Faithful to the End

“And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite from the Tomb.”

(Matthew 27:61)

“And Mary Magdalene and Joses’ Mary observed where he was laid out.”

(Mark 15:47)

“And the women who followed after Jesus, who had come along with him from Galilee, observed the tomb and how his body was laid out. So, the returned and prepared spices and ointments. Then, according to the commandment, they rested on the Sabbath.”

(Luke 23:55-56)

The day of Jesus’ death has come to an end and the synoptic authors make it clear that at least some of the women have lingered and remained here as final witnesses and guardians of the body of our Lord. Once again, Taharah requires the body of the dead to be accompanied at all times from death to burial even if that means one would sit up through the night with the deceased. Indeed, these women are grieving and mourning their own loss in indescribable ways, but in their mourning they do not neglect to show the body of Christ the dignity that is rightfully his as an image-bearer — in fact, as the one who is the perfection of the Imago Dei.

We will not rehearse the identity of these women once again (see Matthew 27:55-56 above). It is clear that each Gospel writer had his purposes for identifying the ones they choose to identify. Matthew focusing on Mary Magdalene, Mark chooses to include Mary the mother of Joses, and Luke simply reminds us that the women are faithful until the end…something that we are unsure of with respect to the rest of the Apostles.

So, as the sun descends on the horizon, the stone is rolled in place by Joseph to seal the tomb from vandals or from those seeking mischief and all will depart with a great sadness that is nothing short of overbearing. It is a reminder for all who have lost loved ones to death that our God has indeed sent his own Son into the tomb. I find that perhaps the best way to close out these reflections would be with the words of John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides Islands, at the advent of the death of his wife and newborn son:

“Let those who have ever passed through a similar darkness as of midnight feel for me; as for all others, it would be more than vain to try to paint my sorrows!”

— from John Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, an Autobiography

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