This post originally appeared in America Magazine, Holy Saturday, 2011
Today is Saturday. We just sat on the floor and stayed hidden, out of sight, and prayed. I have never seen so many people crushed in this way. I sat without moving, but it felt as if I were stumbling, falling in the dark. We did talk about Jesus, but there was such a sense of loss in the room. It was not only the loss of Jesus himself, but of us. Judas had betrayed Jesus and he was not seen again after the garden, though some people said they had heard he was dead, by his own hand. It was that all of the Apostles and disciples felt as if they had betrayed Jesus. Peter could not stop weeping, but none of them could comfort him because they were lost in their own pain. I remained still, as usual, not committed to anything but my own fears and scared to step forward or back.
The women in the room cry more I would say, but they also remember more, even now. They have not deserted Jesus. The Apostles seem so lost in what they have lost – hopes and dreams and faith shattered – but the women just remember their friend – how he loved them, how he taught them, how he gave himself for them, and they want to go to the Tomb to care for him. They just remember their friend and so many of the men are forgetting their friend and remembering their losses, what Jesus was not, what he turned out not to be, what they fear from the authorities will be their fate. The women want to go to the Tomb, but the men say no, not now, not yet. I could not stand the pall of death, I remember that too clearly still, and I have no need to see it. Mary, and the other Mary, and I think even another Mary, all want to go and care for Jesus’ body, to do their duty and to honor their friend and teacher.
Cleopas talked to me earlier. He said that some of the Apostles had talked to him about how Jesus would rise from the dead, at least that is what they thought they heard, but others said, no, this was when the end would come, when there would be the great resurrection. So, which time would this be? That is what some debated, was this the time when God would restore the Kingdom to Israel and Jesus would rise up at the end of time? Or would Jesus himself just rise up? Really, it seemed that no one believed either of these things, or why else did everyone scatter?
Right now, we are all like animals licking our wounds, hoping to heal enough to walk away from those who hurt us, so we can live another day without being attacked again. Yet, it is all we can do to gather enough strength even to walk away and go home. I do not know what Cleopas wants, but I am ready to go home. Though perhaps I should stay, at least until we know that the women have gone to the Tomb and returned safely.
There is one more thing, though, everyone agrees on this now, everyone has said it is true: they thought he was the Messiah, they had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. For me, now that he has died, I feel him in his absence. Now more now than ever, I want to follow him. I believe more than ever that he was the Messiah. And I wonder why I could not have given myself to him earlier, not now when it is too late.
John W. Martens
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