Joanna experiences the death and resurrection of Jesus

Joanna’s mind wandered – back to the memories of colorful events that for her had only been experienced in monochrome – outdoor theatre spectacles on the edge of the dead sea, glamorous parties where fine wine and exquisite meals had been prepared and served impeccably by Herod’s seemingly endless staff and servants and time spent reviewing and purchasing the latest fashions and in preparing her appearance for such occasions.  All these things she, in her position as wife of the steward of the King, had been privileged to experience. 

Santa Juana de Cuza-National Shrine & Parish of Saint Anne-Hagonoy

Despite all the splendor surrounding her she had spent years in silent darkness. Ever since she had given birth to a stillborn son she had felt numb while the world around her continued to hum along.  She had masked herself from the world by investing even more time than she had before her loss in ensuring her appearance was immaculate.  She spoke to no one, not even her husband, Chuza, of her heartache.

Despite his high workload Joanna’s distance had not gone unnoticed by her husband. Although their match had been arranged, he genuinely loved his wife and her unhappiness troubled him. Yet he did not know what he could do for her. He had tried to reach out to get her to talk about how she felt about her loss. But this only seemed to discourage her from communicating even more. The more he tried to reach out the more excuses she seemed to have to spend time away from him.

But Joanna had found she could not cut her heart off completely from the world.  She could not ignore the buzz that had infected the workers in Herod’s court. And it was this buzz that led her to first attend of of Jesus’s gatherings.

At first she watched on from a distance and attended purely out of curiosity to see for herself the itinerant teacher who had become so talked about in Herod’s household. But as she attended more and more gatherings it became more than that.  As she listened to his stories her heart felt warmed.  She also watched on at several gatherings as many sick people were brought before Jesus and were healed.

Then, one day, when she had placed herself closer than usual to where Jesus taught he approached her after he had dismissed the crowd.

“God loves you just as much as he loves others.”

“He wants you too to be healed of your heartache and self-loathing.”

“What happened to your son was not in any way your fault.  It did not happen because God loves you any less than he loves others.”

Joanna felt unsure that Jesus was in fact speaking to her or someone near her.  Then, Jesus walked closer towards her and placed his hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her eyes.

A lump deep inside herself seemed to travel from her chest to her throat.  It broke out in uncontrollable sobs.  Her body shook with the intensity of her tears and she felt a great release of a pain deep within her that she had been too fearful to face and define herself.

Since that moment things had been different. 

Her world had changed.  The darkness that had followed her around her for so long had lifted and colour had reentered it once again.  It was not in the glamourous events that she found it but rather in what she previously had not noticed. She had become more aware of natures’ beauty, the love within others and joy in simplicity in things like cool drinks on a hot summer’s day and simple kind acts of someone she did not know very well. These all had become very colourful to her.

But had her transformation been all built upon a false hope? Jesus was dead! Dead! Was this new way she had found of living also to die?

She looked around the room.  The men were mostly sitting alone in silence, withdrawn and despondent. The women were sitting or standing in small groups whispering and weeping. Martha was busying herself with practical matters – laying out food on tables in the centre of the room so that all those present could eat when their bodies required. There was an unspoken agreement that the Sabbath’s meals today would not be shared as usual and no prayers would be recited.

Joanna felt Mary’s anguish from the deep within her. She felt such a tenderness for her and realised there was something she could do that would be able to assist, albeit in a small way – she could organise all the materials to ensure Jesus’ body could be properly treated. There had not been enough time after his crucifixion and burial to ensure this important ritual could be properly carried out.

Joanna looked over to Mary, Jesus’s mother. She was sitting down. Her eyes were red, her shoulders drooped. John was attending to her and had brought her some food from the table Martha had prepared in the middle of the room.

This task gave Joanna a sense of purpose and having something to focus on gave her some relief from the awful thoughts and feelings that had plagued her mind and body all of the previous night.

Joanna approached Martha and told her of her plan and then left the place where Jesus’ followers had been staying to return to Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. It was quiet out in the streets although Joanna noticed a few of Jesus’ disciples had taken themselves outside to clear their heads.

Upon arrival to the palace Joanna summoned her maid. She asked for her to prepare sandalwood and myrh and satchels for carrying the precious elements and upon receiving these from her maid she returned to the disciples.

In the evening on the sabbath, Joanna placed what she had gathered from the palace near a window in a smaller room adjacent to the communal room.  This room faced east and on the night of the sabbath Joanna, Martha and the other women Martha had gathered for the visit to the tomb the next day, slept next to one another in this room. They wanted to be sure they would not wake up any of the men upon leaving and also that the first light would wake them.

Joanna was first to rise. She gently touched the other women one by one and they woke in turn and in silence placed on their headscarves, outer garments and shoes. Though dawn had not yet broken, the cobble stone of the city street was becoming a shade of blue rather than black as they started out to attend to their task.

Their footsteps echoed off the walls of buildings they passed by in the street until they exited the city through a stone framed walkway.  The sound of their steps softened into crunching of sand and small stones beneath their sandals as they exited city walls.  Blue and grey were the predominant colours of the morning light wrapping around shadows of objects whose identities as small shrubs and rocks was becoming more apparent as the light of day steadily increased. 

The women walked in silence. The mood did not muster any blithey chatter that had been the norm for this group of women as they had journeyed alongside one another accompanying Jesus.

The tombs were located at the bottom of the hill of calvary. As a small stream flowed subtly at the base of the slope the shrubbery was more abundant.  As the women entered this area the light of the new day had heightened so more defined colours could be seen – various shades of green of the leaves of the abundant shrubbery and browns, blacks and whites of the bark of some older more mature trees. Pink and red were also there in the buds wildflowers. The stream created a slight moistness that made their scent slightly perceptible despite the fact that they were mostly just budding and only a couple barely opened.

These changes in the landscape went unnoticed by the women.  However, the silence among them was broken as their thoughts turned to more practical matters as they neared the tomb.

‘Who will roll away the stone entrance to the tomb for us?’, Martha voiced her concern. ‘I am not convinced the guards will allow us to enter.

Martha had barely finished her sentence when a sound like constant thunder began to engulf them. The earth started shaking and several of the women, including Joanna, lost their balance and fell to the ground. White brilliance engulfed them so they could not see where they were or where they were going and an invisible wave of energy rushed from the tomb where Jesus had been laid to rest and to where they were headed.  The energy was powerful but good – a wave of love. When the energy force from this wave struck the women some of them lost consciousness. Then two figures started to emerge through the brightness. They were human-like but taller than humans.

“Why do you look for the living among the living among the dead?”

“Jesus is not in the tomb.  He is risen!”

Then the two larger than human figures disappeared.  Joanna became aware that she was lying on her stomach on the ground and her two hands were outstretched in front of her and were holding something.  Whiteness still surrounded her but was starting to subside. She looked through the whiteness and could make out that what she was in fact holding onto were two ankles attached to human feet.  When she looked closer at these feet she noticed two deep healed wounds in their centres. Joanna’s body gave an involuntary shiver.

She was afraid to look up for fear of what it meant.  She was fearful that the enormity of it would overwhelm her.

“You don’t need to cling to me in desperation Joanna and don’t cling to me in my earthly form. There is so much more than it is possible for you to ever imagine to come.”

Joanna looked up at Jesus and his face shone with a vibrant light far more luminescent than anything human. It was if all the memories she had of goodness and love were welling up within her and as if they were happening to her all at once in this moment.  She felt a deep power surge within her, she felt weightless and as if she could fly.

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