when He returned

[this is the third of a three-part imaginative reflection on the first holy week.]

i woke up early that morning. before the birds began their songs. it was still dark outside, but i felt urged awake. like someone had softly touched my arm, telling me it was time.

and so i awoke, quietly. not wanting to disturb anyone, i climbed out of my window, as i had two nights earlier, and dropped to the ground. still unsure why, i began to walk, not knowing where i was going.

everything was still. everything was quiet. no one was yet up. but i felt led, somehow. and soon i knew where to.

it wasn’t long before i found myself back in the garden, making my way to the tomb of the Man on the donkey.

the woman and the Gardener

two men passed by me, before i made it to the tomb. i waited, quietly, behind a tree as they passed, not wanting them to spot me.

they looked confused. their eyes and minds distant as they walked. as though they had seen a ghost.

i held my breath until i knew they were gone, and then continued to make my way toward the tomb where the Man on the donkey had been buried.

i was not far off when i heard the faint sound of crying. it was coming from the direction of the Man on the donkey’s tomb.

i continued making my way toward the tomb, but more quietly now. not wanting anyone to hear me. not wanting to disturb whomever i had heard weeping.

and that’s when i spotted her. a woman. bent over. crouched just outside the Man’s tomb.

the large stone blocking the tomb had been rolled to the side, somehow. and the roman guards who had been there when i last visited the tomb were nowhere to be found. just the woman, weeping.

and then, suddenly, a man was there. beside her. a man i did not recognize.

“the owner of the garden, perhaps?” i thought to myself.

and then he spoke, to her, “woman, why are you weeping?” he said in a heartfelt voice. his eyes looked heavy. and sad. “whom are you looking for?”

she raised her head at his voice, seemingly taken off guard.

her eyes were glossy in the first signs of early morning light. tears ran footpaths down her cheeks. she looked as though she hadn’t slept in days.

“sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

you could hear her heart aching as her voice strained in a note of exhasperation. her words were weak and very nearly drowned out by her tears. she had nothing left. and she begged the man to help.

and then i recognized her. i had seen her that day, that day i first saw the Man on the donkey. she was with Him. she was one of His followers.

she was seeking His body, and, finding only an empty tomb, she now had nothing left.

the mystery of this scene was all more than i could take. who was this man? what had he done with the body of the Man on the donkey? why wouldn’t he just help her?

my heart raced in my chest, which now rose and fell heavily. i wanted to yell out. “help her! why won’t you just help her?!”

but i didn’t. i held back, still not wanting to be found.

the man spoke up again.

“mary,” he said to her, now in a calm, confident, and knowing voice. “mary,” He repeated, the corners of His lips upturned only slightly.

and that’s when it happened. the unknowable. that which there are no words for. and if only you could have seen her face.

her eyes fell open, as her eyebrows darted upward. her bottom lipped dropped, extending her cheeks. she opened her mouth to speak, but no words could come out.

she closed her mouth. and then, after a moment, she opened it again. quickly this time.

“Rabboni!” she said, the words now leaping out of her throat, as if they had been pulled out. as if she had no control of them.

…and then i realized what she realized, this Man was the Man on the donkey. returned! returned to life!

my mind went numb, shocked at this realization, as i felt my body awash in a warm bath of excitement. as though my heart had burst within my chest, painting my rib cage with its warm contents. as though my feet had, if only for a moment, actually lifted from their spot on the garden floor.

“He has returned!” i thought to myself. “the Man on the donkey… He’s come back!”

the woman lifted herself from her crouched position, which appeared to take all her strength, and took a step toward the Man, lunging at Him in a wave of excitement. as if to embrace Him.

but He stopped her.

“do not hold on to me,” He told her, “because I have not yet ascended to the Father. but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

and, with a face of knowing, with a face that, once again, shone with hope, she looked into His eyes, smiled deeply, and then turned and left from her spot in the garden. in a hurry that surprised me.

my eyes followed her out. and by the time my eyes returned to her previous spot, there in front of the Man’s tomb, He was gone. He was nowhere to be found.

my eyes darted around, not knowing how i had missed Him. wondering if i had somehow overlooked Him. but i hadn’t. He was gone. and yet, He had returned. and with Him, hope.

good news

i still didn’t know what it all meant, as i turned to make my way back home. i had only fragments of a story. a Man on a donkey. a quiet tomb. and now this. this good news: the Man returned.

i didn’t know what it all meant. in fact, there seemed to be more that i didn’t know than what i did know. and yet, and yet i had this good news.

i had seen what i had seen. the unspeakable. the unimaginable. i had–though i hardly believed it myself–seen a Man return to life.

and though i didn’t know quite what it meant, the stories my grandfather used to tell me soon came flooding back to my mind. the stories of a great King Who would come to restore peace to the land. Who would set all things right. and it filled me with deep gladness and hope.

my pace picked up as i walked back toward home, from a walk to a jog. and soon, before i knew it, i was running. at full speed. as quickly as my legs would carry me.

the sun was now beginning its ascent and i could feel its warmth on my face as i ran.

i had good news. and i had to tell someone. anyone. everyone.

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