“Just One More Miracle…”

Unlikely as the start of this post will make it seem… Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the last episode of the second series of Sherlock

It’s been observed by many Christian preachers and writers that most of our life is akin to Holy Saturday, that oft-neglected time separating Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For example, Jesuit journalist James Martin:

Benedictine monks singing vespers on Holy Saturday
Benedictine monks singing vespers on Holy Saturday – Creative Commons (John Stephen Dwyer)

In other words, most of our days are not filled with the unbearable pain of a Good Friday. Nor are they suffused with the unbelievable joy of an Easter. Some days are indeed times of great pain and some are of great joy, but most are…in between. Most are, in fact, times of waiting, as the disciples waited during Holy Saturday. We’re waiting….

But there are different kinds of waiting. There is the wait of despair. Here we know–at least we think we know–that things could never get better, that God could never do anything with our situations…. Then there is the wait of passivity, as if everything were up to “fate.” In this waiting there is no despair, but not much anticipation of anything good either.

Finally, there is wait of the Christian, which is called hope. It is an active waiting; it knows that, even in the worst of situations, even in the darkest times, God is at work. Even if we can’t see it clearly right now.

It’s not entirely clear which kind of waiting Jesus’ followers were engaged in during the sabbath that separated Jesus’ death and his resurrection. For most of them, Martin suspects the first, noting (per John 20:19) that the disciples had locked themselves in a room, fearing for their own lives. But he also speculates “that the women disciples, who overall proved themselves better friends than the men during the Passion, were more hopeful.”

Holbein, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb
Hans Holbein the Younger, “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” (ca. 1521) – Wikimedia

Indeed, I’d love to know what was going through the heads of those disciples that Saturday. The Bible is silent on this point, but, strangely, fiction might help us to imagine…

At a few points in the life of this blog, I’ve made excessively clear my appreciation for Sherlock, the BBC’s reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories that stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the master detective. In the last episode any of us has seen, a cliffhanger entitled “The Reichenbach Fall,” the great detective seemed to meet his demise after an encounter with his arch-enemy, the master criminal James (well, Jim in this rendering) Moriarty. Apparently in despair after Moriarty schemed to destroy his reputation, but in reality to save the lives of his friends, Sherlock jumped from the roof of a hospital — as his best friend, Dr. John Watson, watched from the street below. The last we — and Watson, though he was disoriented after a collision with a bicyclist — saw of Sherlock was what looked like his bloodied, crumpled corpse on the pavement.

The episode ends with Watson standing at his friend’s grave, offering moving words of tribute and gratitude that end with a desperate, impossible plea:

You told me once that you weren’t a hero. There were times I didn’t even think you were human. But let me tell you this: you were the best man, the most human human being that I’ve ever known. And no one will ever convince me that you told me a lie…. I was so alone, and I owe you so much.

But please, there’s just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle for me, Sherlock: don’t be dead.

As the camera pulls back, we see that Watson’s miracle has happened — though he won’t realize it until the third series starts (later this year in Britain, early next in the US).

I watched the episode again last week and had two ideas come to mind. First, C.S. Lewis’ famous notion that “the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths…”

Fra Angelico, Women at the Empty Tomb
Fra Angelico, “The Women at the Empty Tomb” (ca. 1440) – Wikimedia

Second, that on that first Holy Saturday, the most hopeful of Jesus’ followers might have said — in their churning minds and desperate hearts, if not aloud — something very similar to what Watson said at his friend’s grave: “Thank you for ___________… No one will convince me you weren’t the Messiah… But please, just one more miracle for me, Jesus: don’t be dead.”

Mary Magdalene, so grateful to be free of those seven demons that she dropped everything and followed her healer, even to the foot of the cross.

Jesus’ mother Mary, her soul pierced with the sword of Simeon’s prophecy as she too watched her son die on the cross… But perhaps a flicker of hope remained as her memory reached back just a few years, to the wedding in Cana that she and he had attended. Jesus had turned water to wine back then, when his “hour had not yet come”; now that the hour had arrived, was not a greater miracle possible?

Lazarus, who knew that it was.

And today we also wait, and pray, “Just one more miracle, Jesus…”

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