I was doing a very ordinary task: washing clothes for the Apostles. I was almost done, and the basket was very heavy.
“Can I help you with that?”
I turned to see who spoke, and a handsome stranger was smiling at me. Rather than speak to him, I simply handed him the basket since my shoulders ached and I was exhausted by the hot sun. Relieved of the burden, I suddenly recalled something Jesus once said: “My yoke is easy; my burden light.”
“You’re smiling at something,” he said, and without thinking, I began speaking to the stranger, something proper women never do. For some reason, I felt at ease as we walked up the dirt path.
“I was remembering Jesus,” I replied softly. “My burdens always felt lighter when he was around. I felt I could handle whatever life brought.”
“Do you think he would ever really leave you?” the man asked. I pondered that silently. After a few moments, he probed, “Weren’t you one of the women at the Cross, and again at the tomb?”
Had he seen me there? Yes, I was among the women who trekked close to 70 miles from Galilee to stay with him, following and offering what support we could. I watched him enter Jerusalem in a parade-like procession, and I danced.
Many women stood at the Cross and later followed Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb. We collected some wildflowers along the way and placed them on Jesus’ body before he was wrapped in the shroud. We saw how Jesus’ body was placed. I felt protective and wanted to properly anoint Jesus’ body after the Sabbath. It was a sober Sabbath: praying, consoling each other, and discussing which of Jesus’ lessons held the most meaning for each of us. For me it was: “Love God. Love people.”
“Do you think he would ever really leave you?” the stranger repeated.
I knew death was not the end. I remembered Easter’s daybreak, the smell of the damp grasses, the sleepy sky, and the way my heart almost stopped when I saw those terrifying beings. They were larger than ordinary men, exuding strength nothing like the quaint picture I had of angels.
“They asked why we were looking for the living among the dead,” I said, and as I heard myself say that aloud, a new thought occurred to me. “While I was wringing out the clothes, I was rehashing my past, as if I was going to find life in old mistakes. I’ve been searching for something life-giving among dead things.” No wonder my shoulders ached.
“I love that about you,” he said, smiling. “You listen to my promptings in your heart.”
It was only then that I noticed that the hands holding my basket were those of someone crucified. A leap of shock and joy shot through my body. And when he said my name, I melted. “You took a terrible risk to stay with me at the Cross,” he said. “You offered me the gift of accompaniment.”
“I would do it again,” I said.
“You will,” he said with a loving smile, putting the basket down at the door. I turned to open it, and he was gone. But my heart felt lighter than a feather, my strength renewed. There are so many other stories… (John 21:25).