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Archive for April, 2009

(©2009 Lori Ann Gossert)

For the past several years the one thing that I keep coming back to at Easter is what happened from the time Jesus was laid in the tomb till the Marys found it empty. About 48 hours of silence. Where did they go? What did they do? What were they thinking? Feeling?

In the past few years I’ve lost several people and been to more than enough funerals. And I imagine some of the same things we go through during our mourning were similar to what they went through. But the deaths in my life haven’t been completely unexpected. Nor cruel. Nor the apparent end of all my beliefs, hopes and reasons for doing what I was doing…

So bear with me awhile as I ponder, as I take a few moments to ask aloud my questions and imagine the scenes during that 48 hours of darkness and despair…

Like where did everyone go after they fled the garden when Jesus was arrested? We know John (and then Peter) ended up following (at a distance) as Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin. But where did the rest of them go? Most weren’t from Jerusalem… did they find friends and family to stay with? Would friends and family have even been willing to take them in? Did they go back to Bethany with Lazarus and his sisters where they were likely staying that week? Did they go back to the upper room, the last place they were with Jesus, trying desperately to hold onto those last few minutes?

What about Friday? The trials, the beatings, the crucifixion? We know that John and Mary (Jesus’ mother) and some of the other women were at the cross. What about Peter? Did he, after the third denial passed his lips and the rooster’s crow rang in his ears and the eyes of Jesus met his own spend the night in a dark corner somewhere weeping bitterly… and then when the tears ran dry and the day dawned did he feel a burning guilt that drove him to Golgotha for just one chance to say how sorry he was, one chance to try and make it right – only to arrive as Jesus took his last breath? What about Thomas? He will later say that he won’t believe (Jesus is alive) until he puts his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in his side… nail marks would have been standard for a crucifixion, but a spear in the side was not… so was he in the crowd that afternoon, on the fringes, watching from a distance?

There was a concern to get Jesus body down and buried before the Sabbath, which began at sundown. Did they – out of habit, out of fear or simply because they didn’t know what else to do – find themselves gathered together into one place? Perhaps that memorable upper room? Did they dwindle in at various times Thursday night and Friday after fleeing Gethsemane or listening to the trials or observing the crucifixion or aimlessly wandering the streets at a complete loss as to what to think or feel or what to do or where to go? Was it the Eleven? some of the women? Were Matthias and Justus and other of Jesus’ disciples (outside of the Twelve) there, too? What about Lazarus and his sisters? They were always close to Jesus…

I can picture Martha. She’s one of those who like to keep their hands busy. I can see her going crazy sitting there among the assembled rag-tag bunch, tears dried to her face and making it tight, wringing her hands in pain and sorrow and worry and lack of something to do with them. She needs to keep busy. Her whole world has stopped and crashed around her but she can’t stop with it. She has to keep moving. And it’s sunset. The Sabbath is about to begin.
“It’s evening,” Martha says to no one in particular, her eyes distant and clouded as she rises, “I’ll prepare a Sabbath meal.”
Mary, who no longer has the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet, starts up after her sister out of love and loss, “I’ll help.”
But Lazarus catches Martha’s arm, tenderly forcing her to look at him, “no one’s hungry, Martha.”

I mean, really, who can even think about a Shabbat Shalom on a night like that?

Mourning, in some ways, drives us together. It is likely some went to their homes and some went off by themselves, but I would think that for the most part those who were closest to Jesus – those who had spent the previous three years walking and talking and living their lives with him – would have been drawn back to each other. Drawn to others they could share their confusion and fear with, others they could share their memories with… and it was all they knew. I imagine hours of silence. That icky silence where you feel as though you’re going mad because nothing is right with the world and nothing you thought you knew makes sense anymore. Weeping until no more tears would come or stone-faced in shock unable to shed the tears your broken heart was creating inside. Thoughts racing. Thoughts running over and over inside their heads. And silence. Interspersed here and there by a statement or question.
“Has anyone seen Peter?” someone asks.
“Not since the garden,” another replies, emotionally drained.
“He was with me in the courtyard of the high priest,” John adds, “for awhile.”
“Perhaps he went back to Joppa, to his family,” someone else suggests.
But we’re his family! Another thinks, but stops himself from saying it aloud. At least, we were. But it doesn’t feel like family now. In fact, nothing feels the same now.

A short while later Peter walks through the door. Everyone looks up, startled, then frightened until they realize who it is. He doesn’t exactly look like Peter. He’d had his head and face covered for fear of being recognized, his gait was slower than usual and his face was dirty and contorted, every agony in his mind and heart etched in deeply. His eyes were red and puffy and it was obvious that he had been weeping, long and bitter. Several turned their eyes away, unsettled by his appearance. Peter wasn’t exactly the kind of man you would picture weeping.

Peter looked around at the aimless group who had found each other. He’d noticed their fear when he had entered the room and the hopelessness in their eyes was readily apparent, mirroring his own. They were looking at him. Looking to him. Don’t look to me! I’m not your leader… I’m not any kind of leader. But he felt protective of them, concerned for their well-being. They were so vulnerable right now. We all are. Peter sighed. “Lock the doors.”

(I hope to continue this someday…)

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