By: Ellen Nimmo
It’s early. Morning light has just starting to tiptoe underneath the stretched, soft hide of the tent.
Certain as smoke from fire, the sun continues to rise creating a lavender-gold glow which covers everything. Breeze is gently flapping the tent wall sending spikes of light in, highlighting specks of dust and hairs on heads. There’s a rooster crowing in the distance and the quiet sound of someone shifting in sleep. Mary was awake. She felt thirsty, empty from tears.
It was the Sabbath.
Wrapping herself in the blanket, Mary Magdalene gets up and goes outside. The sound of her footsteps on the rocky path is muffled, but still audible inside the scarf. She walks up. When she’s gone far enough she sits, facing east, staring into the orange light. Moments pass. A tear falls.
Lord? Have you forgotten us forever?
How long will you hide your face?! How long will you be silent? Why did you give us hope, only to take it away? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and have sorrow in my heart?
How long will you let the enemy triumph?!
The blanket fell. Mary’s face went into her hands and then onto the damp earth where her tears made a clay of sticky sorrow. It had been only a few hours since they laid him in the grave, but it felt like an eternity. How could she ever make sense of this?
Wouldn’t it have been better to never have known him? No, that could never be. But why, God, why!?
Sabbath, the word echoed. It’s the Sabbath. Today? How LORD? Tell me. How? Mary lifted her head.
Too stirred to rest. Too tired not to. And too heartbroken for worship.
Did I not see him? Son of God, the Christ? Did I not eat and drink with him? Witness him feed the poor and heal the sick? Puzzle the Pharisees? Didn’t we listen and accept His teaching? His gaze? Didn’t he cast out all my demons and despair? There is no place on earth I can find comfort now.
No, not one.
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome her,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
The horror of the day before flashed. It stormed. Thundering through her. Would she be forever cursed to remember the scene? She stared hard. The city stones aglow with morning. Lord? Where are you? Where were you?
Sabbath. There it was again.
This time, when Mary’s face touched the earth she inhaled in its smell. Salty and sweet. Another tear welled up – exhale – and fell. Her heart pounded, but otherwise she was still. God, I love you. You know that I do.
Prostrate and breathing. Minutes passed. Then, she decided.
Shiva. Sit silent, mourn, comfort Mother and the rest. But tonight, slip away, go to market for the spices and in the morning – go to the tomb. Don’t be afraid. He is worth it. He is all.
God, help me.
Mary took one more look at the city, gathered the blanket and began to walk slowly back down. Seeing the temple pillars in the distance she stopped and sighed, remembering His words, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.”
“For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Memories of Jesus came flooding in; he was unlike any man, ever.
I believe, help my unbelief!
Order my steps and let not iniquity have dominion over me. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
As Mary kept walking she remembered how, in the Scriptures, Joshua commanded the people to take possession of the Promised Land, on the other side of the Jordan, toward the sunrise, and enjoy it. It was there they would find the rest God had promised. Jesus. His words rang, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
How she longed for that rest now.
In that moment Mary didn’t know what was to come, but she knew what was next. The splinters of hope returning, prayer.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
I don’t know for sure what that Saturday was like for Mary. No doubt it was a strange, painful day. As I contemplate Good Friday and the Sabbath that came after it, I wonder. Was she able to rest? Did she think it was the end? Or did she have an inkling it was true? That He would indeed return, ushering in a new forever-beginning, a land promised – Shalom. Did she know this was an in-between? A moment to wait and believe?
*Scripture referenced: Psalm 13, Psalm 119, Matthew 12, Joshua 1, Psalm 62