A meditation on Matthew’s account of the resurrection.
I was standing in the garden. In the shadows. They didn’t see me, those two dark silhouettes as they made their way under the trees. They were too afraid themselves, too concerned with how to pick their way unnoticed to the tomb. Bent low, almost folded in on themselves through grief and fear, I don’t know what they hoped for that morning. The birds were singing, the sun sending its first streaks across the sky, and the smell which normally signalled new hope was in the air. But there was no hope to be had that morning. Hope had gone on the day the sky turned black. Yet there they were, those women. And so was I, there where I hid in the shadows. Fearful, cowering, frightened that if seen we would be rejected by the ones already in that garden. Afraid and yet stubborn enough that we’d cling even to the memory of hope.
As I stood there, I could hear the movement of the guards coming to me on the wind. Tired and restless now after a night guarding a dead man. What did these women hope to gain? They would never escape being seen by the guards. Nothing could come of this dawn expedition.
And then the ground trembled.
I heard shouts there from the tomb and then silence as something like lightning appeared, an angel who spoke. As I watched, I suddenly saw it all differently. What the angel said changed it all. Jesus has been raised, he said.
Jesus has been raised and all of heaven is now on alert for the heirs of salvation. The cowering in the garden in what seemed like the days of unhope…we never knew, these women and I, but the whole of heaven waited with bated breath until they should approach the tomb. What had seems like a mission fated for disaster was actually already guaranteed victory. We could have stood tall in the garden. We could have walked freely towards that tomb. The guards could not have stopped us because Jesus was already raised and heaven was watching with wonder, ready to protect the sisters of their King.
But we didn’t know.
The women peered into the tomb then left, eager to tell the others who had loved him. I lingered longer. Put my hand on the rock which the angel had rolled away. Stuck my head inside the tomb, struck in turn by the coolness of the air and the sense of an atmosphere still charged with the residue of resurrection power.
As I turned, I saw the women crossing the garden and I retreated again into the shadows. So much to consider, that only a few minutes before we were walking in resurrection power and did not know. That we would ever more walk in resurrection power – the heirs of salvation protected by angels and loved by a King who called us friends.
And as I pondered these things, I heard the women cry out. When I looked, I saw them throwing themselves at him. The one whose body had not seen decay. They were hugging him and laughing and you couldn’t see his face for their exuberance of response. Jesus mobbed by women! Then they fell to their faces in worship, holding on to his feet. And as they did, he turned his head. Locked his eyes right on mine as I stood there in the shadows, still hiding, still not appropriating my resurrection freedom. And his eyes that day, they called me. They called me out of hiding, out of the shadows. They called me to look into them and to walk towards him as his co-heir. No longer eyes downcast, body trying to take up less space, cowering before his holiness. No. Instead walking forwards, eyes on him, into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
That day I began to walk. It was slow-going, every step opposed by the forces of death which even now sought to nullify the power of his resurrection. But he kept his eyes upon me, not wavering, and I kept walking. As I did, the boundaries of my soul grew stronger. I cowered less and the gaze of love strengthened my heart with courage not to fear my inadequacy in the light of the holiness of that love.