Submitted by Patty LaRoche
He is on track to revolutionize their country and become its king, but then he is executed, this man who gave sight to the blind, calmed the storm, taught them to pray and showed them unconditional love. A movement so full of life has come to nothing. Their dreams? Crushed.
Their hopes? Now hopeless.
Still, in their darkest hour, a few hang in there.
Their fearless devotion does not end at his death. When the majority of his disciples duck and run, a handful stay with Jesus through the crucifixion and after. Although the Gospel accounts differ, we can piece together some highlights.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus team up to remove Jesus’ body from the cross and anoint him with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe. They wrap his body in a clean linen cloth and carry it to the nearby tomb. “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.” Their plan is to return after the Sabbath to complete what Joseph and Nicodemus began. Luke 23:55-56
Jesus’ faithful are determined to bestow on him an extravagant love.
Take Mary Magdalene, for example, the one whom Jesus saved from demon-possession. In her darkest hour, she refuses to desert her teacher. “While it is still dark,” she and a few other women head to the garden tomb where Jesus’ lifeless body lies on a rock slab. It matters not that a stone the size of a Volkswagen covers the opening or that the tomb is heavily guarded by Roman soldiers. Extravagant love moves forward, no matter how dark the circumstances. Finding the stone rolled away, Mary tears off in a sprint, and upon finding Peter and John, says, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”
The disciples lace up their sandals, pull up their tunics and rush to the tomb to see for themselves. Finding it to be true, they disperse, probably to alert the other disciples.
Meanwhile, Mary stays outside the tomb, weeping. Overcome with hopelessness, she looks inside and sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. They ask why she is crying. “They have taken my Lord away,” she replies, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She then turns to see a man standing nearby. Supposing him to be the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”
In her darkest hour, Jesus calls her by name. Recognizing her Lord, she cries out in Hebrew, “Rabboni!”—which means “Master.” It’s not a “Whew!” moment; nor is it a “Well, surprise, surprise!” reply. Mary’s heavy heart has been restored! Jesus tells her to inform the disciples of what has happened. That will wait. She falls at his feet. It is the Lord. He is not dead. He is risen! The extravagant dark has turned to extravagant light.
Hope. Is. Restored.
It’s the same hope offered to us in our darkest hour. Jesus wants to meet us as he did Mary– in moments of our discouragement and grief, so that, like Mary, we will know our Redeemer lives. Know. Not guess, not question, not presume. Unlike Muhammad. Unlike Buddha. Unlike every other religious leader who died and stayed in the ground. With Jesus, there are no grave remains to visit. His grave is empty.
He is the Hope in which you and I can be sure.
As my friend Joyce once said, “If Jesus can die extravagantly for me, surely I can live extravagantly for him.”