Mary Magdalene: Tragedy to Triumph

(From the perspective of Mary Magdalene.)

[(©) Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.]

(April 2015)

Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and now that He is dead, her heart is broken. Depression settles on her like a thunderstorm. While overcome with despair, she muses to herself.

Jesus was dead; she had seen Him die on the cross with her own eyes:

  • He had been beaten with a whip with pieces of metal in it.
  • A crown of thorns had been placed on His head, the thorns being a reminder of the curse in Genesis 3 that Adam’s labor would be cursed with thorns.
  • He had lost much blood.
  • He had groaned when they dropped the cross into its hole.
  • She had watched Him push down on His feet and pull up with His hands to force air into His lungs and to keep them free of fluid, but when the Roman soldier pierced His side with a sword, out came blood and water, confirming that His lungs had filled with fluid and that He had asphyxiated.
  • Trained Roman soldiers, who were experts in crucifixions, had testified to His death so that His legs did not need to be broken as the other two criminals who were crucified with Him (which was a prophecy from the Old Testament that no one could break the lamb’s legs).
  • But why was He dead? Was not He the Messiah? Would He not conquer both His and the Jews’ enemies? How could the One who raised the dead be dead Himself?

 

Tomb itself:

No, He was dead alright, make no mistake about that, and He had been buried in the tomb where she stood. She had seen it. The Jews had requested from Pilate to make the tomb secure so no one could steal His body (Matt. 27:62-66), BUT as she stood at the open tomb, the body was gone! But how could it be gone?

  • A heavy stone had been placed over the mouth of the tomb and who could move this without being seen? It would take several men, and even further . . .
  • A Roman seal had been roped over the tomb’s stone to enforce with Roman law that no one could enter the tomb. It would be no problem physically to remove a rope lightly attached with wax at both ends, like police yellow tape, but who would risk going against the authority of Rome under the death penalty?
  • A Roman guard had also been stationed there to keep anyone from tampering with the seal or His body. Who would dare challenge them?
  • Surely the Jews would not steal His body, because it was they who wanted the Roman seal and guard and got these approved by Pilate.

 

She pondered further:

  • He had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. You don’t place live people in a tomb, especially with a stone over the mouth, unless they are dead and unless you don’t want them disturbed.
  • But why did those who took His body leave His grave cloths behind? If someone stole His body, it would take longer to remove the cloths than to take the whole body, further exposing themselves to being caught. This is strange, indeed. The linen cloth was neatly wrapped and in its own place. Who would take time to make it neat? Likewise, the head cloth was still in its place. Indeed, He who came forth also altered the conditioned of the grave, doing nothing in haste, but with specific purposes in mind, put the linen cloths neatly where He wanted them. (In the Old Testament, the high priest on the Day of Atonement only wore a linen cloth, and now this final High Priest, who had worn the same in fulfillment, took it off, for the FINAL Day of Atonement was over!)
  • At this point, Mary did not understand that the two “men” clothed in white were actually angels, Cherubim, like the symbolic angels in the Old Testament tabernacle that overlooked the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, guarding the presence of God, and like the two angels that guarded Eden to keep Adam and Eve out after they sinned. So there were two of them at the tomb, guarding the PLACE of propitiation, the BODY of Jesus, but now stating that He had risen.

As Mary Magdalene contemplated these things, it is not difficult to imagine how much agony of soul and confusion she must have had.

Her hope had died with His death, as it had for all the disciples, who were hiding out in the upper room, fearful that they would be killed next as followers of Jesus. Faith had also died, as it had with the others, which is why the eleven were hiding. Hope was buried in the tomb with Jesus. But love was still alive, love for Christ. That’s why Mary was there, love; her heart was broken. Though Jesus was gone, she still wished to do something for Him, to be near Him. Not only was He dead, like people today who visit the graves of their loved ones. But she did not even have a body to mourn over. The fact that she brought the oil to anoint His body indicated that His resurrection was the last thing in her mind. Thus, she ran to tell Peter and John about the empty tomb, and they returned faster than she had run to get them. John got there first, and just stood at the entry, wondering. Then Peter ran to the entrance and rushed in–his usual impetuousness– heart pounding, seeing the neatly wrapped cloths, his mind whirling 90 miles an hour.

The “men” at the tomb asked Mary why she wept but did not answer her at this point about Jesus, for they saw the Prince of Life approaching. He would minister to her.

Words are not given in the Gospels to describe what she experienced, for none are appropriate. It is only recorded that she and the Lord had one brief conversation with one another.

We know she was the first one to whom He revealed Himself (from Mark 16:9), revealing His compassion for the ladies to go to one who grieved so much and was often His companion in ministry with other disciples.

The first statement was Jesus to Mary, asking why she was weeping. With water in her eyes clouding her vision, she thought he was a gardener and asked where he had put the body of Jesus.

But why is there a garden? The world was lost in a garden, and now the world is regained in a garden. The first Adam lost it all, and the Last Adam regained it. (St. Paul in Romans 5:12ff.)

She thought He was the gardener, for the last image in her mind of Jesus was on the cross with a crown of thorns, bruised and broken, bleeding, beaten beyond recognition, a hole in His side, head bowed with a crown of thorns, dead. The last image of someone is graphic.

THEN in the second statement Jesus calls her name: Mary.” Did a gardener know her name? Did a gardener say her name in the tender way that Jesus was accustomed? This time she looked in anticipation, eyes full of tears, hopeful, heart beating fast, lungs suspended, fearful to believe what her ears told her, quickly she looked . . . . There He was! Standing, looking at Her with those compassionate eyes, divine dignity, majestic in appearance, sovereign in pose, serene in peace, full of compassion for her—it was indeed the Lord in the same body!

She felt the agony of soul instantly evaporate in the heat of His presence and love. Joy enveloped her whole being as she felt her body bathed from head to foot in His grace. She ran to Him and embraced Him. She grabbed His feet and could only say, “Rabboni!” No other words were necessary as she clung to Him and wept for joy. “Stop clinging (so the Greek means) to Me,” Jesus said, but it was not rejection of her but later ministry that He had in mind to others. Never had she thought such joy possible, and she worshiped Him with heart pumping, tears of supreme joy, faith renewed, hope turned into sight, love supreme! Her life was complete!

She rejoiced “with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) AMEN.

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