We Stood and Wept
It was late morning when my friend Drew received a call urging him to rush to the hospital where his 31-year old wife, Pam, and their 10-month old son, Mark, had been taken after a car accident. They'd been struck from behind by a dump truck while waiting at a four-way stop. By nothing short of a miracle, baby Mark survived the accident with minor bruises. Pam sustained severe injuries from the impact. Desperately praying for her to live, Drew took to wearing Pam's rings on his pinky finger. Tragically, within a day, Pam died. Holding his little Mark in his arms, Drew stood outside her room, and wept.
Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb and wept.
We've all stood in the valley of death's shadow and wept.
Later, Drew wrote this on his blog, "Life has changed irrevocably. There is nothing that can be done, to change what has happened. I lament the life that will now never be."
Life Has Changed Irrevocably
Mary Magdalene's life changed irrevocably.
Nothing could be done to change what had happened.
After finding the tomb empty in John 20, the other disciples returned to their homes. Mary could not leave.
Leave to go where? Go to what?
Luke 8 tells us "Jesus traveled about from one village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
In the years since Jesus had freed her, she'd become his faithful follower. Mary Magdalene had followed Jesus, watching him make the lame walk and the blind see, witnessing him scoop up children from the crowds, listening to his heavenly teachings from the boat, and even hearing him simplify the parables to his intimate circle of disciples. For two years, she had life, good life. Jesus gave her days purpose. Supporting the rabbi with her own means brought gladness to her heart. And now, suddenly, he was gone, ripped from her life without warning.
When Jesus had entered Jerusalem on the donkey, last Sunday, she'd been there. He'd planned to return to the city for months—but who could have imagined that entry? What a day it was! She could still see the men laying down their cloaks for Jesus to step on, the women waving palm branches, and the people shouting, "Hosanna! Son of David!"
And then Golgotha—was that really only two days ago?! Yesterday—Saturday—was an eternity. Sleep? Impossible. Had they really crucified him? And now, an empty tomb? Everything seemed surreal; her brain tired; her eyes teary. They had crucified Jesus!
Go where? Mary stood outside the tomb and wept, lamenting the life that now would never be.
For both Mary Magdalene and my friend Drew, sudden unimaginable events changed their lives irrevocably, and nothing could be done to change what happened.
And they are not the only ones. We know this valley too. We know this feeling of being utterly and completely disoriented. One moment, we're in full control. Life is heading where we want it to. And the next moment, we're struck from behind, and life spins completely out of control.
Life changes irrevocably when a marriage dies.
Life changes irrevocably when that dream for a child is extinguished.
Life changes irrevocably when the word cancer enters our family's daily vocabulary.
Life changes irrevocably when a long-loved job is decisively terminated.
Life changes irrevocably when the church we call home is painfully divided.
Sudden, unexpected events leave us wounded, baffled, and agonizing over questions without answers. We cannot shake the nightmare that others keep referring to as "the new normal." And there is nothing, nobody, to wake us up from it.
In the shadow of these deaths of various degrees, we may even wonder if the good years were ever real: "Did I make that up?" And during those long sleepless nights, we hear the whisper of a mocking voice, echoing in our heads, "Your God is dead."
Mary stood outside the tomb and wept.
He Calls Her By Name
In her grief, as she wept, she bent down to look into the tomb. And she saw--a vision? Two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. And suddenly, unexpectedly, she heard her name.
He calls her by name. "Mary." How lavishly personal is our God?! He calls us by name.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name you are mine.
You are precious and honored in my sight, because I love you" (Isaiah 43).
Having been called by name, she recognizes Jesus. Though she had seen a figure before (v.14), it did not reveal him. Only when Jesus called Mary by name, were her Easter eyes opened.
And with new vision came a new calling.
For those couple of years, caring for the needs of Jesus and his disciples, Jesus had commanded her not to tell anyone about the miracles and signs he had performed. But today he was giving her a new calling, new freedom, to be the first bearer of the good news, of resurrection.
"Go to my brothers and tell them."
Go and tell.
Her message is one of the most exciting sentences in the Bible: "I have seen the Lord" (v.18).
Sunday is Coming
One year after Pam's death, on his first Easter as a single father, Drew wrote this on his blog:
"I am still in sorrow over Pam's death, struggling to understand, still bewildered by it all, much as Jesus' disciples must have been after his death. However, unlike the disciples on that Saturday, I know how the story goes. I know that Easter morning lies around the corner. I know that Christ has defeated death and that all things wait to be fully renewed."
Drew, like Mary, had heard Jesus calling his name into a joyful hope.
And we too, in our every valley, are being called.
May you hear him calling your name.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.