Of the four gospels the gospel according to John best accentuates the stages that Mary went through as she approached the tomb and discovered that Christ was no longer there on the morning of the resurrection. Throughout her cries we see the journey from utter desperation, to the heights of hope, from the depths of heartache to the peak of joy.
Imagination escapes me as to what Mary went through on an emotional level. She was there when they crucified Christ, she stood as He hung upon the cross, weeping and unable to do anything more. Now He was dead, taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. The least she could do to honor Him was prepare spices and fragrant oils, and then return on the first day of the week with what she had prepared to anoint the body as was Jewish custom. Mary was not alone, certain other women were with her, all of them having been changed and transformed by the power of the One they now came to honor. They came very early in the morning, most likely walking most of the night since they were either from Galilee or Bethany. Yes, Bethany was closer to Jerusalem, only a two mile walk, but Galilee was much further and the women all carried the vessels in which they had prepared the spices and fragrant oils.
When finally they arrive at the tomb, ready to set about anointing the body of Jesus, they were stunned to discover that the stone had been rolled away. I do not know the depths of Mary’s anguish at seeing the stone rolled away, and the tomb being empty but if her cry is any indication it was deep indeed.
John 20:1-2, “On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
Her cry was passionate, her plea cut to the bone, ‘they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him’. They ran to the tomb, the other disciple outrunning Peter, they went inside to investigate and just as Mary had told them, the body was not there. All they found was the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around his head folded together in a place by itself.
They came, they saw, and they left. All went their way, saddened in their own right, not knowing how to make sense of what had just occurred for as yet they did not know the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead, but Mary remained. She stood outside the tomb and wept.
As she stood there weeping, she looked inside the tomb and saw two angels in white, sitting one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
Her pain was so great that she did not register the supernatural nature of these two men, she just kept weeping until asked ‘woman, why are you weeping?’
‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him’, she answered.
I often wonder what it would take for us to cry out as Mary did. What if one day we too discovered that the Lord is not where we left Him? Would we perhaps on that day weep, or would we not even register the fact that He is missing. I’ve been to churches wherein the Lord was not there, I have been in prayer meetings wherein the Lord was not there, and no one seemed to notice He was missing. Everyone went about their ritual, their ceremony, their tradition, following the script that was so ingrained in their hearts it was automatic, making due with boisterous laughter, or loud music, with programs and gimmicks and raffles and prizes, but the Lord was nowhere to be found. Perhaps they do all these things simply because they do not want to face the reality that Jesus is no longer in their midst, perhaps they do all these things simply because they do not want to be confronted with the reality of their spiritual dryness. Whatever the reason, Jesus was missing, and they were none the wiser.
John 20:14-15, “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir if You have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Among the many things to be admired in Mary’s attitude, her persistence has to rank somewhere at the top of the list. She saw Jesus, whom she did not recognize, and assuming He was the gardener begged Him to just tell her where He had taken the body. Her desperation had not diminished, she hadn’t just wiped her eyes and gone away like the disciples and the rest of the women who had come with her had. ‘Tell me where you have laid Him!’ He didn’t even have to show here where He had placed it, all He had to do was tell her and she would take care of the rest.
John 20:16, Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say Teacher).”
When Jesus brings hope, it is not gradual, it is sudden. In an instant, Mary went from weeping tears of grief, to weeping tears of joy. Her desperation had been instantly transformed into hope for there before her stood the One she had been seeking in the tomb. Jesus saw her love and her suffering. The Lord saw her desperation and desire, and revealed Himself to her.
There were perhaps more important people than Mary Magdalene that He could have revealed Himself to the morning of His resurrection, but she was the one who came early, and wept, and waited, and would not leave until He opened her eyes and showed her it was He who was standing before her.
There are perhaps more important individuals that Jesus could be revealing Himself to today, individuals with clout and position and disposable income, but in His mercy and infinite grace Jesus chose to reveal Himself to you and to me. This above all else ought to give us hope, this above all else ought to bring us joy, that unworthy as we might have been, Jesus found us in our desperation and revealed Himself to us.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.