Summary: The events of the past week were a blur for Mary Magdalene. Only a week ago, she and dozens of Jesus’ followers celebrated his entry into Jerusalem with an impromptu parade. Mary Magdalene remembered how the shopkeepers and pilgrims, in Jerusalem for th
Seeing Jesus Again for the First Time
Chuck Warnock, Senior Pastor
Chatham Baptist Church
Text: John 20:10-18
The events of the past week were a blur for Mary Magdalene. Only a week ago, she and dozens of Jesus’ followers celebrated his entry into Jerusalem with an impromptu parade. Mary Magdalene remembered how the shopkeepers and pilgrims, in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, had stopped to look, then joined in the procession that had moved joyously down the crowded Jerusalem streets.
The days that followed were a confusing mixture of preparation for the Passover, and watching Jesus do things he had never done before. Like giving strange answers to the chief priest and the Pharisees who challenged Jesus as he taught in the temple. Watching Jesus create a small riot as he chased the temple money-changers out of the court of the Gentiles, creating quite a scene.
Then, of course, Mary Magdalene had heard about that Thursday evening. She wasn’t there, but she had heard the story repeated over and over. A meal around the table with Jesus and those closest to him. Jesus, saying things about the seder meal that he had never said before. Like “this bread is my body broken for you” and “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” – only later would she understand. Later, after Jesus had been arrested and word had come from breathless men, excited and shaking with fear. Men who had vowed to fight the Roman legions, men who had promised to stay with Jesus no matter what happened. The same men who had run away when the chief priest had Jesus arrested.
Mary didn’t know who was more pitiful. Those who had run under the cover of darkness, forsaking Jesus. Or Peter who had followed Jesus, at least he did that, but who then denied not once, but three times that he even knew Jesus, much less was a student, a disciple of that Galilean. All were heartbroken. All were shaking, weeping, pounding their chests and foreheads with their fists, inconsolable for having left their friend, Jesus, in the custody of the chief priest’s henchmen.
But then it got worse. As day had broken over Jerusalem, word quickly spread that Pilate was releasing Barabbas. Barabbas was a terrorist, a murderer, and insurrectionist. If Barabbas was being released, something dreadful was happening.
Waiting in the streets of Jerusalem, Mary and the others milled around, trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus, or hear what had happened to him. Pilate will have him whipped and then release him, they told one another. That’s what he usually does when he’ trying to placate the Jewish leaders. A little dose of Roman justice, but not too much, just to keep the Jews happy.
Then Mary heard the cry of the crowd and saw a procession, more like a mob, moving down the street. But, they were jeering and yelling and striking at something in their midst. Mary strained for a glimpse, and at first she thought, That poor, poor man. She saw a figure, hunched under the weight of a Roman cross, blood streaming down the cuts on his back, blood dripping into his eyes from some sort of thorny crown that was pushed into to his forehead. The horror of that scene was enough and Mary began to divert her eyes. As she did, she saw something familiar. A profile she had seen before, disfigured to be sure, but familiar.
And then she realized – this man, this poor man was Jesus. She watched him struggle with the cross, stumbling, falling in the dirt, rising each time under the weight of a beam too heavy for him to bear.
The Roman centurions were tiring of this game, it was taking too long to move this procession of the damned down the street and out of the city. So they grabbed a stranger, ordered him to carry the cross of Jesus, and the macabre procession resumed its march of madness.
The disciples followed, all to aware of how this would end. Once the verdict of death had been pronounced by a Roman authority, there was no reprieve, no second chance, no appeal. All they could do now was follow the cross in horror, weeping as they walked.
The scene at the place of the skull was even worse. Two other men were being hoisted up, nailed to crosses, their crimes placarded above their heads. This was Roman justice, this was capital punishment at its cruelest, and most heinous.
Mary could not watch as Jesus was thrown to the ground, Roman soldier on each side, grabbing a leg and an arm, and pulling Jesus into position on top of the cross. Mary heard the sound of the nails being driven through the hands and feet of Jesus. The hands that had touched her and released the power of darkness from her body. The feet she had washed, now bruised and bloodied beyond recognition.