Over the years, I have rarely thought about what the passion might have meant to Jesus’ followers. They were just beginning to come to grips with his divinity. Primarily, they knew him as a man. Mary of Magdala would have seen Jesus as an incredible man who cared not for the past but only looked toward the future. How could she have helped but love him?
How could things go this wrong? How could the world turn upside down in only a week? At first, things were wonderful, exciting, amazing; and, now things are so…so devastatingly awful. The crowds gave us a hero’s welcome when we arrived. Everyone was all smiles, waving and cheering for us – well actually for him. He was of course the draw, the one they had all come to see. The rest of us were just his entourage, the groupies and roadies tagging along for the ride, and what a ride it had been. There were only a few of us girls in the group, but that was OK. We all got along just fine. The crowds, small at first, had been steadily growing at each stop. More and more people coming from all over to see him. They were not disappointed either. He was a rising star after all. The group had been on the road non-stop for months now, and now it was time to take a break. I for one was ready for some down time.
He and I had had met when he passed through my city a year or so ago. He had stopped by to get a bite at a mutual friend’s home and he had introduced us. We hit it off right away – an instant connection. He was just so easy to talk to. His very presence was intoxicating. When he spoke, even if there were others around, it was like he was speaking only to me. Later, we did have other chances to talk – just the two of us, and it was magical. He really got me…understood me, and I loved him. I knew that there was no one else for me. So, when he left my town, I felt that I had no choice but to join his band and follow.
Nothing ever “happened” between us of course, not that I would have objected. Besides, our relationship was…complicated, and it never seemed the right time to bring up romance and love, so I didn’t. I just continued to tag along with the others, savoring the brief moments he and I were together, and trying not to look like I cared when he touched another girl’s hand or laughed at her jokes, even if it tore me up when he did. He was just so full of life and love that it spilled out all around him. I doubt he ever noticed. Still, now I wish I had said or done something to show how I had felt because now I will never get that chance. I will never know if he felt the same way about me.
A few nights ago, a bunch of us had dinner and a few drinks. For the most part, it was a great time. One of the guys had a bit too much to drink and made a fool of himself in the process, but that only dampened the mood for a moment; otherwise It was a near perfect evening. Afterwards, he suggested that we take a walk in the garden. I rushed to his side in agreement. There was a perfectly clear sky full of stars with only a crescent moon to add to the spectacle. The air smelled of flowers and damp earth. It had seemed a perfect end to a perfect evening, until suddenly it wasn’t.
Without any warning, someone attacked us. It happened so fast, but in that solitary moment, he was taken from me…from us. Just like that, he was gone. In my mind, I can still see the curve of his jaw, his hair, his sparkling eyes, his smile. Right before he died. I was standing so close that I could touch him. One second, he was alive, the next dead. One moment a life of promise, the next an empty shell… rather two empty shells for my heart collapsed in that moment, and my soul became as desolate a place as had ever been. In an instant, my reason for existence was gone. How could I…why should I continue?
When we buried him, I watched as they carried his body into the cemetery and put him in a vault at the back. There were no crowds now, no adoring fans, just us – and not all of us at that. I wanted so badly to run up and embrace his corpse, to let my tears wash him, to take in his scent one last time. How was this happening? It was so surreal. I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to think. He would have been the first person to tell me to “let it go” and get on with my life, but I hated what had happened and how it had destroyed so many “might have beens”. As the days passed, I moved in slow motion as the others grieved along with me, a friendly pat on a hand, a few words of consolation, a sad smile of knowing. They say it helps not being alone at a time like this, but the people around me were suffocating me. I needed to get out for a while. I need to talk to him.
A short time later, I begged away and soon found myself walking down the path to his resting place – I couldn’t bring myself to call it a grave. It was so peaceful here. I felt calmer than I had since he left me. Even though he was dead, his presence seemed to linger in the surrounding landscape. As I tenuously climbed the small hill, a sense of dread came over me. At first, I thought I was imagining things, but then I could see that things were not right. Something in fact was terribly wrong. The place where we had laid his body was now a gaping hole! No body occupied the space. Someone had taken him! But who? For what purpose? My heart pounded as I hurriedly scanned the surroundings, grasping at straws to come to grips with what had happened.
Wait! Over there, maybe that gardener saw something. I ran to him, spun him around and asked, begged him to tell me what had happened. Through my tears, I looked up into a smile and eyes that even God could not duplicate and almost fainted when he called me “Mary”.