Matthew 27:59-61: “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
It is starting to make me cranky that we skip over the three long and agonizing days that Jesus was locked away in the tomb. We even have Easter egg hunts during those days because we want everyone to pay more attention to Christ’s resurrection versus immerse ourselves in the dark tomb. My sense is that we don’t exactly know what to make of those days when Jesus was behind a massive rock – hidden from view.
I am journeying with my mother into the last phases of Alzheimer’s. Her world is becoming dimmer and dimmer. The cataracts in her eyes are adding to the darkness that is closing in all around her. A while back she was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room. It was all so confusing and unsettling to her. And to sit in the presence of someone I love to my core and to hear of her pain, sorrow, and frightened state was a pain worse than my own. Truly pulling my heart out of my body would have been easier. So, yes, sitting with people during their worst moments is heart-wrenching stuff.
I realized something. You see there have been tangible times in my life where I knew Jesus was sitting right next to me. Some may find that hard to believe, but I know what I saw and felt.
And yet this time, this time, I think I am being called to sit with Jesus – in the tomb, in the darkness, in the suffocating darkness, behind that big stone – so I can experience with him what that must have felt like.
The first thing that captures my attention is the claustrophobic sense of darkness – and yes, even though I have Jesus sitting right there next to me. It isn’t the warm and comfortable space within a womb as I develop and grow and become all of the pieces and parts God intended for me to be. It is the dark and dank and closed in sense that my life isn’t turning out as I imagined it would. How did I get here? Why am I here? What good can happen in this place?
And then Jesus pats the space beside himself and says: “Just wait. Be patient. You will see. All things new – remember that? All things new.” And do I dare articulate to Jesus a sarcastic “Really?” Do I dare say what is playing loudly in my head? “I had better get out of here or I will die. The darkness is closing in all around us and that is going to be the final word – darkness. Jesus, you just don’t get it. Jesus, you just don’t see. Because look – there is that massive stone that can never be conquered – it is a reality – and so is this God-awful darkness. Come sit with me – oh come on Jesus – you can do better than that! Be patient – oh yeah, like that was ever a virtue of mine. All things new – yep, I have heard that over and over and over and over again and look where it has gotten me – I am in this tomb separated from everyone – locked away with no hope. Jesus even YOU can’t get us out of this mess we are in. Wait – no. Patient – no. I will see – not a chance – I can’t even see my own hand in front of my face, let alone see a vision of all things new.”
And then patient and forever compassionate Jesus just asks me quietly in the dark “Will you sit with ME? Will you be present for me and my pain?” Tears flow without ceasing. I scoot a little closer to Jesus. I take his hand. “Yes Jesus. I will sit with you.” I rest my head on his shoulder as tears flow down my cheeks. And Jesus doesn’t say a word.
In the world of darkness there is a loud silence. I start to replay the tapes in my own head. I no longer focus on my tapes. I focus on Jesus’ tapes. I replay every gory scene. I replay one betrayal after another betrayal after another. I replay the endless number of tears pouring out of his mother’s eyes. I replay the eardrum bursting cry of lament – “WHY?!?!”
I realize that the darkness doesn’t get diminished. Our pain is still very real. We still have our wounds and our scars. But sitting “in” the silence shared by two people who understand the depth of sorrow and grief, we find solace and peace. As I keep my head on Jesus’ shoulder I can finally sleep. My salty tears still linger on my face. And somehow Jesus’ compassionate presence does indeed make all things new. And that silly big stone is still right there.
© Rev. Cari Willis