by Carol Howard Merritt
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. 2 Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. 3 Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. 4 The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “ Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. ” 6 He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. 7 Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you. ”
8 With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. 9 But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “ Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there. ”
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “ I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age. ”
Imagine what it was like for Mary Magdalene—that morning as she stumbles in the dark to Jesus’ grave. She must have had a couple of sleepless nights after Jesus died. She saw his crucifixion on Friday afternoon. She couldn’t help but watch. It was like she could not believe that it was happening and she needed to see the scene for herself, even if it put her own life in danger.
So, long after the disciples fled from the scene of denied Jesus, Mary witnessed the events. And the picture of her friend hanging on that tree played in her mind a thousand times. She could recall his marred face. She could see where they plucked his beard. She stood back helplessly as they mocked him. She winced at every blow and her heart sank as they tortured her teacher and her friend. That Friday, the afternoon turned dark as night. After the whole thing was over, when she was sure that he was dead, she went to prepare the spices and ointment for his body. She knew she couldn’t do it on Saturday, her day of rest, so she had to get the treatment together on Friday evening.
On Saturday, she didn’t rest much. She was terrified and angry about what she had seen—haunted by the nightmare of those hours.
And now it’s Sunday, and Mary crawls out of her fitful sleep. While it was still night, she made her way to the tomb, so that she could put the spices and the ointment on Jesus’ body. She didn’t want the foul smell of death to permeate the air outside the tomb, and she was willing to risk her life so that it wouldn’t.
To understand the importance of what Mary is doing, we need to realize the policy of the Roman Emperor against those who were regarded as rebels. “The crucifixion of a persona had dire consequences for all relatives and friends. Criminal justice ordered that a crucified criminal, as a warning [and] example should hang upon the cross until animals had eaten his corpse.” To punish friends and relatives, they refused to allow any sort of funeral. So, “crucified bodies were guarded by Roman soldiers so that no one could steal them. Mourning was also forbidden. People who wept in public places over the death of an executed person were themselves executed.” Forthermore, Dorothee Soelle writes that “neither relatives nor friends were permitted to come close, to lament, even to look at them for any length of time… And conduct expressing a close relation to the one crucified could lead to being crucified oneself.”
In spite of all of the peril, Mary still wanted to do something. She wanted to care for Jesus in some way.
Mary was often concerned about these things. When Jesus went through the towns and villages, Mary would travel with Jesus and she would provide for them all. She left her home so that she could care for them. In many mundane things, she supported them. A few days before Jesus was crucified, Mary washed his feet with fine perfume. She mixed it with her tears. She dried his feet with her hair. She loved Jesus that much.
Judas complained about her wasting good money, but Jesus stood up for Mary. He explained that in her anointing, she was preparing him for his burial.
Even after Jesus was dead and buried, Mary doesn’t stop caring for her dear friend. She goes to the tomb with another woman, carrying spices. They stumble through the chilled night air, trying to figure out how they are going to get past those guards and how she is going to move that great stone. She imagines that she will have one last chance to care for him. She will unwrap the linen, touch his damaged face, spread the ointment on his wounded flesh. Then, she would wrap the linens back up.
Soon, the dust under her feet starts to soften. She hears the crunching sound of grass under her sandals. The subtle smell of the night flowers mingle with the strong spices which she holds in her hands. She knows she has reached the garden; she is almost there.
And she sees the man, a brilliant man, telling her that the body isn’t there. Jesus is risen. The messenger invites them to step inside the moist walls of the cave. They do, and when their eyes adjust to the darkness, they see that the tomb is empty. They begin to run back, alive with excitement.
As they are running, they meet Jesus, and she clings to the feet that she had just anointed.
This post was written as a part of the Common English Bible’s blog tour.
In the fourth episode of our 6th season, we invited Meredith Gould, to join Carol Howard Merritt and Landon Whitsitt to discuss Jewish-Christian identity and got loads of wisecracks for free. Meredith has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is a professional writer, a published author, and the Abbess of Virtual Abbey (here or on Twitter ). FYI, Meredith is a semi-pro smart-ass. You have been warned.
She begins the conversation by discussing her views on her Jewish-Catholic spirituality and practice, talks about liturgy, virtual-abess-ing, what drew her to the Roman Catholic church, and even answers the profound question of she would do for Klondike bar.
Interesting points in the conversation:
(4:35) Issues with people who say Christianity is the LOVE faith. Christianity is not permissiveness…
(6:00) How do you deal with the verses in John that discuss “the Jews”
(12:00) Where do these two traditions, Judaism and Christianity, clash or connect during the liturgical year?
(15:00) Do you celebrate Jewish traditions at the same time as Christian ones?
(16:40) What would you say to someone who wanted to know how Jewish a Christian should be?
(21:49) Christians are crazy people. Why did I make the jump to Catholicism? Because of Mystery…
(25:42) Where does joy come from?
(27:11) What would you do for a Klondike bar?
(34:58) Obligatory Rob Bell + Hell comment
(35:30) CHURCH CHAT TIME with Carol and Landon – WHAT WHAT?
Meredith’s recent books:
Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship
Come to the Table: A Passover Seder for Parish Use
The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day
The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today
In the fifth episode of our 4th season, we invited Dr. J. Kameron Carter, Associate Professor in Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School. Dr. Carter dropped by to tell us a bit about his book on race and the church, and then our conversation drifted into a discussion of Esperanza Spalding and the power of jazz to provoke theologians and church leaders.
Some highlights from the show…
1:25 – [Deleted] J Kameron Carter predicts Duke will make a serious run in the Final Four. #ProtectingDrCartersFutureESPNCareer
2:11 – Should racism be thought of as a theological error?
5:02 – How did our ideas about race come to be?
8:44 – Gentile Christians think of themselves as the new Israel, re: Echoes of John Winthrop
10:48 – Gentile Christian relationship with the God of Israel is always mediated, NOT immediate.
15:27 – We often lend Christian support to the idea that we have to deliver goods to words the the world needs: Rights, Freedom, etc. Why?
17:14 – Esperanza Spalding, and the reasons in which theologians should take notice of jazz
27:50 – Jazz is not “an ossified tradition” – the Church can take cues from this.
30:37 – Lessons for the Church moving forward.
36:27 – Money Quote: the impulse to solve is really an IMPULSE TO MASTER.
40:21 – Church chat time with Carol and Landon! Riffing on the themes that J. Kameron Carter brought up.