Unable to sleep in the hour before dawn, I join Simon outside the house. There doesn’t seem to be anything to say, so we sit in the darkness. It’s not exactly waiting, although I know that sooner or later the sun will rise.
That’s where Mary of Magadala finds us. Out of breath and weeping, she spits the words. “He’s gone. They took the body. We don’t know where, he’s gone....”
I am on my feet and running almost before I can make sense of what she said. The run is long, earth pounding against my feet, breath coming in gasps. Is it not enough that they had him killed? Is it not enough that they won?
Heavier footsteps echo mine; Simon follows without a word.
Somewhere, he falls behind, maybe losing his way as I turn out of the city. He has not yet been to the tomb.
I stumble into the garden alone.
The stone I had seen pushed across the opening in the rock has been rolled back. Clinging to one side, and barely visible in the dawn light, is the broken clay of the Roman seal. Not even waiting to catch my breath, I make myself cross the garden and bend to look inside the tomb.
Mary is right; there is no body here. But what I do see, I don’t quite believe. I stand there leaning against the rock, staring.
Simon catches up to me. He curses forcefully, and I think of our fishing boats out on the sea together, and of a man before whom Simon’s bluster turned to awe.
He does what I can’t–-ducks right inside to get a closer look. “John,” he says, sounding the way he does when he asks me or James to quote part of the Torah that he can’t quite remember. “What did they do? How?”
I follow him in, moving to one side to let in as much early light as possible. Simon is crouched over the linen burial wrappings, lying just where the body had been laid. He reaches out to touch the cloth, then hesitates.
I crouch beside him. The linens are still wrapped together, fold on fold, tucked neatly in, pouring the heavy scents of myrrh and spices into our faces. I touch the wrappings, fallen almost flat to the stone itself. There is no body inside. And the head cloth is displaced, neatly rolled up apart from its fellows.
Simon looks at me, eyes wide like a child’s. “John?”
I shake my head; we’re both uncertain here.
But somewhere in my gut, where I’ve held only empty darkness since the ninth hour on the hill of execution, something stirs. I don’t think it’s hope. That died with him.
I don’t have a name for it, but there’s a change coming. I don’t know what to do to meet it, or what it means, but maybe it will meet us, if we wait. “We should go tell the others.”
Mary of Magdala is sitting outside, crying, when we leave the tomb. I have nothing I can say to her, so I keep walking. Simon comes with me. The sun has topped the hills.
By the time we reach the upper room, I still don’t know what we saw, or what to tell the others. But I want to speak, and even if there are no more answers, I find that I can ask questions again.
This can’t be hope. I know better than that. But I wonder.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!