Summary: Reflecting on Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb, we see her sorrow turn to joy upon seeing the risen Christ.
April 8, 2012 John 20:10-18
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 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.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
The Shadow and Light of the Graveyard
I. The shadow of looking for a dead Lord
The sun was still coming out and it was dark in the garden. Everything must have been eerily silent as she approached the tomb, with a cold bite in the air. Mary had known what it was like to live in the darkness, for she had seven demons of darkness living within her at one time. Yet even in the shadows of the morning a graveyard was a scary place for a woman to be by herself.
She was expecting to find soldiers and to face military might. She was expecting to see a dead body and wrap spices around it, but what she found was worse than death and even scarier than a platoon of soldiers, for she found nothing – nothing but darkness and silence. The stone had been laid flat and no one was to be seen.
Tears came flowing from her eyes. This young lady who had seven demons once live inside her was beginning to feel the darkness again. Was it not bad enough that they had killed Jesus; the one who had freed her from her demons; the one she had hoped was the Messiah? Now, even in death, they couldn’t leave Him alone. They wouldn’t even let her grieve like she wanted to. She was sure that His body had been stolen.
There is nothing to necessarily ridicule in Mary’s attitude. What should she have expected or thought? She had seen Jesus whipped and beaten and crucified. She knew He was dead. She saw how beaten and blood His body. She heard Him scream His last. What else was she to think? Her conclusion was logical and realistic. Jesus’ body must have been stolen; it had to be. All she could do at this point was to sit there and cry.
Maybe you’ve been in that graveyard. Maybe you’ve lost someone in your life that made life happier for you; chased away your “demons.” Perhaps that person was stolen away from you by death. Perhaps that person changed on you and left you empty. Perhaps that person was God. There are those who deal with death by going to the tombs, laying flowers on the stone and talking to the ground. Others speak of their days of faith in terms of sorrow and let down, because God didn’t come to their rescue; leaving them alone and in tears. They are left with a void in their lives, claiming that this God never really even existed. Yet even such rituals and words do not deal with the emptiness inside and the hollow feeling that the loved one is gone, never to be held again. Alcohol doesn’t keep the pain from coming. Atheism doesn’t fill the void. Going to the grave doesn’t help replace the person that has left this world.
As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 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.”
You would think that two men sitting in white in a tomb in the wee hours of the morning might scare her. You would think that she would consider the two men to be an oddity. What are they doing there? Didn’t she recognize them to be angels? Was it the tears in her eyes that kept her from noticing the obvious? Or was it the overwhelming sorrow that made her unable to see the miracle sitting right in front of her? Either way, she was blind to the fact that these were angels. She answered them with no more pause than Balaam spoke with his donkey. It was as if they didn’t even exist; she was that lost in the empty tomb.