April 5, 2015: Easter Sunday
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him. They returned with her to the tomb. They saw and then believed, but they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:1-9)
“They saw and then they believed, but they did not yet understand.”
For many, many years, I heard these words and assumed it was all about Jesus. In fact, it is about the most important event in Christian history. This Gospel, however, features the other players present on the morning of the resurrection story. The confusion of Jesus’ followers, Mary’s courageous presence in the dark, looking for her friend, and the mixed emotions of the Disciples when hearing this unlikely tale are all important to the story. What did it all mean? What would it mean for his followers in a dangerous political environment?
Jesus’ resurrection proved to those in the early church, fearful for their own lives for believing in him, that he was right. It validates what he taught—all are equal in the eyes of God; God is a loving and forgiving God; inclusion, not exclusion, is Jesus message; and, women are to be treated with respect for their gifts and service, and suffering and pain are never in vain. Life is eternal! What had not always had my attention in these readings of the resurrection is the role of the women at the tomb. We know that they carefully cared for the body of Jesus, and John is clear in saying that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb first, and early in the morning while it was still dark, her fear overcome by the love of her dear friend and mentor. Mary’s relationship with Jesus gave her the courage to risk everything.
Eventually, she became a prophetic voice to the Apostles and the young church.
Mary’s deep love for Jesus, and her belief in his teachings gave her the courage to take great risks. Her title of “Apostle to the Apostles” gives a clue to her dedication to the teachings of Jesus and the importance of her own ministry. Jesus’ resurrection that we celebrate once again this Easter, validates our own mission and ministry as followers of this man from Galilee that so rattled the powers of his day and inspired one of the greatest religions in history. It seems a good day for each of us to reexamine our own commitment to the teaching of Jesus with the courage, love and devotion of Mary Magdalene.