“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’”
When I was doing my annual Lenten retreat I came across the last line of this passage and somehow it stuck with me. The scenario is simple enough. The women closest to Jesus went to the tomb to anoint him. I would not know how they felt but I can guess that they were in grief and sorrow, who wouldn’t be? After all their son, friend and teacher just died.
Perhaps they were thinking of how they would react when they would get to the tomb and anoint the body of Jesus. But interestingly enough, the question that they asked was “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” I mean stop and think about it for a moment. Perhaps there were a lot of questions and thoughts and feelings but the question that they asked of each other was so human. They needed someone to roll the stone and being three women they could not possibly do it themselves, thus who will roll the stone. Of course they did not know yet that they were about to be witnesses to the greatest miracle of all. The thing was before this revelation, they were so human. They were focused on how to move the stone.
Like them we are so human in the face of divinity. Like them we failed to see the light of it all. Like them we respond like we have always responded, like human beings. “Who will roll the stone?” What can we do with this problem? How can we solve this dilemma? What will I eat tomorrow? What can I do to make it all better? So human. Not that we should blame them for reacting that way, one cannot expect otherwise because after all, at that point in their lives, in spite of everything that had happened, their humanity was still strong.
Like us. To a lot of us we know about Christ, to a lot of us we worship and adore Him. We believe in our own way. We think we know God, we think we know Christ. And yet time and time again, we ask, who will roll the stone. We think with human minds and see with human eyes and feel with human hearts. Even if we have been given a glimpse of the divine.
The challenge of Easter is to be resurrected from all that has trapped us. The words of Christ on the cross are more than the Seven Last Words. They are challenges to us. “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” is not merely a prayer but a challenge for all of us who have been betrayed and hurt. It is a response so radical that it defies all of our humanity. It is saying, forgive those who have hurt and betrayed even if they have hurt and betrayed because they do not know what they have done.
“Why have you forsaken me” is more than a desperate cry to someone who has seemingly forgotten us. Rather it is an affirmation of spirit that in spite of it all, I cry because I know you are there even if the silence is deafening. “Into your hands I commend my spirit” is more than just a surrender but rather a fulfillment of what you have asked me to do. It is the liberation of my soul. Human as He was in the cross, Jesus showed us the divinity of his spirit. He saw beyond his humanity.
He is asking us the same thing. To be resurrected from ourselves, to see ourselves as more than just human beings. But that takes grace and faith and God is the only one who can give those. To see God beyond our humanity we must take our humanity and surrender ourselves. That is all God needs and wants. To roll away the stone and see an empty tomb is the moment of grace beyond our wildest dreams because in that empty tomb we see beyond our humanity and see God face to face.