In Mark's story of the resurrection, the women return from the open tomb in silence, even though they've been told to "tell his disciples and Peter." Instead, "trembling and bewildered," Mark says, ". . .they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid."
At first glance, one can't help but wonder at their timidity; of any mortal whose ever lived, each of them has reason to preach the gospel, to scream if from Israeli mountaintops. But they were afraid. What on earth is wrong with them?
Cradle Christians, like me, hear the story thousands of times--enough so that it can seem a yawner. It takes some adjustment to remember that the women's thoughtful cemetery visit ended in crippling shock. Not only was that massive stone gone, so was their very special friend. He's risen. He's left. Life returned. He walked away. The stone got moved, and he stepped right out of the cave, ladies. He's come back from the dead. Somewhere, he's back on his feet, just like you and me.
Imagine their stony silence.
They left, scared to death.
They were there when it happened, when a human being returned to life. They hadn't heard the tale a thousand times.
Pieter Brueghel's Numbering at Bethlehem shows us the wrong season for the day, but it's masterful in its portrayal of how incredible incidental Jesus's birth must have been in a crowded tax season. That's Mary on the donkey--center, lower right. What must it have been like to be there?--that's the question it asks, just as the women's deep fear begs us to live in their hearts. What happened at the cemetery made absolutely no sense, and they were scared witless.
Makes sense. So would I have been.
To think of it that way, Easter is still is shocking. He's up and at it. He's back at work. The stone is rolled away.
The story may get old, but it's still a miracle. It's still the miracle of all time. Is it any wonder they were scared?