By Stacie Donaldson—National Gathering Participant
A Scriptural Imagination based on John 20
Eyes blinded by tears—more than that—blinded by fear, blinded by dreams crushed as fine as the dust under her feet as she walks.
She steadies herself at the edge of the tomb, one hand pressed against the cold, hard stone—the stone they had talked about last night, had worried over, had argued about, even. What good would it do, Salome had said, to go all that way, only to be unable to move the stone? And yet, what else was there to do but go? It was too heavy for them, but…that’s what all of this was. Heavy. Too much to bear.
This whole past week had been that way. The strange things Jesus had said. The rumors of threats against his life. It was an odd time for heaviness—a week normally filled with joyful preparation for celebration—but this time it was as though an uneasy, unspoken question hung in the air. Everyone felt it. For the first time since meeting Jesus, Mary felt unsure.
And so, as people often do in such circumstances, they changed the subject. Even as Jesus spoke of the end of things, the disciples dreamed of the future kingdom, and quarreled with each other about their place in it. They tried to out-do each other in their bold, almost arrogant, declarations they’d follow Jesus anywhere, even as he told them he was heading to some mysterious place they could not go.
The men argued. The women busied themselves with the shopping and the cleaning and the cooking for Passover.
Passover. Passover was the feast her people had celebrated for thousands of years. That she herself had celebrated every year she could remember—and even, she knew, before that. As a little girl, she remembered eagerly counting down the days until it was time to celebrate the God who had rescued his people. But now, after all that had happened in the past few days…Mary gasps as the realization overtakes her: How could she celebrate Passover next year (or ever), without thinking of this year? The night when God failed to rescue.
The weight of it hits her hard, bringing her back to herself, still standing frozen next to the tomb.
The tears are gone now, replaced by the oppressive heaviness.
Unbelievably, though she barely notices, the soldiers they’d been told would be guarding the tomb are nowhere in sight, and the stone itself stands as the only sentry of the open space.
Mary pauses outside for a moment. Outside. So often outside, until she met him. Outside the temple. Outside the community. Always on the outside. But he changed all that. Changed her life.
She wants to peer inside. Looking for what? One last glimpse of him? Why? She’s afraid to look, but…where else would she look? “To whom shall we go?” she remembered someone—maybe Peter?—saying once. What else is there, but to look for you, Jesus?
And so she bends, once hand bracing her trembling body as she looks in.
Men in white. Angels? They’re settling in, as if waiting for her. Linens folded neatly. They are certainly not afraid, she thinks, almost angrily. They just sit there patiently.
“Why are you crying?” they ask.
“Why am I—…? What? Why is anyone who stands next to a tomb crying? Why am I crying? Why do you think?” But she doesn’t say all that. What good will it do?
“God is gone, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”
God is gone.
And they have no response.
Standing, she feels the sun, warm on her back. She thinks absently that surely it is impossible for today to be beautiful.
Turning, she jumps—a man is standing there.
“Woman,” he says, “why are you crying?”
Stop asking me that.
“Where has God gone?” she asks again, hoping someone will have an answer.
He knows her name. She knows his voice.
And God is here.
Stacie Donaldson wrote this scriptural imagination exercise during the Catching What Rises workshop at the 2018 Missional Wisdom Foundation National Gathering.