Easter Interview: The Woman Who Was There

Paul Greenberg
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Posted: Apr 05, 2015 12:01 AM
Easter Interview: The Woman Who Was There

You say you're some sort of scribe, but what Jew isn't? Especially in these times, when Judaea is rife with talebearers, eager to accept the Roman coin. Our rulers must pay by the letter, to judge by the volume of parchment being turned out.

I do not mean to be inhospitable, young man. Recline. Rest yourself. Have you had something to eat, a glass of wine for your stomach's sake, perhaps a clean toga? 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's it. Forgive the suspicions of an old woman, for you never know just who you're talking with these days, and whether what you say will get back to Herod Agrippa, or maybe Felix, or is it Festus these days? Caesarea or Jerusalem, you've seen one royal court, you've seen them all. It is all as transient as this world.

It was much the same in the old days. I am long since past them, and bent with the years, so forgive me for rambling. Yet 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. But you're not interested in an old woman's meanderings. You want to know what really happened, just as it happened, only the facts, ma'am. Ah, the veil of facts. You don't really want to peer behind them. The sight would be too wondrous to credit.

I do not mean to be unkind. Only later did it make a kind of sense-beyond-sense to me, 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. Even when you dare not show it lest they lock you up.

Much madness is divinest sense -- to a discerning eye. Much sense the starkest madness. 'Tis the majority in this, as all, prevail. Assent and you are sane, demur -- you're straightway dangerous, and handled with a chain.

Old women who live alone have such thoughts. And yet we have no fear, either. I don't, not since that day. A truth greater than the facts, the truth of good news, the truth a story conveys, will have that effect. Then everything falls into place. And you, young man, have hit upon the greatest of stories, though you may not 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 were always prepared to believe. That's life. Or so we thought.

That's the way it was with me that bleak early morning. The sadness, the awfulness of it, I understood instinctively. 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 suppose that's why the men just took a look and went home. There was nothing more to hope for. It was over. We'd convinced ourselves of that with a single glance. We were seeing only with our eyes, and we might as well have been blind.

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.

Anyway, I could have predicted even before I went to the tomb that I'd be disappointed. That's what I'd secretly expected and so that's what I found. The disciples only confirmed it when they looked and saw nothing with their blind eyes. He was gone and would never return. It had all been for naught, just as we feared, then expected, and all too quickly accepted.

Desperate and needy as I was, I still derived a kind of comfort in my destitution, sure at least of one thing -- that all was lost. The empty tomb should have been proof of hope; I saw it only as cause for despair. 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 Easter morning. He had risen.

Funny how all you need to happen is to be called by your right name -- and turn. You have to turn. That's the key. So 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.