It was still dark as she made her way through the streets toward the outskirts of the city. It was quiet now but wouldn’t remain so, as thousands had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Soon the streets would be teeming with celebrants, commerce, and conversation. Amid the festive atmosphere would be speculation concerning the Prophet who was hailed as King one moment, and crucified as traitor the next.
And she had seen it all. She had been in the crowd as they had shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” She knew where He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples. She was at the illegal trial and heard the false accusations of the two witnesses. She was there as Pilate, who was more interested in job security than justice, pronounced the death penalty. She had seen the results of the brutal beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers. She was there when they crucified Him, and she had watched as He suffered and died. It had all been like some horrible nightmare…but it was real, and she had been powerless to stop it.
Now, as she anxiously made her way toward the tomb, she was determined to care for Him in death in ways she could not do in life — because she owed Him so much.
Few people could understand what life had been like before she met Jesus. She came from the city of Magdala, a city known for its dark deeds, and she had done her part in upholding its reputation. She tried not to remember her past, but she could not forget the powers from which she had been delivered. She had not been her own, for someone else had had her under his control. One moment she would be in her right mind, and the next she would be driven by something greater than herself. In those days, she would often speak in a voice not her own, and people, realizing she was beyond human cure or control, would keep their distance. The spirits would torment her, and she knew they were bent on her destruction, and that she was beyond hope. Then Jesus came….
He spoke, and in that moment, the powers that had held her captive, released their grip, and she was free! From that day on, she became His follower and, with several other women, had seen to it that His monetary and mundane needs were met. She still wondered why Jesus, who could drive evil spirits out with a word, would allow Himself to suffer such a humiliating death. That question hung hauntingly in the air, unanswered.
Now, she had reached the tomb. And what she found made time seem to stop. The stone that covered the mouth of the tomb had been taken away, and Jesus’ body was not there! She stood frozen, trying to make her mind believe what her eyes were seeing. A wave of panic swept over her and she began to run. She must tell someone!
She ran to the house of Peter and John. It was still early, but she knew they would want to know. She reached the gate and began to rattle it with everything she had. It didn’t take long to rouse someone. John came, with Peter close behind. “What’s wrong?” John asked, with concern, looking into her stricken face.
“They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him!”
Without a word, Peter and John ran in the direction from which she had just come. Following along behind, she couldn’t believe this was happening. Wasn’t it enough that He was dead? But the thought that robbers who cared nothing for Him or His body would steal Him, was unbearable. Now, she didn’t even have a place to come to mourn His death.
Standing at the open tomb, each tried to comprehend the scene that lay before them. After some time, John’s voice broke into her thoughts, “Will you come home with us?”
“No, I’ll stay” she replied.
“You know where to come if you need anything.”
Alone again, a fresh wave of grief swept over her, and she began to weep. Her body shook with sobs. Stooping down, she looked once again into the tomb. Startled, she saw two angels dressed in white, one at the head and the other at the foot of the place where they had laid Him. The angel spoke to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put Him” she replied.
Sensing the presence of someone behind her, she turned.
“Woman,” He said with compassion, “Why are you crying? Whom do you seek?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said with anguish in her voice, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will come and take Him.”
At the sound of her name, Mary’s overwhelming sorrow turned into unspeakable joy, for Mary recognized the voice as the voice of her Lord.
“Teacher!” she cried, as she reached to touch the feet of the One she loved.
“Go tell my brothers that I’m alive, and that I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”
Turning to go, she looked into His face once more. And with the sound of His voice still ringing in her ears, she ran, once again, for Jerusalem.