He is Risen

Saturday, March 22, 2008

By Jean Bell Mosley

The first day of the week dawned tender with spring. The morning star, low over Olivet, spoke of a cloudless sky. Soft breezes lifted Salome's veil as she walked hurriedly through the shadowy streets of Jerusalem toward the Gennath Gate. She moved quietly, the swish of her skirts muting the sound of her footsteps. In a loop of her sleeve she carried the packages of embalming spices and a fresh length of linen.

Outside the gate she met the other women as planned. They would have taken the roadway that led up the hill past Golgotha but she guided them along a lower, tree-lined pathway that skirted the awful place.

Salome's mind raced ahead to the dolorous task before them. She had done this thing many times, for relatives and friends, even strangers. But this time, it would be for Jesus. She fought down the rising sobs and tried to visualize how the dead face would look, so that she would not grow taint with shock. Perhaps the cavelike sepulcher had been mercifully cool and there would not be too much change when they unwound the hastily wrapped burial clothes. She would run the balm oil across the forehead, beneath the closed eyes, over the high cheekbones. There would be wounds on the forehead, she remembered, where the thorny crown had pierced the skin.

It was misty in the garden, and the sun, having barely topped Olivet, sent broad shafts of slanting light through the trees and shrubs. So substantial did they appear, it seemed to Salome she might climb aboard and walk up into the treetops and beyond, on and on, to another time, another place, another kingdom. Now she could not keep the tears from her eyes when she thought of the kingdom Jesus had described, which was not of this world, yet strangely in this world. If only, oh, if only they had let him live.

"We may have to wait awhile for the gardener to come and roll the stone from the entrance," she said, and even as she spoke, lines of worry creased her forehead, for she remembered it had taken several men to put the stone into position.

"I have heard that Calaphas stationed guards. Perhaps they will help us," Mary of Aiphaeus said hopefully.

Through the mist they saw the top of the rocky outcropping into which the sepulcher had been hewn. The Magdalene ran ahead.

When Salome arrived, only moments later, she saw that the stone had been rolled away and wondered who might have arrived before them. As she approached the entrance the Magdalene was already emerging from the tomb, shaking and white of face, her lips quivering with unspoken words.

Quickly Salome stooped to enter. The odor of myrrh was strong. Her eyes blinked in the strange light that illuminated the interior. She raised a hand to shade her eyes from it, then saw that the place where Jesus had been laid was empty, save for the linen clothes that had been wrapped around the body. She pressed the back of her hand against her mouth to stifle the cry of protest. Her dark eyes snapped with anger. Someone had stolen the body. Was ignominious death not enough for them?

Then, into her clearing vision came the form of a man. The light that brightened the tomb seemed to be coming from his garments which, Salome thought, were strangely like the sunlit shafts of mist outside. His face was like no face she knew. She put her hands before her eyes, heard the quick, terrified intake of breath from the others. And then the man spoke.

"Be not afraid. Ye seek Jesus? He has risen. Go tell Peter and the other disciples that he goes into Galilee and will see them there."

Salome turned to look at the others, wondering If she had heard correctly. Her ups mutely formed the words, "He has risen."

When she heard their whispered echo, "He has risen," all the bright joy she had ever known welled up inside her like sweet spring waters and flowed out into her arms and legs, spreading an indescribable comfort and peace. Trembling all over, she leaned her face against the stone bench where the body had lain and let the great rapture flow over and around and through her, and ebb and flow like some great celestial rhythm to which all things were attuned.

She felt as if strong hands were beneath her, lifting her up and up to a realm where everything was right. A soft, lovely, sunlit world radiated from her in all directions. The pulse at her temple that beat against the damp rock was in perfect time to that greater throb out there in the perfect world. If it should momentarily stop, even here in his tomb, it could somehow, some way, be recovered out there in the bright beyond she now sensed with all her being. For a wild, sweet moment she could not tell in which world she moved, but half hoped that it was the unseen one where strife and pain and fear were unknown quantities.

She felt the tug of her skirts, heard the urging, "Come, Salome. Let us go tell the others as he bid."

Oh, yes, the others. What was she thinking of to keep the good news from them so long? She backed out of the entrance, taking one last look at the emptiness, and hurried off toward home.

Impatiently, the Magdalene ran ahead, waited for them to catch up, then ran ahead again. Salome tried to keep up with the younger women but the pain in her knees was too much. At length she waved them on, and smiled as she saw the Magdalene's bright hair waving like a banner behind her as she easily outstripped all the rest.

Even before she reached the Street of the Carpet Weavers, Salome met the Magdalene returning with Peter and John. John, running, leaping, stopped only long enough to take her by the shoulders and look searchingly into her eyes. Then on he went, like the fast east wind over Galilee.

From "The Crosses At Zarin," copyrighted 1967 by Jean Bell Mosley.

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