While It Was Still Dark

Published 6:27 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

By Charles Qualls

There’s something about the early morning that is just different from the rest of the day. I’m talking about those times when you get up and outside extra early, while it’s still a bit dark. No one else is even stirring.

It’s not just the lack of light. Maybe it’s because you are off-rhythm or your senses aren’t fully awake just yet. Somehow the day hits a little harder at first, even air feels and smells different. Your skin can feel the outside in a heightened way that early, even if your mind hasn’t fully caught up to speed just yet.

I can remember those few times a year when our Dad would take both my brother and me out to open the store with him. It hurt for a second as he jolted me out of my sleep, that early. But the excitement always kicked in quickly.

I loved opening the store early. Going out into the cool morning and then unlocking the door. Flipping on just enough light to get around. Grabbing a quick bite of breakfast and having the place to ourselves for about 10 more minutes before anyone else showed up at the opening hour of 6:30 a.m.

Early mornings will grab at your senses in a way that almost nothing else will. That’s where this Easter story begins. There are no embalming elements in John’s version of this story. Mary appears empty-handed, at least here. There are fewer sojourners off to the Tomb. Just Mary Magdalene, alone in the cool newness of the morning with her fresh grief.

Her beloved Lord Jesus has been murdered at the hands of the always dangerous joining – of Church and State. Her tears may have been running down her cheeks and dripping into the dusty road as she shuffled along toward her visit at the Tomb.

There was no pageantry on this first Easter. There were no loud voices singing praises to remind her that victory was at hand. Like every one of us in our lives, all she knew at the moment was all she knew.

She looked into the tomb, but there was not a body there. Maybe someone had stolen it. Maybe someone had a good reason for removing it. Maybe the gardener, who was right there, had simply removed Jesus’ body. She was looking for a body, when the living Christ was standing behind her.

She turned and looked at him. She was grieving and confused. Now at the empty tomb, in her understandable state of mind the one thing she wasn’t looking for – the one thing she was unable to see – was a living Jesus.

There in the earliness of the day and in her confusion, she heard the voice of Jesus. He called her by her name, “Mary.” She responded with his familiar title of honor, a word that recognized he was her teacher. “Rabboni.” Jesus told her not to linger there, but instead to go to the disciples and to tell them what she had seen.

A family gathered once with their minister to plan a funeral. The matriarch of the family had fallen ill and was now gone. Now her husband summed up their lives together for 74 years. He said, “We loved each other, and we tried to tell each other that every day. We also loved Jesus. We tried to tell him that every day by the way we’ve lived our lives.”

Mary went and told. Not everyone took her seriously. What she had seen seemed unbelievable. Peter and John visited the tomb. Peter returned home, pondering all he had experienced. But John stayed for a time, and he believed.

Now, the hope and victory of Easter commission us to go and tell. Or, as the writer Wendell Berry said in his poem “Manifesto,” we are sent to go and practice resurrection as we live.

Can you find a way to practice resurrection in a world that sometimes looks dark and cold to us? In an age that could pull me or you away from hope in so many ways, can you instead add hope? Jesus Christ is risen! Mary began her journey toward hope while it was still dark.

So, don’t just live. Go and practice resurrection. Let your loved ones, and Jesus, know that you love them. Do it every day by how you live. Who knows? You may just lift the darkness for you or for someone close to you.