why all the tears? | John 20.11-15
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” John 20.11-15 | ESV
But Mary stayed put right in front of the tomb – she wasn’t ready to go anywhere. And she stood there, weeping. And then, looking through her tear-filled eyes, she peered into the tomb as well – and observes not the empty clothes but two heavenly messengers dressed in white and sitting one at the head, the other at the foot of the slab of rock Jesus’ body had been lying on. They spoke to Mary in unison: “Woman, why all the tears?” “They’ve taken my Lord and I have no idea where they’ve put him!” she exclaimed tearfully. And, perhaps hearing a footfall behind her, she spun around to see Jesus standing right there – only she had no clue it was Jesus. Jesus calmly asks her, “Woman, why all the tears? Who are you looking for?” MAV
It’s come to be known as the Via Dolorosa – the Way of Grief, of Suffering, of Pain. An ancient trail of tears from the old city of Jerusalem to the place of the Skull. It’s just about 2,000 feet long. Mary Magdalene still thought she was walking it. Sometimes so do we – and sometimes we are.
This is the beauty of the Passion narrative.
What starts off as a trail of indescribable suffering, unbearable pain, and unquenchable tears, yields to a place of springs, a place of Life, of tears of joy. Life is thoroughly woven together with those two long, teary threads – trails – of suffering and celebration.
Both trails meet at the empty tomb.
Of course it wasn’t empty to start with. Just a day before it had been filled with the sickly sweet smell of a corpse laid to rest, the stone rolled before it with the finality of death itself, sealed and guarded by the powers that be. Now it contains an empty cocoon watched over by angelic sentries whose very garments brighten Sheol ‘s gates, causing them quite literally to shudder, and the stone, rolled in place by man’s hand as if to end the Story with an indelible, giant, deathly period, is rolled back by Another.
A new thread.
A new story.
A new trail watered by unstoppable tears of joy.
If we follow Jesus long enough, we will come to this place – the place where our endless trail of tears finds its end in the happy question, “Woman, why all the tears?”
Wait for it.
Where in your life are you ready to see the tears of suffering replaced with tears of celebration?
Lord, there are still so many tears so often blinding my eyes, obscuring my vision. How I long to hear that question, “Why all the tears?” Sustain me along the Via Dolorosa as I am still faced with it here with clear echoes of that question at the tomb. Give me occasion to weep for joy. Through Christ.