Picture the scene for a moment. It’s early morning and dawn is breaking. Alone in the garden you watch as the first shadowy trees emerge, silhouetted against the dawn sky. It will be a warm spring morning. Soon, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, this will be a place of peaceful refuge, but for the moment all is quiet, all is still. At this hour the city still sleeps and you are alone.
Except, not everyone is sleeping. By a fresh grave stands a young woman. She is weeping. She has come here mourning for a friend; a man she loved; a man who had given her a sense of dignity and purpose. She had joined him on a journey, full of hope and expectation. Now he lies dead; murdered. Now she has come to mourn his passing and as she does, she mourns for herself too. She stands and weeps. The grave is as empty as her heart; where have they taken him, why couldn’t they just leave his body in peace?
The woman at the graveside is Mary Magdalene, it’s Easter morning and the grave she has come to is Jesus’. [It feels strange to be writing about Easter before we have even started Lent. But this is a story for our time.]
Now is a season of mourning. As we mourn for those who have died; we also mourn a wider loss: jobs, businesses, friendships and family connections; education and the many joys and challenges for young people just branching out into the world; plans for retirement and closing years; above all, perhaps, a sense of a loss of freedom. We mourn as if the life we know has been stolen from us.
St John (John 20:11-18) tells us that as Mary wept a man appeared behind her. “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” he asked. Slowly the penny drops. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty because he no longer needs it. “Do not hold on to me” he says. Now, seeing him before her once more, she has to let him go again, but now she knows she is letting go, not into death but into new life. As we watch them both go, Mary back to the city, Jesus to his father, a new day has dawned. Where will that day take us?