When I reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene always comes to mind. Though we do not know much about Mary Magdalene, the fact that the honor of being the first to see Jesus after His resurrection shows a lot about Jesus and us, about God and us.
There are various stories about Mary Magdalene. Some will say that she was a prostitute. The only thing that we know with certainty is that Jesus healed her of demonic possession. In Luke chapter 8 we see that Jesus delivered Mary of seven demons. We know that Mary Magdalene became a follower of Jesus after He healed her and that she was part of the group that was close to Jesus. She even spent time with Mary the Mother of Jesus.
We also know from John 19 that Mary Magdalene was one of the people who stood at the cross of Jesus and watched Him die. It was an intensely emotional time for her to see the man who rescued her and gave her a new life die on the cross. Then came the first Easter Sunday morning. She was emotionally distraught thinking that someone had moved the body of Jesus because when she came to the tomb, His body was gone, but His burial cloths were still there. She saw two angels who asked who she was looking for and after she tells them she is looking for her Lord’s body, she turns around. Jesus is standing in front of her and asks who she is looking for. Her eyes were filled with tears, she is distraught and can’t think straight. She doesn’t recognize Him at first and tells Him she is looking for her Lord’s body and to please tell her where it is. Then Jesus says her name. When Jesus says, “Mary”, the sound of His voice snaps her into the reality that the man she mistook for the gardener is Jesus. She cries out, “Rabonni” and hugs Him. He tells her He must ascend to the Father, but to go tell the group that He is risen.
It was no coincidence that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. There was never any coincidence in anything Jesus did while He was on earth. His every action and teaching had a purpose behind it. By appearing to Mary first, a woman who He had delivered of seven demons, a woman who was in the lowest part of society before she met Jesus, Jesus shows that God’s love is for all people no matter where they come from in life. God’s life changing power and forgiveness are for all people.
By telling Mary to got tell His followers, Jesus tells her to be a witness. He gives her an assignment that in that culture should have been for a man. Even today in some cultures the testimony of a woman in court does not count as much as a man’s. Jesus gives her an assignment to go tell, to go be His witness. This shows me that in Jesus all people are equally loved, valued, and that in Jesus all people are to be respected.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday deservedly receive a lot of attention. They are the pivotal events in not only Christianity, but also in History. On Good Friday we remember His sacrificial death for us. On Easter Sunday we remember how He defeated death for us through His resurrection. But what about the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? The day when Jesus’ body laid in the tomb. His followers were in despair. They had lost hope. They thought it was all over and done with and their beloved leader was gone forever.
I have been to the funerals of loved ones and friends. Looking into a casket is perhaps the most solemn experience we face in this life. That and watching a loved one die. I was with my father when he died. He died while I was reading from the bible to him. When my father died, I did not despair. That was because over a year before he died, I was with him while he made peace with God by trusting in Jesus. I had so much peace about where my father went to that I taught my class that evening, but I had the benefit of knowing the rest of the story which is that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection.
There are other moments in life that might we feel all hope is lost. We look at our life obstacles and wonder if there is anyway that we can find that job, get out of debt, experience our loved ones finally getting their life turned around, recover from an illness or any other of life’s seemingly unending problems. We at times are like the followers of Jesus on that Saturday between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is as if we are on the outside of the tomb lost in despair.
I often wonder how His followers felt that Saturday. What it must have been like for those who washed His body and prepared His body for burial. They had forgotten about how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead only days before Jesus entered Jerusalem. They had forgotten how Jesus had told them that He would die and that He would be raised from dead. They had lost hope. We do the same thing. We lose hope even though we have the rest of the story. We know that Jesus defeated death. His resurrection proves that He has power even over our worst enemy. When we face life’s difficulties, it is too easy for us to lose hope and not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I would like to encourage you to think about your problems and then remember that He has all power. His resurrection is the proof that we too will one day enjoy the benefits of heaven, and also that He does have all power. He is more than able to help us to overcome our difficulties.
On this day, Good Friday, I am taking time to reflect on the death of Jesus and its implications for me and for all of us. Two things always come to my mind as I reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus, my own sin which He died for and His love, His unfathomable love for me and for all. Jesus spoke of this kind of self-sacrificing love when He said, “Greater love has no one than this to lay down their life for a friend.”
There are inspiring stories of people giving their lives for others such as soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save their friends or of mothers in crisis while giving birth telling the doctor to save their baby even if it means the mother losing their own life. When I hear these stories, I am inspired by their examples of true love for another or others. There is much discussion about what love is these days in America. The kind of love Jesus is talking about encompasses not only family/brotherly love but something far greater. Jesus is talking about the kind of love God has for us. He uses the verb agape as He speaks about greater love. Agape is the Greek word for God’s unconditional love. Jesus showed us the unconditional love of God when He died for us. Jesus, God’s one and only son, died for us.
An awe inspiring thought for me is the fact that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him before He was arrested, put through a joke of trial, and was crucified. He knew what was going to happen and went anyway. In John 18 we read, “4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” He went out to meet those who were coming to arrest Him. There was a detachment of soldiers that had come to arrest Him which would have been at least 400 men armed with swords and spears. Lethal danger was approaching, Jesus knew it and went out to meet it. He has all power, so He could have stopped it, but He went out to meet it. He knew that He would be tortured and crucified on a cross. He knew that He would die a terrible death and He went out to the detachment of soldiers and allowed them to take Him away to what would lead to His death. Why?
Why? Because He loves you and me. His love is the love of God, self-sacrificing, unconditional, reaching out to those who suffer, reaching out to people like me who are unworthy of His love. This evening when I go to Good Friday Service at church, I will reflect upon and remember that Jesus loved us so much that He died for all of our sins because He wants us to be with Him for eternity in heaven. He died for us to pay our penalty for our sin. We do not deserve His sacrifice, but because of his love, He gave it for us. That is true love.