It was still dark when the women rose that morning. But even if the sun had been up, their days would still feel black as night.
It was their new reality; after weeks or months or years at Jesus’ side, drinking in his goodness and his warmth so filling it spilled out onto the desert sand, they were suddenly parched. Drifting. Fearful and grief-stricken and hopeless.
At least today they can put their grief in motion.
So they go to the tomb where Jesus lay, both anxious to get there to anoint his body and fulfill their holy rituals, and dreading the brutal finality of his death.
How close did the women come, in the dusty pre-dawn light, before they realized someone had gotten there first? And who could possibly have beaten them there? They had left before anyone else had awoken, everyone who loved and mourned Jesus as thoroughly as they had and did had been left behind. These women were the first to go, the first to visit Jesus’ grave. Who could possibly have gone before them?
Those who followed Jesus during his ministry were no strangers to the supernatural. Though they witnessed countless miracles, had seen demons overthrown, nothing could have compared to walking beside Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, the unseen Yahweh with skin on, with calloused hands and dirty feet and flashing eyes and desperate conviction and untapped love.
But none of them could have known, not fully, who they followed, from whom they learned about God and man and God’s pursuit of man. Even as close as they stood, they couldn’t have known.
Not until the stone was rolled away. Not until they came face-to-face with Jesus the Resurrected, the payer of our debt, the conqueror of our penalty.
Their faith had been so shaken. The very foundation of their beliefs and their new, fragile knowledge of God had crumbled beneath them, settling into the cracks of the earth as it shook open. Their hearts had been broken; their hope had been lost.
But then they saw the tomb. They heard the angel sitting on the stone. They held the cast-aside burial linens, they searched the barren, empty walls, they felt the frailest breath of hope catch in their throats, and they ran to tell the others what strange things were happening.
They’re still happening.
We still come face-to-face with Jesus the Resurrected.
The tomb is still empty.
And hope, if we let it, still catches in our throats.