Pages 197-203, Arms Open Wide: A Call to Linger in the Savior’s Presence
This Week’s Scripture:
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!“
Mary Magdalene’s story teaches us that Easter morning begins in darkness. The darkness of grief and loss. The deep midnight in which we wait for resurrection.
We are eager to get to daybreak, the moment when the sunrise breaks over the empty tomb and we are surprised by joy. We strain toward the time when life breaks free of death’s cold grip, and we hold the Savior’s feet in our hands, warm and whole, and yet somehow, still scented aloe and myrrh.
But first, the darkness. The grief. The loss. The devastation of hope. There is no resurrection morning without first going through the deep night when death has won.
I love Mary Magdalene. She teaches me what it means to endure the unspeakable, that there is beauty in offering what gifts I can, no matter how small. Mary Magdalene teaches me how to love with a broken heart.
It is easy to forget just how dark the night was for her before Easter morning. The law demanded she stay home until the Sabbath was over, and so, she waited for daybreak when she could go to Jesus’s tomb and anoint him for burial. While so many of Jesus’s followers fled the terrors of his crucifixion, Mary Magdalene was among the most faithful who stayed near the cross. The horrible memories of Christ’s suffering must have tormented her throughout that long night.
I can’t imagine how she grieved, how her mind and heart must have struggled to process the trauma of all she had witnessed. And still, when morning comes, we find her on her way to the tomb, burial spices in her hand.
Three Long Days
The Jews at the time of Christ believed the soul lingered near the body of the deceased until the third day when it was finally released to its rest.
When she finds the tomb empty, she assumes the worst- Someone stole Jesus’s body during the night and she won’t even be able to give her one last gift of ensuring him a proper burial.
We have the benefit of more than 2,000 years of hindsight. We know that Jesus was no longer in the tomb because He no longer needed it, but Mary Magdalene didn’t know that.
Mary Magdalene is so devastated that scripture tells us her grief blinds her to Jesus when he first appears to her. She thinks he is the gardener.
Then, he calls her name.
Alfred Edersheim says it so beautifully. He says that Mary, whom Jesus had called out of the torment of demon possession, could never have failed to recognize Jesus when he called her name.
Mary Magdalene had known the deep darkness that proceeds resurrection before.
Mary runs to Jesus, falls at his feet and worships. She is the first of the disciples to see the risen Christ. Then Jesus honors her further by entrusting her with the good news of His resurrection.
““Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)
He called them “brothers.” Newly grafted into the family of God, He said His Father was now their Father. His God was their God too.
The night of sin’s curse over Creation had been long, but morning had come.
Hallelujah and Amen.
The Jewish sages mandated that a body receive proper and immediate burial after death, that a soul could not rest until this was completed.