I've been reading in the Gospel of John, from Chapter 13 to the end, and I've been struck continuously by the tenderness of the heart of God.
He was so kind to them, trying to bolster their courage, praying for them, protecting them.
At one point He says to them, "I will not leave you orphans..."
It struck me that that is exactly how CI sometimes makes me feel. Like an orphan. But no matter how overwhelming it feels, Jesus said He would not leave me an orphan. He would send the Comforter -He promised.
Some days I cling to that.
Then in His prayer for us, He said He hadn't lost one of the ones His Father had entrusted to Him, except the son of perdition (Judas). How many times did He protect them from unseen dangers and attacks, as they blissfully argued about who would be the greatest? How many times did satan try to discourage them or destroy their faith? How many times has He protected us?
And then lastly - and this one brought tears to my eyes - there was the matter of Mary Magdalen at the tomb. (I seem to be on a Mary kick lately)
I've read it so many times before, but this time I was there - I could feel her agony.
She was so anxious to to get to Him she came, John tells us, while it was still night! Can you see her, hurrying through the darkness in the chill of the early Spring, running to get to the One Who had cast seven demons - seven! - from her body? See her as she wept broken-hearted, stricken to the core with grief, appalled and horrified that some creep would actually steal the body of Jesus?
She knew how much the Pharisees and Sadducees hated Jesus, could only imagine the disrespect with which His body would be treated. Or perhaps the rich folks were upset because Jesus was buried in their graveyard - they didn't want the notoriety, the scandal.
She'd come that morning to undo His hastily prepared body - Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea had been in such a hurry to get it done before the Sabbath began at sundown and perhaps had been sloppy (men!) She wanted His body properly prepared - washed well, the spices tenderly twined and wrapped, His body respectfully entombed with honor and reverence.
How absolutely horrifying to find the stone rolled back, the tomb empty!
She ran to the apostles and told them, then ran back, following them to the tomb. Peter and John looked in, one after the other, looked at each other - and left!
Where did they go? Why didn't they tell her what to do?
So she bent down to look into the tomb - and two men, sitting one at the head and one at the feet where Jesus had lain said, "Woman, why are you crying?"
Sobbing, she answered, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where to find Him."
Disconsolate, sobbing, confused, her stomach churning, her heart breaking, perhaps she was wondering if the demons would come back now that Jesus was dead.
Blinded by tears, she saw what she thought was the gardener.
He spoke to her, so gently, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
"Oh please," she sobbed, "If you've taken Him, just tell me where and I'll go get Him!" (translation liberties mine) "You don't have to do anything! Please, please just tell me..."
And then her frantic sobbing and despair were banished by a single, tender, gentle word:
She knew that voice. She knew it!
It was HIM! And He was alive!
Sobbing now out of joy and wonder, she fell at His feet and did the only thing an unrelated female could do in that day and culture - she grabbed His feet - His precious, broken, nail-scarred feet.
Her grip must have fierce - and I believe there was a hint of a chuckle in His voice when He said, "Don't cling to me, Mary - I haven't been to My Father yet! I'll be back."
And that very line - with my translation liberties and emphasis included - really hit me today.
Mary - not the apostles, not even His own mother, was the first person Jesus appeared to that Resurrection Day. He hadn't even been to His Father yet! Imagine it!
He loved Mary with such a great, overwhelming tenderness that He wouldn't let her hopeless grief continue a moment longer - or her fears that the demons would come back, or her horror that someone would desecrate His tomb, His body.
And He loves us with that same great, overwhelming tenderness.
He doesn't want us, either, overwhelmed by grief, or fear, or despair.
Being CI didn't happen to us by accident, dear one. And sometimes, yes, it is heartbreaking, and grief-provoking, and fearful and devastating.
But into that darkness, He speaks our names, too - tenderly, never leaving us orphans, or unprotected, or Comfortless.
Like the stars, He calls us each by name.
And all we need to do, really, is listen.