Having bought new linen and taken him down he wrapped him with the linen, put him in a tomb hewn from rock and rolled a stone across the entrance of the tomb.
Mary the Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus watched where he was put.
- Mark's gospel
Mary and Mary, quite despairing,
What are you watching for?
With trembling hands and linen new
we've entombed him, Christ the Lord.
Long before Mel Gibson's Passion was Johnny Cash's The Gospel Road. At least in my personal cinematic history. It's been years ago now, years ago. My preacher-father supported the opening of the film with much the same fervor as evangelicals rallied around Gibson's film several years ago. There were no door hangers for outreach purposes or small group discussion starters to download from the web. It never won any awards, the acting is not necessarily something to write home about, and it never brought the box office to its knees. But Cash's simple, song-laden witness to the story made quite an impression on me. The lyrics that Johnny and his friends wrote are the soundtrack for my worldview.
June Carter Cash, Johnny's wife, played the role of Mary the Magdalene. And to this day, when I read or think of the Magdalene, I see the face and hear the voice of June Carter. And I remember her tears.
June Carter/Mary the Magdalene's puffy cheeks and red eyes are, for me, the good Friday icon of grief. Earlier in the film, she sang John Denver's lyrics:
Follow me where I go what I do and who I know
Make it part of you to be a part of me
Follow me up and down all the way and all around
Take my hand and say you'll follow me.
It was what she had decided to do - follow him. Up and down. All the way and all around to the cross. His grace had touched her in a very deep place and June Carter played out the Magdalene's response of love with a gentle awkwardness that was compelling and human. It was not nicely polished or well-choreographed, but rather simple, kinda country, and most importantly, believable.
My dad gifted me with the DVD of this film not long ago. I will play this clip for my family today, probably multiple times. I will play it for many reasons: love of my dad, an admitted continuing attraction for June Carter, a desire to orient our family's attention on this Friday that became good only after the Sunday that followed. But I will also play this puffy-cheeked-red-eyed clip because it is believable. It does not represent the spouse hugging the casket and wailing at lung's limit, but rather the sad-shocked follower who doesn't have anyone to follow anymore; the woman who made it a point to make a part of her a part of him and then everything fell apart.
The Gospel Road's Mary Magdalene played by June Carter Cash Good Friday sad country song. Years ago, I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears. And I still believe.