I was staggered at the thought, which for 62 years had been hiding from me in plain sight -- the likelihood that after Jesus’ crucifixion, his followers fell into deep grief and anxiety -- and what must have seemed eternal waiting.
At a prayer service this morning, in a church bereft of consecrated host and crucifix, I heard a deacon talk about the day after Christ’s crucifixion and his speculation on what they saw, felt and experienced the day after Christ’s death, hours before his resurrection.
Detail of Mary Magdalene kissing the feet of the crucified Jesus, Italian, early 14th century. She is one of the three Marys found in the Irish song "Caoineadh na dTrí Muire," and cited in the Gospel of John as present at Jesus' death.
Jesus had foretold he’d arise on the third day. But his closest followers, being human, just like their Lord, were left to alternate between bouts of intense grief and fear -- would they ever see Him again and if not, what did that mean for the world!
They were anxious about the future -- here they bet all on a man who many realized could transform the world that they knew. But rather than sweeping despots and hypocrites from thrones and altars, as many hoped, He passed from their midst, not with a bang, but a whimper, dieing a felon’s death, without a sword raised to save him (discounting perhaps Peter’s lopping off the ear of someone from Judas’ cohort the night before).
When the following morning Mary Magdalene found Christ’s body gone, is it truly any wonder that her first thought was that someone stole Our Lord’s remains? The stakes for these first disciples was immense, and a form of denial of Christ’s divinity understandably seemed to take hold at Christ’s death. It was the staggering scenes that unfolded on Easter morning that jolted the disciples and, through the ensuing millennia, the world into understanding the incompehensible. Christ Is Risen! (Uttered with a bang, not a whimper …)