Only now did she begin to understand. All his words which had made no sense before now began to make shape and meaning, a shape that was both terror and glory. She had never really understood before how intimately the wonder and the horror, the good news and the bad, were interconnected, at least on this earth. But now, having lived through the crucifixion, the knife-twisting moment of the empty tomb, and the moment, almost too much for human flesh, when he had called her by name and she had come face to face with Resurrection; she began to understand, with her heart before her head, what this salvation he had talked about actually looked like.
It did not begin with keeping the law. No wonder the law keepers, the self-appointed righteous of the nation, had hated him so much. Long before his disciples had any real grasp of what he was talking about, their defensive fear had recognised the threat he posed to them. They were not the centrepiece of God’s kingdom, and never could be, for the one who stood in their midst showed up all their carefully orchestrated piety for the shallow window-dressing it really was. He himself was the centrepiece just by being who he was. But even then, it would not have mattered at all if they could have let go of their pride and listened and believed. Nicodemus had managed it, so had Joseph of Arimathea. But Caiaphas and his ilk could no more go there than a camel could fly (or pass through the eye of a needle, perhaps?). In order to say ‘yes’ to the Master, they would have to say no to themselves, and that was the one thing which they would not, could not, do. And that, right there, was the heart and nub of the issue.
The Master himself had said it, “Except a seed fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” There was no holding on, any attempt to cling to this shadow of life, this shadow of having and being, was nothing less than a death grip which would strangle your own soul. Hold onto the stuff of this world, the things, material and immaterial, from which we build our little gestures of would-be security, and one would have no hands left to take the hand which God Himself was holding out. One must let go, be willing to fall down into the darkness of abandoned hope, face the bad news of utter loss, but do so in faith because there was a glorious dawn to follow the darkest night.
The Master had said it so clearly, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” At the time the words had just added to her painful confusion, now that he himself had walked through death to life again, he had made a way for whoever would follow him to take up their own cross until He became their whole life. There would be grief, there would be suffering, for the children of God are not immune to the pain of this broken world, but there would never again be a pain which he did not inhabit, a tomb to dark for his life to meet you there and bring you through to resurrection.
“Do not cling to me,” He had said; and now she understood why. To cling to him was to cling to the earthly human comfort, the warmth of a friendship like no other. To cease to cling was to receive, instead, the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, the Eternal Lover who would never let her go. Her hands might be empty, but his hands would never be, and he would hold her fast forever. This was the Good News and the Joy that waited for her on the other side of all this death that she must pass through. The night had ended, and the morning had come, and the very leaves on the trees whispered “Alleluia!’