Summary: Can you imagine what kind of morning that must have been. It started off as just a regular morning, yes there was sadness in the air, but can you imagine arriving at the tomb of Jesus and finding it empty?
As the Pastor introduced his children’s sermon on Easter, he asked the little ones, “Do you see anything different about our church today?” Little Heather quickly figured out the difference and blurted out, “It’s full!” `
I cannot even imagine what kind of morning it must have been. Was it a morning like this? It started out just like any other day, except the world had just lost a leader, really a servant. And there was Mary Magdalene. Her world was instantly turned upside down, and she was devastated. This man Jesus had literally saved her life, and now she was completely without hope after watching His life here on earth come to a bitter end.
For Easter is really about hope.
Our text of this morning’s message is from the Gospel according to John, chapter 20 verses 1 through 18. Listen to verses 1 through 13:
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
So Peter and John started for the tomb. Both were running, but John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally John, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
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."
Mary Magdalene is one of the best-known and least-understood names in Scripture. Scripture deliberately draws a curtain of silence over much of her life and personal background, but she still emerges as one of the prominent women of the New Testament. She is mentioned by name in all four of the Gospels, mostly in connection with the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. And she holds an amazing, eternal distinction over any one else mentioned in the Bible.
Mary Magdalene certainly had a dark past. Not much is known about her, except that she was indeed a woman who Christ had liberated from demonic bondage. Both Luke and Mark identified her as a women who was possessed not by one, but by seven demons.
Actually, “Magdalene” is not a surname in the modern sense. She wasn’t from a family that went by that name; she was from the small village of Magdala. She was called “Magdalene” to distinguish her from the other women named Mary in the New Testament, including Mary of Bethany and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
The tiny village of Magdala is located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, just north of Tiberius and south of Capernaum. It is nearby where Jesus gave His sermon on the mount. It is a beautiful little village, and Jesus spent a lot of His time ministering in and around this region.
When Jesus first met Mary, she was a broken woman. Demon possession is an affliction like none other. There was nothing any mere man or woman could do for her. She most likely was depressed, filled with anxiety and unhappiness – she was lonely without friends, self loathing, filled with shame, fear and a host of other similar miseries. In all probability, she suffered even worse torments too. Whatever her condition, she would have been in perpetual agony.
But Jesus Christ delivered her from all of her afflictions. Scripture does not go into detail, but through Christ she was set free. Only through Jesus Christ! And the same holds true for us today.
Mary Magdalene joined the close circle of disciples who traveled with Jesus on His long journeys. She never forgot the One who saved and changed her life, and she devoted her life to sharing His message with others.
And it was most apparent at the end of Jesus’ life on earth. Matthew, Mark and John all record that Mary Magdalene was present at the crucifixion. Combining all three accounts, it is clear that she stood right there with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and two other women. According to the Gospel of John, they stood right by the cross, close enough to hear Jesus’ words when He committed His Mother to John’s care. But Matthew and Mark, describing the end of the ordeal, said that the women were “looking on from afar.” As the crucifixion wore on, crowds gathered and pushed them further away. Or perhaps they stood further away because they could not bear to watch. But they remained until the bitter end. There was Mary Magdalene, watching the One who delivered her from bondage, delivering the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind. And Mary remained longer than any disciple at the cross. And then she was first to reach His tomb at daybreak on the first day of the week. Her devotion was never more plain than in her response to His death, and that devotion was about to be rewarded in an unimaginably, triumphant way.