Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. (John 20.1-10)
It had been a long Saturday. It was meant to be a day of rest, but how could she rest. She wanted to be with him, at the tomb, in that garden, able to complete what had been begun, able to care for him as he had cared for her. So, when the first streaks of dawn coloured the Jerusalem sky she left the house and made for the garden.
The air was fresh and clean; it was a new day, but as beautiful as it was the heaviness hung over her. She couldn’t escape what she had seen. The one who had given her back her life, the one who recognised the person she was, who had saved her from herself, the one she had followed and ministered to, the one she had anointed and washed with her own tears, she saw him die. His life ebbed away and so did hers. He died and she felt as though she died with him.
It was still the half-light of dawn when she arrived but she could see immediately that all was not right. The stone that had sealed the tomb was rolled away. She was petrified and, without waiting ran back for Peter and John. She needed them now. She had wanted to be on her own, but now she needed them to help her, to look into the tomb and see what was going on.
So together they ran back to the tomb. John was so much younger than Peter and that showed in the race to the garden. He got there first but his youth, that had given him the energy, kept him back from going in. It was Peter, headstrong, impetuous, fearless who went in and discovered the truth – Jesus was not there, just the cloths in which they had bound him, just the shroud in which they had buried him, just the cloth that had covered his face. And all was neat and orderly. This was no grave robbery in which everything was in disarray. All the cloths had been folded – and Jesus was gone.
SLEEP, sleep, old Sun! thou canst not have repast
As yet the wound thou took’st on Friday last;
Sleep then and rest; the world may bear thy stay,
A better sun rose before thee to-day.
This is the beginning of a poem by John Donne called ‘Easter Day’. He speaks to the sun. It is not needed this day. The son has risen; it is a different dawn, a different colour that streaks the sky, the colour of resurrection. But at the moment Mary and the disciples do not know this. Instead grief has added to their grief and Mary stays at the tomb weeping.
make yourself known,
stay in the shadows no longer,
meet us with