Paul Greenberg

 

Call me Mary -- not the one who bore Him, but she who was borne up by him, little did I know it at the time. And you? You say you're some sort of scribe. Lord knows there is always something to write about in Judaea.

I do not mean to be inhospitable, young man. Blessed be he who comes, as they say. Recline. Rest yourself. Have you had something to eat, a glass of wine for your stomach's sake? You must wash your feet, change your sandals. For I know it is a long, dusty trip up here, and with us it is a commandment to take in the stranger and treat him as one of our own. Some grapes, perhaps? They're fresh from the vineyard. Eat, eat.

That day you ask about never leaves me, or rather I never leave it. Any more than someone would draw away from the light. There are some days that change one forever, beyond forever.

Seeing is believing, they say. They say a lot of things. My experience is quite the other way around: Believing is seeing. You say you want to know what really happened. That is the way it is with you scribes. Just as it happened, only the facts, ma'am. Ah, the veil of facts. You don't really want to peer behind them, do you? The sight would be too wondrous to credit.

Forgive me, I do not wish to be unkind. Only later did it make sense even to me, a kind of sense-beyond-sense, the way a joke does when it finally dawns on you, and you have to laugh out loud. With a joy that never leaves you. You have hit upon a story, young man, the greatest story ever told, little though you may recognize it.

I didn't. Not at first. What a solemn little fool I was, don't you know? I was expecting the worst, of course. As we all were, I suppose. Oh, we of little faith! Or else we wouldn't have believed the worst when actually the best was at hand. The worst, we are always prepared to believe. Like you in your business. But never the best.

That's the way it was with me that bleak early morning. The sadness, the awfulness of it, I understood what I would find, or rather not find. I'd been prepared for it by the kind of life I'd led. I knew what men are like, what life is like, and that neither ends well.

I was perfectly prepared for how bad Good Friday would be. But Easter Sunday? That was quite beyond me. How could I have understood? You might as well have tried to describe sight to the blind, music to the deaf, a joke to the hopelessly solemn. My reality was limited to the evidence of things seen, the substance of things feared.

I could have predicted even before I went to the tomb that I'd be disappointed. That's what I'd expected and that's what I found. The stone was rolled away and ... nothing. The disciples only confirmed it when they looked inside. He was gone and would never return. It had all been for naught, just as we feared, then expected, and all too quickly accepted. We see what we train ourselves to see.

So when I saw the gardener -- for who else could it be? -- I wept and wailed and asked for the kind of help I knew neither he nor anyone else could give me: that he return my Friend, my Lord, my Hope, to me.

Not that I really expected anything of the sort. I'd seen what had happened -- from a distance. I could not bear to stand close, like the men. And yet I could not tear myself away, either. I could not leave Him like that. You have friends, don't you, young man? Could you leave them like that? All I asked the gardener was to tell me where they had taken him.

Then I heard my name. How strange, I thought. How could the gardener have known me? That's when I turned. And I realized who had spoken to me, who The Gardener was, and the whole, fake world was turned upside down, the facade torn away, the night shattered as the sun rose. He had risen.

Funny how all you need is to be called by your right name -- and turn. You have to turn, young man. That's the key. Only then can you can really see Him, as if for the first time. Then everything falls into place. Surely you've felt that way when you've been in love, wanting only to serve the beloved, asking for nothing else, knowing it to be the purest happiness. This was like that, only forever.

Another sip of wine? I'd join you, but just to say the blessing. I don't need the wine. I've been drunk with life, and love, ever since that moment when it hit me: The gardener! Well, I'll be! Of course. I'd had no idea.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.