By Stuart Powell
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:1-2).
Modern believers are excited to relive Mary’s early morning trip to the tomb. Is it because we don’t recall the pain she was suffering as she set out on that journey? We need to dig into our own memories of despair to approach the tomb with the same weight she carried on Easter morning. She went to the tomb not with hope of discovering anything new. She didn’t expect anything had changed from Friday afternoon. Her broken heart had endured 48 hours of grief and she only expected the pain to grow deeper over the coming days, weeks, and years.
The darkness and fear as she approached the grave on her first trip of the day was not replaced with praise. The agony festering in her mind was amplified, not relieved, when she saw the stone removed from the tomb. The first view of the empty tomb filled her with confusion and dread instead of joy and celebration. So, she ran away. She ran in fear. She ran in despair. She ran in pain.
What did she think about as she stood weeping outside the tomb on her second trip of the day? Maybe her memory replayed the scratchy voice that spoke from the middle cross. How many times were the past few sleepless nights interrupted by her rabbi’s words as he hung dying?
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
“It is finished” (John 19:30).
During Communion, we need to stand with Mary and relive Friday’s sacrifice. The agony, brutality, shame, loneliness, and pain. We need to remember the pain Jesus suffered for our freedom. We also should remember Mary’s pain, so that, like her, we never forget the sacrifice God made to purchase us back. Eat the bread and remember his body that was crucified for us. Drink the cup and remember the life blood that was poured out for us.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.