Today’s reading is John 20:1-18 (ESV):
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
An elementary school teacher assigned the class to fill empty Easter eggs with something symbolic of spring and renewal. The next day, all of the children presented eggs filled with toy caterpillars and butterflies and lotuses and phoenixes, all except one. One child brought back an empty egg. The teacher feared he didn’t understand the assignment. Not wanting to humiliate him in front of the class, the teacher skipped over him. After all the other children had shared their stories and the teacher attempted to move to another subject, the child raised his hand and asked the teacher if he could present his egg. He walked to the front of the class, opened his empty egg, and said, “The tomb is empty.” The tomb is empty.
In the Anglican tradition, the Wednesday of Holy Week (i.e. today) is the host of Tenebrae, a service featuring scripture readings, solemn hymns, and the extinguishing of a white Christ candle. It is a service of darkness, literally and figuratively, to recreate the betrayal and agony of Jesus’s death, to understand the sorrow and sacrifice, to prepare for the Resurrection. Over the next three days, the Church’s heart will break. Christ has died.
But we know that’s not the end of the story. In John 20, our passage for today, Christ has risen. Christ has risen. To use the words of the Nicene Creed, “For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day, he rose again.” I cannot articulate the beauty, power, or implications of this profound miracle, but I invite you to contemplate the events in this passage and imagine yourself as Mary Magdalene. For me, the purpose of Lent and of 40 Days in John is to surround myself with the story of Jesus Christ, so that my heart can begin to comprehend John 20 on Easter.
The dark services of Tenebrae and Good Friday remind me of the awe-striking, miraculous nature of the Resurrection and prevent the joy of Easter from feeling superficial or abstract. More importantly, these days remind me that Jesus Christ is our light in the darkness, our shining hope, without whom we are utterly blind and lost. There may be times when we cannot see the light of Christ, literally in Tenebrae services and figuratively in a broken world, but the candle will always be relit, for the tomb is empty.
Elizabeth Hubbard ’18 is a Junior in Lowell House studying Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology.