Were You There?
Sharon W. Betters
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (Luke 23:16a).
Many years ago, our church celebrated Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) with a somber, dark service. We ended this particular service with the song, Were You There. Our then six-year-old son, Daniel, snuggled into my side and started crying. That night the Lord saved our son. He was so taken with what he had experienced he later begged his little brother Mark to ask Jesus into his heart as well. Were You There was sung by slaves, and down through the ages has confronted each of us with the question, “Have you been to the Cross? Do you know Jesus?”
WERE YOU THERE?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Well, were you there when the stone was rolled away? Were you there when the stone was rolled away? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when the stone was rolled away?
Why does this song touch the deepest part of our emotions? Ace Collins says this:
“Maybe the fact that spirituals were the joint cries and shouts of Christians looking for the freedom that only God could bring gives the message of this song much more impact. None of us were there in body when Christ died, but all of us need to go there in spirit. To understand the gift of salvation, each sinner must realize that he or she is a slave to the world: only then does seeing Christ on the cross make the impact all the more real.” Stories Behind the Traditions and Songs of Easter, February 4, 2007, Ace Collins.
The women of the resurrection were there. Their stories do not end at a sealed tomb, and neither does ours.
Over the past few weeks, like so many of you, I have felt sad and burdened for the many whose lives will never be the same because of losses caused by the pandemic. Within one twenty-four-hour period, I learned of three healthy young men who either died or were fighting for their lives against COVID. Several elderly grandparents lost their battle against COVID, dying alone in a nursing home, and their families were devastated that they could not be with them in those final moments. The long-ranging impact cannot be imagined: jobs lost, businesses closed, families trying to make food stretch when they don’t have another paycheck coming in, isolated elderly people, parents realizing just how short their fuses are because they are spending so many hours stuck in a house with their children, domestic abuse victims more isolated than ever. What is God doing? How can His children be His hands and feet, arms and love? I think the women of the resurrection may have struggled in a similar way. Their beloved Jesus was dead. Their dreams were shattered. Their grief was overwhelming.
They followed Jesus – they were His disciples and learned that to follow Him meant suffering. To follow Jesus meant dying to self, but following Jesus also gave them the opportunity to experience His life-giving resurrection power.
They were not selfish followers. They were not like those who followed for a while out of curiosity and wandered away when Jesus did not meet their needs the way they wanted. These women did not view Jesus as a commodity but as their beloved friend and Rabbi and eventually their Messiah. Each of the four Gospels includes their presence at the Cross and their encounter at the tomb. The gospels name Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the women who supported Jesus’ work and followed Him to the Cross and then the tomb.
Mary Magdalene, a woman, was the first to see Jesus alive. He commissioned her to “go and tell” the disciples that He had risen from the dead. Can you imagine Mary and the other women’s shock and maybe their inability to get the words out? No wonder the men didn’t believe them! He commissions us to go and tell as well.
Father, open our eyes and hearts to the incredible gift of salvation Jesus purchased for us, to the power of the resurrection, not only in conquering death but in the hundreds of mundane ways we must die to self every day. Remind us that it’s through dying that fruit grows. May we patiently trust You to produce spiritual fruit as we go and tell, “Jesus is alive!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon W. Betters is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the Director of Resource Development. Sharon is the author of several books, including Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-author with Susan Hunt of Aging with Grace. She is the co-host of the Help & Hope podcast and writes Daily Treasure, an online devotional.
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.