What a maelstrom we are caught in as the full implications of COVID-19 come upon us. Very rapidly Government, business and community leaders stepped up to lead us through these unprecedented times. The whole world has been shaken, as many lives and some livelihoods have been left in tatters. Being overtaken by events beyond our control is not uncommon. Many of us have our own story of dreams that have been torn to shreds during our lifetime. Yet here we are.
The global crisis has upended any sense of ‘normal’ as daily measures are taken to contain the spread of this invisible killer. Our sense of autonomy and the authorship of our own lives has been shattered. None of us have escaped this frightening reality, as everyone within their realm of responsibilities and relationships fights to do what needs to be done.
As we revisit the events of Easter as recorded in the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus’ friends, family and disciples were also caught up in a maelstrom which made no sense to them whatsoever. For Jesus’ first followers this meant facing the agonising loss of someone on whom they’d pinned their hopes and their futures. Worse still, the nature of His death ripped deep scars into their hearts.
We are fortunate to live knowing that Christ’s death was not the end of the story. But give some thought to those first followers who endured the darkness of a Sabbath when all seemed lost. For some women the darkness of these hours was only slightly relieved by the thought that they could make one final act to demonstrate their love. The task of anointing the body for burial was theirs. Imagine the care taken to ensure that the necessary spices and oils were the purest and the best.
But further shockwaves were to confront them when, upon arrival at the tomb, it was empty. Could Mary’s sorrow and bewilderment get any deeper? Little wonder that she was confused when first encountering the unknown stranger in the garden. John 20:10–18 captures the startling conversation which culminates in Mary becoming the messenger to the others that she has seen the LORD!
At Easter this year we will approach our worship and re-telling of the events with a greater sense of identifying with what was happening for Jesus’ first followers. The tyranny of our times helps us to see at a deeper level what it was like to live Christ’s crucifixion in real time. As his followers faced the end of all they’d hoped and dreamed of, and the loss of the One central to the fulfilment of their hopes, they didn’t know the end of the story. They needed to wait through the agonising and bewildering hours of that dark Sabbath before the glorious news of Christ’s resurrection came to them.
We are in the waiting room of uncertainty, not knowing the end of our story; yet we can rest in holy expectation that there is new life beyond the grave and there will be new life beyond COVID-19.
By Colonel Heather Rodwell