When they’d stopped to catch their breath, just outside the city walls, the three women finally looked at each other, eyes wide in terror, and amazement, and disbelief, and confusion, all bundled up together in one inexplicable moment of resurrection. Did they dare to hope? Could they bear the weight of the betrayal if the young man in the white robe had just crafted the world’s most painful lie? Their grief had just begun, would they be forced to live the horrors of Friday all over again?
On the other hand, could they bear the weight of the truth if he really was back? If he really was alive, risen from the grave!? Could they handle the knowledge that the world that they knew was never going to be the same again; when the dead come back to life and God himself walks among us, nothing is as it once was, nothing could ever possibly be the same again.
And yet somehow they knew that it was true. They could see it, in each other’s eyes, a speck, a glimmer, buried deep beneath the fear and the uncertainty, a glimpse of hope. They knew it was true because they could feel it—in their bodies, in their bones, in their hearts. All through that first night, and all through the Sabbath, and all through the darkening skies of the second night, as the tomb had been filled with the God of love, their hearts had become empty, their souls drained. It was as if all the love in the world had been leeched away and stuffed into the tomb alongside him so that it was filled to the brim.
But ever since that morning, surely ever since that stone had burst forth from the grave it was as though they could feel their hearts being filled once again; it was as if light and colour and life itself were returning to the earth, and the only thing they could do now as they sat on the rocks in the cool of the morning shade, was catch their breath. A breath that had been breathed into them in the very beginning of creation. A breath that had been given to them by the one they called Lord and friend.
They called to mind all the other times they’d become aware of their breath: respiration, inspiration, not so different, after all. Those times when he’d performed miracles that no one could explain, those times when the depths of his wisdom at thirty years old confounded even the best laid plans and the harrowing traps of the teachers of the law, those times when he’d shown a love and a gentleness never before seen, when he touched the lepers and made them clean, when he knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet, when he asked forgiveness for the world that betrayed him, as he hung, nailed to a tree. All they could do was catch their breath.
And so, face to face with the knowledge that the world was about to change forever, the women were left with one inevitable question: what now? What now, given that he who had been lost had now been found? What now, given that the weakness of death had given way to the power of life? What now, given that the God who had failed when he was nailed to the cross had just returned victorious, conquering not just the empires of flesh and blood but the power of sin and death itself? What now, given that God had just this very instant struck a new covenant with all of creation, when God had promised them that from now on, the darkness of our deepest despair and desolation will give way to the joy of resurrection?
Because that is the promise of Easter. It’s the promise of a creative and creating God who loves this world more than we could ever ask or imagine. It’s the promise of a God who dreams as a mother of the incredible things her children can do. It’s the promise of a God who is willing to go through the greatest horror of life and the worst betrayal, just to return and sweep his weeping, shame-filled, fearful children up in the world’s most loving embrace. It’s the promise of a God who is in love with you.
And so the question remains. What now? When the bite of winter is over and the spring melt begins, what now? When God has been working silently in the background of your lives, filling in holes, mending the cracks, what now? When God has awoken you out of your slumber and put an end to your Lenten fast, what now?
What is God is calling you to in this new season of your life? Who is God asking you to become? As soon as the three women had caught their breath they pulled themselves together and they went and they told the others what they’d heard and what they’d seen. They were the very first ones, the myrrh-bearing women who stole out to the tomb in the early morning mist. Without Mary and Mary and Salome the story of the church would have been very different. Our knowledge of the empty tomb, of the resurrection itself, the very foundations of our faith, would have been entirely different. These brave women were the first to receive the message about the resurrected Jesus. Mary Magdalene herself became known as the apostle to the apostles: the one who was sent to the ones who were sent out into the world to proclaim the radical, revolutionary love that God has for God’s people.
What is the message God is calling you to proclaim? If you yourself have been caught up in the resurrection of Christ what is the Good News, the gospel news, that God has given you to share with the world around you? When have you found yourself alongside the three women, wide eyed in amazement at the things God has done in your life?
Whatever it is, know this: the Easter promise is that whenever there is darkness, there will be light. Whenever there is fear, there will be hope. Whenever there is hatred in this world, there will be love. And the God who created the earth and all that is within it, the God who rose from the grave, the God who called and continues to call disciples to go out to the very ends of the earth, that God goes with you every step of the way.