Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30.5)
The novelist and psychotherapist Salley Vickers opens her first novel, Miss Garnet’s Angel, with these words:
Death is outside life but it alters it: it leaves a hole in the fabric of things which those who are left behind try to repair.
When someone we love dies, there is a hole left in our life that often fills quite quickly with sadness, tears, fears, regrets and guilt.
It was just the same for those who loved Jesus.
The women returned to the tomb on the Sunday. Jesus had been crucified on Friday, but Saturday was the Sabbath, when no work could be done. They still had the task of anointing the body of Jesus. They had to finish the job. They couldn’t live with themselves if they just left him there. They had to repair the hole left by Jesus’ death.
Perhaps it was because they were still a bit numb, but they hadn’t thought it through. On the way, they wonder how they can roll away the stone so they might carry out their melancholy duty. But when they arrive, the stone has already been rolled away.
They go in—hearts a-thumping, I should imagine—not knowing what they might find.
In the Gospel According to Mark, they are met by a young man. He says:
Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.
Mark leaves the women fearful and mute, running from the tomb. The mysterious young man was offering them a new future, a future no longer preoccupied with fears of death, but they couldn’t accept it right away.
In the Gospel According to Mark, the women had stood at a distance watching while Jesus was crucified. They knew where the tomb was. But the men had cut and run. They had shown themselves as cowards—and the leader, Peter, was worse than most. Peter had a big hole to repair, big enough for him to fall into, and he didn’t know how to repair it.
Since the young man had named him specifically, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter.
Just a few days earlier, on the Thursday evening, Peter had denied knowing Jesus while warming himself beside the fire in the high priest’s courtyard. Three times. He had tried to be there, but in reality he had turned his back on Jesus in his hour of need.
Yet now Jesus is reaching out to Peter in love, in forgiveness. Jesus has no wish to punish, no desire for revenge.
Salley Vickers says that after a death, those who are left behind must try to repair the hole that is left; the risen Lord Jesus is seeking to do that work of repair in Peter’s soul. It’s what we call grace. It’s a gift, for us to receive. It brings to us hope for a new life, for a future that isn’t defined by the sins and mistakes of the past.
Peter had denied Jesus, but that didn’t define his future. The hole can be repaired. When Jesus pours his new life into Peter, Peter is set free for a new future, an open future.
Jesus is risen. Now. Present tense. He offers new life to all so that our future need not be defined by what we’ve done and who we’ve been.
The hole in the fabric of things is being repaired. It has been repaired by Jesus.
It doesn’t matter who we are, where we’re from, what we’ve done or what has been done to us. Jesus offers new life, risen life, life without end. And it starts now.
The women received it, in the end. Peter and the other disciples received it. Can you receive it?
The love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and peace of the risen Lord are a gift for us. Let us receive it today. Let us receive him today.