RESURRECTION SUNDAY: MARY MAGDALENE’S JOY

On resurrection sunday, mary magdalene’s grief turned to joy.

Early Sunday morning, in the crisp, the coldest air, just before dawn, I met Mary, Joanna, and Salome at the city gate. We huddled together while we walked to Jesus’ tomb, more from fear and grief than from the cold. I hadn’t slept for two nights. My thoughts over-wrought with memories and questions. I doubt any of them had slept, either.

I had never seen Mary so haggard before, and she had withstood a lot over the years. I couldn’t imagine losing a son, especially not one like Jesus.

None of us spoke. The pain of Friday’s execution still pressed into us like the morning fog. Some things were just too painful to review. The trauma of the last two days numbed me. My insides felt completely hollowed out, like a shell of the person I used to be. I couldn’t imagine how I would continue living without Jesus’ words to guide me. Grief consumed me.

And of course, we all were terrified of the Pharisees now. What would happen next at their hand? From the Romans? But even terror of them paled in comparison to the grief of Jesus’ death.

The debt I owed Jesus was perhaps unparalleled in our group of followers.

Yes, others had been healed–the paralyzed man at Siloam regained his mobility after Jesus spoke to him. Jairus received his daughter from the dead. Bartimaeus could see for the first time in his life. But I had endured another kind of hell. I had been controlled by seven demons who made my life a continuous nightmare and my future hopeless. Until Jesus met me and told them, “Come out of her.”

On Friday, I watched him being tortured to death. Betrayed by one of our own trusted friends. Mocked and stripped before the world. I couldn’t make sense of how this had happened or why he let this happen.

At least he had been buried by two admirers. Nicodemus and Joseph from Arimathea got the body from Pilate and hastily wrapped it and laid it in a rented a tomb, just in time for Passover. Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh for his embalming. The women and I were bringing a little more today. We wanted to take some time. Say our goodbyes. Show respect to the body.

We hadn’t worked out any of the particulars. We just knew we had to go. We hoped the guards would have mercy on us and let us anoint the body properly.

Pilate had posted an armed guard to make sure none of us stole Jesus’ body to say he had risen from the dead. As if we could even wrap our minds around hatching a plot the day after our leader was brutally murdered! We were barely functional.

And then on the way to the tomb, the earth began to rumble. We staggered into each other. Mary lost her footing and stumbled to the ground. I steadied myself against a boulder. There had been an earthquake Friday before he died. What was happening?

When we arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled aside, and the guards littered the ground like dead men. The tomb was empty!

A man in a radiant white robe stood beside the entrance and asked us, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”

Gone? Risen? Risen where? What madness was this? if only it were true.

But we dropped the basket of spices, picked up our robes and ran all the way back to Jerusalem. I’ve never run so hard in my life! I thought my heart would burst from my chest. Why would they have taken him? They had wanted to kill him for three years.

We found the disciples in the upper room and spilled our story, all crying and talking over each other, hysterical.

Peter and John immediately left for the tomb to see for themselves. I followed, heartbroken, for another look. Without the body there, I didn’t even know where to grieve. I felt so utterly alone. 

A little garden spilled over the rocky terrain around the tomb. I wandered through the shrubbery, eyes blurring from tears, my heart tearing open anew with every remembrance of him. I sank to my knees near the tomb’s entrance, sobbing.

How do you let someone go whose influence had come to fill every moment of every day?

“Woman, why are you crying?” Two angels appeared inside the tomb, one on either end of the wrapping.

“They have taken away my lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

“Woman, why are you crying?” This time, the voice came from behind me. I turned and saw a man standing there.

Assuming he was the gardener, I responded, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where he is, and I will take him away.”

“Mary.”

He took my breath away. Could it be Jesus? Was He alive? Vibrant, commanding, whole. “Teacher!”

“Go and tell my disciples that I am risen.”

Why are you crying? Go and tell. 

Such beautiful words! Such life-giving words. Stop looking at only what you see here. Look beyond!

How could I do anything but tell everyone?

Jesus is alive! He is God, and He is here with me again and forever!

OTHER STORIES FROM THE SERIES “WITNESSES OF THE CROSS”:

#4 Good Friday: Mary’s Heartache

#3 Thursday Night: Peter’s Denial

#2 Maundy Thursday: Judas’ Betrayal

#1 Palm Sunday: John’s Perspective

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