The darkened sky closed in around the four women
and John, that beloved dear one of the Rabbi,
John alone of the disciples,
who stood with the women because
women shouldn’t really see such a spectacle
but how could he keep Mary from being with her son
as he breathed his last?
None of them could bear it
but none of them could do anything to stop it either.
And so they watched and waited,
holding their own breaths until they started to feel dizzy.
Mary, whose eyes never left Jesus’s face,
with tears streaming down her own
drying salt paths along her cheeks,
watched her son’s ragged body shudder
as he took an agonizing breath.
She saw his lips move,
but no sound came forth.
He whispered that he was thirsty,
and someone gave him some bitter wine.
He licked his lips,
She saw the relief wash over him as his spirit—
the very spirit and breath of God himself—
left Jesus’s body, which slumped forward,
straining against the nails that held him to the tree.
Thunder split the sky.
People gasped, startled.
But Mary screamed.
It was a blood-curdling scream.
John, who had been watching Jesus too,
and weeping, too, like Mary,
whirled around and looked for the source of the scream.
All three women had dropped down to their knees around her.
Mary, huddled on the ground,
her knees too weak to hold her up,
lifted a trembling hand toward Jesus,
her mouth agape, her breath ragged.
She had reached the point of no tears.
She could no longer weep.
And so she just crouched,
the shock of the whole ordeal sweeping through her.
It could have been hours or days later,
she could never be certain.
But at some point, the others lifted her to her feet
and led her to the side of the hill,
where someone had taken Jesus’s body
down from the cross.
Nicodemus greeted her.
She saw his mouth moving,
heard sounds that she supposed were meant to be words,
but nothing made sense.
Not a single piece of this made any sense at all.
Mary Magdalene placed her arm around Mary’s shoulders
and looked into her eyes.
“They have released the body to us.
To prepare him…for burial.”
“Burial?” Mary asked blankly,
looking from Mary Magdalene to John.
She couldn’t read John’s face.
“He must be buried, Mary.
He…he is dead.”
Mary nodded and let the others lead her
to the body of her son, lying on the ground,
the crown of thorns still upon his head.
That’s when instinct took over.
She gently lifted his head into her lap
and stared down into the bloodied,
bruised, mangled face of her son,
her baby, her firstborn,
the promise of God
who had been sent to save the world.
How could this be part of the plan?
Her fingers worked slowly, cautiously,
deftly weaving through the blood-matted hair
to gently lift each thorn from the skin
in which it was imbedded.
Soon enough, she tossed the crown aside.
Then she tore a piece of her garment,
poured some water onto it,
and began cleaning his face.
Drops of water fell onto Jesus’s wan cheeks,
and Mary realized that her tears had come again.
How could this be her son,
the one God himself had conceived in her womb?
How could this pallid face
be the face that she once smothered in kisses,
the face that broke into riotous laughter,
the face that smiled at her when she was sad,
the face that held so much more wisdom
than it should have for a twelve-year-old boy?
How could this unruly, knotted, blood-crusted hair
be the hair she had run her fingers through
when, as a child, he had come to her with scraped knees?
How could these hands now marred with holes
be the same hands that worked tirelessly
next to Joseph's as they shaped and smoothed wood
into beautiful things?
How could they be the same hands
that miraculously healed the leper, the blind man, the woman who bled,
the same hands that, through the power of the Most High,
had raised Lazarus from the dead?
Mary gasped and wailed at this thought,
and she fell over the body of her beloved son.
She felt strong hands lifting her into an embrace
and realized that John had pulled her up.
They clung to each other,
mother to her son
and son to his mother,
blessed by Jesus as he had died.
She heard the wheels of a cart and the clopping of mule’s feet,
and turned to see Joseph of Arimathea standing nearby.
Nicodemus was with him, and they spoke in hushed tones
which fell silent when Mary approached.
Joseph stepped forward, reached for Mary’s still-shaking hands.
“Mary, dear one. I am so sorry.”
Her jaw trembled slightly, and all she could manage was a nod.
“I have linens, spices. The finest,” Joseph said.
Nicodemus brought them from the cart,
and he and Joseph began to anoint Jesus’s body
with spices and oils, gently wrapping him in the fine linens
Mary stood near the cart, huddled against John’s side,
sheltered by his strong arm (though she felt him tremble
from time to time, withholding his own weeping for her sake).
When the task was finished, John left Mary’s side
to help Joseph and Nicodemus lift the lifeless body
of their Lord into the cart.
Joseph came to Mary once more.
“I have a tomb,” he said. “It is an ancestral one;
but I renounce my rights to it and give it to you.
For Jesus. I want him to have it.”
Mary nodded, her eyes welling with tears once more.
John helped Mary up into the cart, and the two of them
sat next to the body of Jesus as Joseph directed the mule
toward the tomb.
Mary Magdalene and the other women walked next to the cart
and began singing a song of lament.
But Mary couldn’t hear the words. She couldn’t see the sunlight.
She couldn’t feel the breeze.
She was numb. Her heart felt as lifeless as the body of her son.
When they arrived at Joseph’s tomb,
John and Joseph and Nicodemus gently lifted Jesus’s body
down from the cart and carried it into the tomb,
where they laid him to rest.
Mary stepped into the darkness of the tomb after the others had come back out.
She leaned over the body of her son,
wrapped in linens and anointed with spices.
She kissed his forehead through the linens
“My heart laments, for my firstborn son,
my promise of God, has been taken away from me.
But the faith and trust that led you to be born of my womb
is the same faith and trust that will lead me to see you live again.
I don’t know how. But I have seen you work, Jesus.
I have seen the power of God within you, working through you.
And though you lie here now, cold and lifeless,
I know that nothing can defeat the Most High God.
And so I will wait until such a time as God deems right.
And while I wait, I will trust.
And my trust will not falter,
though my heart sighs with grief.
For you alone, O My God, are the giver of life.
And I will trust in You.”
Then Mary stood.
The trembling had ceased.
The tears had dried.
Her jaw was set and determined,
and she stepped out of the tomb and into the sunlight.
John and Nicodemus and Joseph rolled a large stone
in front of the the entrance to the tomb.
And Mary walked forward
©Amy Lutes 2019