THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL (JOHN 20:11-18)
While at summer camp, an 11-year-old named Alex found himself with no toys or books to distract himself during free period. His mom had packed a box that included cards, Legos, yo-yos and a new book he had wanted to read, but the family discovered the box back home in the middle of the living room. The son, who was very worried about being bored during their rest time, was not a happy camper, so he spent the free period writing a letter to his parents and didn’t hold back:
Mom and Dad,
Why the h*** did you not check if I had toys, I was so bored during free period. I expected more from you mom, but not so much dad.”
When Alex finally received his toys in the package his quick-thinking mother, he sent home a sweet letter to thank her:
Thank you for the package that you gave me. I am working on a Lego set. Are you doing anything interesting? I am. I love you and hope you stay safe
Women seldom get a fair shake in life, but they played an important, illustrious and inspirational part in the death and resurrection account of Jesus. They followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem (Mark 15:41), and served or ministered to him (Matt 27:55, Mark 15:41). The women did not desert Him even though they could not get any closer, choosing to look on afar off (Mark 15:40, Matt 27:55) or at a distance when he was crucified. Mary Magdalene was never a notorious prostitute, according to the 6th Century Pope Gregory the Great, an iconoclastic saint, according to the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches with a feast day of 22nd July, or Jesus’ companion, according to the Gospel of Philip, one of the Gnostic Gospels.
What can we learn from the faith and fortitude of women? How did the Risen Christ deliver us from doubt and dismay? Why are women God’s strong army and ambassadors in His witness and work?
Be Poised to Persist
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Satan called together a council of his servants to consult how they might make a good man sin. One evil spirit started up and said, “I will make him sin.” “How will you do it?” asked Satan. “I will set before him the pleasures of sin,” was the reply; “I will tell him of its delights, and the rich reward it brings.” “Ah” said Satan, “that will not do; he has tried it and knows better than that.”
Then another imp started up and said, “I will make him sin.” “What will you do?” asked Satan. “I will tell him of the pains and sorrows of virtues. I will show him that virtue has no delights, and brings no rewards.” “Ah, no!” exclaimed Satan, “that will not do at all; for he has tried it and knows that `Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.’”
“Well,” said another imp, starting up, “I will undertake him to make him sin.” “And what will you do?” asked Satan again. “I will discourage his soul,” was the short reply. “Ah, that will do!” cried Satan; “that will do! We shall conquer him now.” (Hannah Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, 76-77)
Mary Magdalene is the champion weeper of the Bible. There are four references to her weeping (vv 11 twice, 13, 15), more than any person in the Bible, including Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with three references (John 11:31, 33 twice). Rivaling the record-breaking four times the verb “weep” found in this chapter is the four times in Revelation, but there it is divided between the weeping of the kings of the earth (Rev 18:9) and the weeping of the merchants of the earth (Rev 18:11, 15, 19). Weeping is loud wailing rather than the lesser crying. Mary had reasons to weep. First, the body of the Lord is gone. Second, she did not know who took it (v 15). Third, Simon and John had disappeared from view.
Unlike the men, Peter (John 20:6) and John (Jon 20:8), who went into the tomb, she was outside the tomb and looked into the tomb (v 11). She had to think of a way to handle the situation by herself and figure things out for herself. There were three main verbs to describe her: stood, stooped (v 11; bent over, NIV) and saw (v 12) (the verb “looked” (v 11) is missing in Greek). The minority translation for the verb “saw” (theoreo) is behold (Matt 27:55), perceive (John 4:19) and consider (Heb 7:4). The stranded Mary must look and learn for herself. Mary could not afford to feel helpless, hurting or handicapped at this important juncture in her life. She could not understand the unreliable men, who either previously forsook the Lord and fled (Matt 26:56, Mark 14:50) the scene or presently kept to themselves and left her alone. It did not strike her or shock her that the two men sitting at Jesus head and feet were angels. The last thing Mary wanted was to appear to the disciples as a person who was ignorant and not informed, to be irrelevant and not involved, to be invisible, illogical and inconsolable, rather than intelligent, investigative and irrefutable. Not for a person who was once possessed by seven devils (Luke 8:2).