There are many stories and images from my life that are as vivid and real to me as when they first happened. From 1968 to 1971, the Burton family lived on the Quechan Indian Reservation in Yuma, Arizona. After moving to Yuma and getting settled into first grade my teacher noticed that I was having a hard time seeing the chalk board so my parents took me to the local optometrist. After an examination it was determined I needed glasses.
After my appointment, my dad struck up a conversation with the optometrist and learned that he owned a gold mine. The Rob Roy Mine, as it was called, got its name because it was started as an attempt to "rob" from a lost vein of gold of a much larger and more productive mine on the other side of the mountain. The Rob Roy mine was a small operation that was never profitable.
The optometrist purchased the mine in hopes of working it in his spare time. It was a long time ago and I was young so I don't know for sure but I suspect the optometrist had dreams of finding the lost vein of gold and striking it rich. Like so many dreams of wealth or fame, it never happened.
What I do remember is the optometrist inviting us to visit the mine on several occasions. I remember looking down one of the vertical shafts. I laid on my stomach with my dad holding my belt so I could shine my flashlight into the darkness. I also remember asking the optometrist, "What would happen if someone fell into the hole?" he matter-of-factly replied, "You would be lost forever."
When Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb on that first Easter morning, she was sure that Jesus was lost forever. The triumphant entrance on Palm Sunday was only a shadow in Mary's memory as she struggled to deal with the loss of the one who had pulled her back from the darkness and despair of a former life. It was if Jesus had fallen into a bottomless black hole leaving those who loved him behind. Three years of excitement and anticipation for a better future was over. There was no hope. The disciples were in hiding out of fear for their own lives. The teacher, the healer, the story teller was gone.
Only Mary had the courage to go to the tomb under the cover of darkness. What a shock it must have been to arrive at the tomb and discover that the stone was rolled away. Had she interrupted grave robbers? Were they still there? What would they do if they saw her? There was nothing else she could do but run and hope for the best.
She ran to Peter and the others. Out of breath she exclaimed to the disciples, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." In a panic, Peter, Mary, and another disciple ran to the tomb and find it empty. Then, as if forgetting all about Mary and her emotional state, Peter and the other disciple leave her crying at the tomb to run and tell the others.
Slowly and carefully Mary gathers up enough courage to peer into the tomb. There, in the place where Jesus body should have been, there were messengers who ask Mary why she is crying. When she turns from them (Maybe to run away again) she sees a man who she assumes is the gardener who also asks her why she is crying. "They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have placed him," she tells the stranger. When the man says her name, "Mary," her eyes are suddenly opened and she realizes it is Jesus. Suddenly, Mary is running again. This time she doesn't run out of fear and despair but from excitement and joy.
That first Easter morning was life changing for Mary Magdalene and the disciples. I would suggest that as we gather one Easter Sunday morning after another to celebrate an empty tomb and a risen Christ, we become part of the story as it transforms our lives and the lives of others through us. Think about it.