Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 12, 2020

while it was still dark …

At 1:11pm on April 15th, 2017 my entire mindset relative to Easter morning shifted.  I had sat down to write about Resurrection Day, and I prayed.  “Father, help me see Jesus more truly and completely in writing today.  Please show me as I read.”  That year, the daily Bible reading plan for Journey onWord focused on the account of Jesus’ final week in the gospel of Mark. Chapter sixteen was the reading for Sunday, so it was where I read in preparing to write.

Mary Magdalene’s name is mentioned first as the chapter begins.  She is at the head of the list Mark notes of the women who went shopping on Saturday evening for the spices they would need to anoint Jesus’ body properly the next morning.  The whole presumption was interesting to me.  I noted that I might, “perhaps, in a future year, … investigate this more fully.” I love returning to prior writings for multiple reasons, and I loved the discovery of that writing this year as I poured over previous years. It was my plan in writing this year to begin with an old writing (brushed up) and end with one, with completely new inspiration in between. I knew where I wanted to begin but planned to leave it until the end to go looking for the punctuation. I have yet to mention anything this week about the world around us. That has been deliberate. I desired to draw our eyes away from what they’ve been fixed on for many weeks now and aim them squarely on Jesus and His story. It is no happy accident or perfect stroke of “luck” that I landed on this former writing today. For His purpose and His kingdom, may He breathe new and needed application into our experience of this blessed Resurrection Day.

I will continue today as I began then:

Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark…

I understand that Jesus’ body was hastily prepared for burial the day before because sundown was quickly approaching. There was an urgency to bury Him before the Sabbath began.  But did the women who came visiting the next morning just expect they would walk up to or into the tomb and be allowed access to Jesus’ body?  Perhaps it was simply their deep love for Jesus, or maybe they just didn’t know what to do in their grief and decided to do the thing they knew.  I believe we can all relate to that in our own experience of grief.

In reading further in chapter sixteen, Mary Magdalene is mentioned again … as the first-person Jesus appears to after rising from the dead.  Isn’t that just like Jesus, to appear first to a former prostitute and give her the honor of being the first to tell others He is Risen?!  My thoughts and heart began to settle on this interaction between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.  But there was a problem.  Mark sixteen says nothing about the details or nature of their meeting.   In fact, it simply says He appeared to her first, she went and told the disciples, and they didn’t believe her.  So, I sought other references to the story, going first to the gospel of John.  John’s gospel tells the story beautifully, and as I began reading, I remembered writing about this before.  I remember being struck by the moment Mary hears Jesus say her name.

Mary encounters a man after turning to leave Jesus’ tomb.  She is overcome with grief.  She doesn’t recognize him and thinks he is the gardener.  The man asks her why she’s crying.  She questions Him in return, and then … He calls out her name.  Instantly, she knows it’s Jesus!  Something about His voice.  His voice.  Oh, that’s it!  His voice.

(“His voice” has contextual significance to that year in writing. Because you’ve still got a way to go in reading, I’ll save you from the pile of stuff that matters to the author, but likely adds too little value to you. Thanks for your trust. It mattered to me and then.)

Yet, God had another reason for sending me to John’s account of Resurrection day.  And it was not to land on the story of Mary or to expound on the deep significance and application of “His voice.”  For a reason I do not recall right now, I returned to the beginning of the chapter.  I believe I was trying to confirm timing for an opening paragraph that was going to read something like one I wrote back in 2014 …

The bright, brilliant Light has broken through the darkness on Resurrection morning, and He is Risen, as He said!

I began to read and stopped dead in my tracks after verse one.  Wait … did I just read that right?!

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

No way!  While it was still dark?!  Mary arrived at the tomb and found the stone had been rolled away while it was still dark?!  In all the years I have been writing about Resurrection morning, the hope and promise (and resurrection itself) were all associated with the breaking of the dawn.  The bright, brilliant Light shows up and ends the darkness.  But that’s not what happened, and that’s not what happens in our own lives.  In so many ways, our lives echo the truth of “while it was still dark.”  At the moment of genuine belief, faith and salvation, the Light does not forever displace the darkness.  There are many reading today who persist in faith yet are deeply entrenched in a season of darkness.  They are still waiting and praying for the bright, brilliant light to break, or maybe they’ve experienced the temporal victory of the darkness — the times when their prayers for healing were answered on the other side of eternity, not in the here and now.  If Jesus’ resurrection waited until after sunrise; if His power over sin and death in this life were only true after dawn had broken, then what do we do when ours hasn’t?  What do we do when the clouds in our season of suffering obscure the sunrise that we know has happened, but that we can’t see?

I LOVE the discovery (after so many years of reading the story) that Mary found the stone rolled away while it was still dark.  I LOVE the true knowing that happened in that moment.  I SO see Jesus walking out of the tomb into the darkness that will hold sway over this world until He visits it again.  I see the intention.  I hear Him having a conversation with the darkness.  I hear Him having a conversation with mine.

Jesus broke the power of death forever in waking and walking out of the tomb.  Just as He does not manipulate our choices, He has not forever displaced the darkness with light … YET.  If, this morning, you woke again to your own darkness; if, today, you do not see the sunrise that everyone around you seems to see … know this!  Jesus rose again into the darkness.  He has forever conquered it, but He rose again into it.

Jesus didn’t wait for dawn to break.  You can trust Him when yours hasn’t broken yet either.  Hold on.  Take Heart.  Trust.  Cast your worries, burdens, failings, false hopes, resolve, promises to never do that again and anger on Him.  And in the casting, find that it is all part of the “stuff” He became and then paid for on the cross a couple of days ago.  I pray you experience the bright, brilliant Light today.  I pray that you feel the warmth of the Son on your face.  But even if you don’t … take heart! He is Risen, and sin and death have no power over you anymore!


Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts this Easter season….He is risen indeed! ✝️


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