It was dark. In so many ways.
Those who have experienced sudden and tragic loss know the feeling: numbness; a leaden heart; anger. The ambush of tears. The growing realization of loss – oh the loss!
What did the disciples feel on that Friday? After the shock wore off? What did they awake too? The terrible sinking reality that their beloved friend was gone. But He was more than a friend – they had hung their future, their identity on Him. They believed in Him.
But all these dreams, hopes, expectations, yearnings, joys were wrapped up in grave clothes and entombed in blackness. Blackness like their future.
And yet, they could not see what Jesus had been telling them for so long. He entered that darkness for them. He took their hopes, expectations, yearnings and joys into the grave – not to bury them, but to bring them to life.
On Sunday, Mary goes to grieve. She trudges under the weight of sorrow to the garden grave with its terrible sealing, blockading, separating stone. Holding, imprisoning, stealing the body of her beloved Lord.
What would you do if, when visiting your grandmother’s grave, you found instead a freshly dug hole? No casket. No bones. Only a headstone and a hole. Multiple shades of horrified no doubt.
If so with us, then what of poor Mary! She does what is natural in such a baffling, enraging situation: she runs and tells her friends.
When they arrive, they see all is as she described. And yet, something is wrong. Yes, there is the tomb, emptied of its contents. And there are the grave clothes. And the face cloth – folded rather nicely? This isn’t the work of brutes. Grave robbers. It looks as though someone was finished with the space, then left.
The disciples should have seen and understood. Jesus gave them plenty of advance warning. But in the shock and trauma of it all – despite His warnings – they lost sight of this reality.
But this tells us something significant about our God. The resurrection was no more a “happy surprise” in God’s plan than the sunrise this morning was a “happy surprise.” We know the sun will rise. We depend on it rising. It indeed must come. If not, the world truly is ending.
And so with Christ. He simply had to rise from the dead. No resurrection, no gospel. But our God is not a God who makes campaign speeches. He makes promises and keeps them.
Mary returns to the gaping hole in the earth. She fears the worst. There is only one possible explanation to her rattled mind: someone is playing a cruel trick. They had robbed her of her Lord – must they now rob her of His body? Could they not have given her this place of memorial and mourning? Must they dislocate her grief entirely?
She breaks down, weeping. Sorrow overcomes her tired body as grief cascades onto terrible grief. But she looks in one final time. And she is startled.
Two men – no, angels – clothed in white sitting where Jesus had lain. What were they doing? What does this mean?
Then, they spoke. “Woman, why are you weeping?” What kind of a question is this? Wasn’t it obvious? Didn’t they understand?
Then, a stirring. She turns and, through a veil of tears, sees a man standing, looking at her. Again, that question: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Was this a caretaker? A gardener? Would He dare to move the body of her Lord? Perhaps… “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
But then, that voice. Speaking her name. The voice that called Lazarus from the dead. The voice that taught her friends for those three years. That voice that spoke so often to her, with the very lovingkindness of God. That voice resounding throughout history, which spoke the world into existence.
As the sunlight fills a valley when its first rays finally crest the ridge, when every edge is brought into sharp relief and every darkness exposed and filled with luminescent glory, so the dawning of realization burst over her heart.
Jesus’ body was never stolen. It was never moved. Jesus was – He was not dead! He was alive!
In that moment, Mary’s world changed, as she was confronted with the reality that Jesus was alive. And if Jesus was alive – then everything she thought she lost was instantly reversed.
And friends, you and I who have believed have each had our “Mary moment,” haven’t we? We have come face to face, through faith, with the Savior. We know, this morning, that He is indeed alive. Jesus of Nazareth was truly crucified 2,000 years ago, but the body of that Man did not stay in the grave. There are no bones buried away in an unmarked grave. The incarnate Son of God dwells in heaven at the right hand of the Father. We know it to be true.
And because He has risen from the dead, we have great hope and confidence that our salvation is secure. That it is truly finished.
So rejoice this morning. Because Jesus is risen – He is alive – and we are alive in Him.