends. He spoke in a disturbing way of leaving. They had made a solemn pact. It was hard to believe, but he had seemed to be saying that the covenant between God and Israel was fulfilled and that a new covenant was being established based on himself. There was talk of blood sealing this new covenant--but then he had always spoken in symbols and metaphors. Later that night, though, the metaphor turned into reality.

Jesus was arrested by his enemies. The next day, Friday, he was tried before the high Jewish council and, later, by the Roman governor. To the disbelief of his followers, he was quickly and unfairly condemned and executed after public humiliation and torture. Within forty-eight hours the women had gone from excitement and expectation to numbed grief and devastation. All day Saturday they were haunted by the memory of taking his shattered body off that despised cross. Along with two kind men--Joseph and Nicodemus--the only two members of the high council who sympathized with Jesus, they carried his shattered body to a nearby tomb donated by Joseph in this hour of need. They had done what they could to prepare Jesus' body in the short time before the Sabbath came at sundown. The Romans sealed the tomb with a heavy stone and posted a guard. Now the Sabbath was over and they were picking their way through dark lanes and streets and then out of the city to the tomb where the final preparations would be made to lay their beloved master to his final rest.

Arrival. Shock. Confusion. Are we at the wrong place? No, this is surely it. How could we forget this place so etched in our memories barely thirty-six hours ago? But something is dreadfully wrong. The tomb is standing open. That big, heavy stone door is laying way over there. How? There is a man sitting on it. Who is he? He is terrifying, powerful. Light seems to be radiating from him. What is he saying? "Jesus isn't here. He is alive from the dead." What does that mean? We must look inside the tomb. Another shining man. An angel? " Where is out master?" "See for yourselves. He is not here." We look at the shelf where we put his body. Just the empty shroud. Outside now. Bewildered. Where has he gone? "Your there, sir. Are you the groundskeeper? What has happened? Where are the soldiers? Where is the man we put in this tomb last Friday?"

"Mary!" That familiar voice. Recognition! Tears. Fear. Joy. Alternate laughing and weeping. Questions. He is saying, "Don't detain me. Don't hold me--not yet. Run and tell my disciples that I am alive from death and I will meet them soon." " No, we just found you. Don't send us away. We want to stay with you. Alright. Yes Lord, we will go." Stumbling, hurrying, running as the light grows. Into the waking city. Pounding on the door of the safe house where the men are staying. We tell the story with words tumbling out of our mouths. Interrupting, talking on top of one another. Blank looks from the men. More urgent attempts to make them understand. Questions. Disbelief. Off they go to see for themselves--just like men!

But oh the joy, the relief. Renewed hope. Day has come. We sit down to an improvised breakfast. More talk. More tears. Irrepressible joy. The New Day is really here!

Michael L. Bogart

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