Summary: The Easter story from the perspective of Mary Magdalene, including a recap of recent events.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I come to you this morning to share the story of what happened on that first Easter. My name is Mary—Mary of Magdala, though you know me as Mary Magdalene. Just to be correct, Magdalene was not my last name—it referred to Magdala, the place I came from.
I suppose as long as I am clarifying things, I should also add that I wasn’t a prostitute. I had suffered under the influence of 7 demons for many years. As you might imagine, no one wanted to be near me—demons are not pleasant company. When I met Jesus, he saw beyond the demons to me, the hurting woman inside, and he set me free. I was so grateful! Words cannot begin to explain how wonderful it was to be set free in that way. Jesus came to me in the midst of my suffering, and gave me life—a life free from the torment that had been mine for so long.
In my gratitude, my whole life and focus changed. I was fortunate enough to have some money, so I made sure that Jesus and the disciples always had food to eat. I traveled with them, along with several other women, and we did what we could to make their journeys easier.
There was much worry and controversy in those days, and our group never knew quite what to expect. We had been in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Dedication during the winter, and the crowd had turned against Jesus. They had been ready to stone him, accusing him of blasphemy, but he managed to slip away from them.
When we received word that Lazarus was deathly ill, we were worried. Lazarus lived in Bethany, right outside Jerusalem, and we really didn’t want Jesus to go back to that area. We remembered the angry crowd, and we feared for him. But Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, and he was determined to go to them at their time of need, even though we didn’t think it was a good idea. So we went back, and Jesus called Lazarus forth from the grave, and the controversy just became bigger and more dangerous.
There was so much that went on that last week in Jerusalem. I don’t know how to explain it all to you, to make you understand what it was like.
There were high points: like when Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem and the crowd waved branches and proclaimed him king.
There were scary points: like when Jesus spoke of his heart being troubled, and how he wished he didn’t have to suffer what was to come.
There were confusing points: like when Jesus insisted upon serving his disciples as he washed their feet.
But finally, there was only the reality of his suffering and his death. Amid all the hopes and dreams, amid all the promises and confusion, there was the reality of the cross, and his suffering there. I stood there at the cross on that Friday. His mother, aunt, and several others of us stood and watched, unable to believe what was happening. How could it all end this way? He had saved Lazarus from death, why couldn’t he save himself? He had escaped death before by slipping away from the angry crowd, why did he allow them to crucify him now?
We watched as he suffered, as he cried out in thirst, as he breathed his last. It was the longest 6 hours of my life. How can I explain what it felt like when they shut the tomb with that stone? It was like all my hopes and dreams died there with him. It was Friday night, and so the Sabbath had begun, limiting what I could do. I observed the Sabbath, and it was the longest Sabbath of my life. I kept coming back to what I had seen happen, and wondering how it could possibly be real. It seemed like a nightmare, except I didn’t wake up. I couldn’t sleep, either.
Finally, early Sunday morning, I decided I had to go to the grave. I had to go see that it really was true. I’m not sure what difference I thought it would make, but somehow, I had convinced myself that if I could see his body, if I could see that it was properly cared for, things would be better. I would feel better. I know, it made no sense. I just felt that maybe, somehow, going there and seeing his body would give me closure and enable me to begin to move on. So I gave up pretending to sleep and set out for the tomb. It wasn’t even light yet, but as I went, I convinced myself that once I could see the body I would be able to make sense of all of this. Like I said, I know it didn’t make sense. It just was an indication of the state I was in—I was seeking to do something, anything, to get out of the feeling of unreality that had surrounded me. Seeing the body would make it real, somehow. It would make what was impossible and unthinkable real, as much as I didn’t want it to be real.