When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
These three faithful women have been with Jesus through everything.
Their hearts heavy with love, they go at sunrise to offer Jesus this last gift, the care of his body.
Through the gauzy, sentimental lens with which we often read scripture, it sounds romantic. I picture soft light and a quiet dawn. I see the love and grief in the women’s faces, their determination not to be silenced by violence. They will not abandon their beloved friend and son.
Through that sentimental lens, it’s easy to filter out the reality of the scene they must have expected. They had been at the crucifixion; they knew what Jesus had been through. The body would have been bloody. It would have begun to smell.
The reality of actual bodies is not as pleasant as the fantasy of that soft dawn light.
Bodies are complicated; they don’t always do what we want them to do. Having to deal with your own body is hard enough. But another’s? No thanks. Personal care attendants are paid low wages and receive precious little time off or other benefits. New parents of infants are depicted as exhausted and unwashed, blinded by the needs of our miniature household tyrants. (Yes, I’m a mother, and yes, I know there is truth in that.) Aging parents decline, and those who once met our needs, need to be cared for themselves.
They make noise.
Bodies belong to God.
Bodies are holy.
This is what these three women remind us. God meets us in a body in Jesus Christ, a smelly, leaky, noisy body (no one knew that better than his mother, Mary).
The women go to care for Jesus, but he is not there.
Where is he? Right here.
Right here in that baby whose diaper just exploded poop up their lower back practically to their shoulders. Jesus, in the cancer patient whose arms are covered in bruises from IV needles, the incontinent octogenarian whose sheets need to be changed, the addict with vomit on their shoes.
Jesus, too, in the child whose toes can almost touch the sky as they pump their legs higher and higher in the playground swing. Jesus, too, in the laboring body, bringing a child to be born.
God chooses human vulnerability and frailty in incarnation. For love, and because there is a constructive good in physicality. In experiencing the care of others, we know that we aren’t our own masters. In caring for others, we act out the gifts of love Jesus taught. The gift of God comes both in the giving and the receiving. And we need both to experience God’s grace in it’s fullness.
Christ, the frail, Christ the strong, Christ the suffering. Christ, the joyful, Christ the dying. Christ, with us, bodily resurrected in all of God’s glory.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Flickr]