In the enormity of Good Friday’s grief at the cross and Sunday morning’s rejoicing victory, I’d missed the most tender Easter question. Please join me as I step into the heart of a woman’s remarkable experience with Jesus.
A little background first. Several years ago my then three-year-old granddaughter was sitting on my lap as we opened a Curious George book, nearly worn out after reading it hundreds of times to my three little children and later to my six great grandchildren.
This little monkey and the trouble his curiosity seemed to get him in captivated her. Her seven-year-old brother passed by, then paused for just a moment and smiled at us.
“She stepped into the story!” he later told me.
I love how the Lord has used his innocent comment to deepen and inspire my Bible reading. Stepping-in requires a slowdown approach and often results in a fresh new look at a familiar passage.
Today as I opened my Bible to read about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, I asked the Lord to open my eyes to a character or a scene in this miraculous story that is the foundation of our faith.
Mary Magdalene caught my eye.
I followed her from the Cross to the empty tomb, and then re-read the backstory of the additional references to her in the Gospels. I caught up on her first encounter with Jesus, when He freed her from seven demons. She was one of the few who was called by name among the many Jesus healed.
In the book Jesus of Nazareth, author Maurice Casey surmises:
“… Mary must have suffered from severe emotional or psychological trauma to deem an exorcism necessary. She was battered and bruised, injured and in agony from the suffering demon possession entailed. Mary lost all control, and dignity, along with everything she knew in her previous life. Beauty and wealth did not spare her from the evil that assailed and attacked her every hour of every day.”
Mary is mentioned twelve times in the Bible, even more than most of the apostles. As a transformed person, Mary was both a follower of Jesus and also a significant financial supporter of his ministry.
When it came to the cross, we learn in Mark 15:40:
“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.”
Mary Magdalene stayed to watch Jesus’ burial, and so she knew the exact location he had been laid to rest. Mary knew the path so well, that she was able to trace her steps back there in the dark days later.
Mary is the one who told the apostles of Jesus resurrection, some calling her the first evangelist.
But this is the picture that captured my heart and invited me into the story as I’ve never seen it before.
Early in the morning, Mary went to the tomb but was stunned to find Jesus gone. She didn’t recognize Him when He approached her with a question. Maybe she couldn’t see through her grief.
“Dear woman, why are you crying?”
Jesus’ first recorded spoken word after rising from the dead was a question to Mary. A question about Mary!
“Dear woman, why are you crying?”
If I hadn’t read the story before I’d have expected something like:
“Mary, I’m alive!”
“I rose from me the grave!”
“I conquered death!”
Surely SOMETHING about Himself would have seemed more fitting than a question about her broken heart.
Words mean a lot, especially Jesus’ Words. One of His names is “Word,” and His words alone often healed.
His tender question to this woman He loved so much brought tears to my eyes. His words to her are a treasure I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life.
In the midst of our pain (and aren’t there so many moments of broken heartedness in our lives?), what if we imagined Jesus seeing us, approaching us and inviting us to tell Him about our tears?
Then Jesus’ follow-up question invites us to the answer that begins the healing of every tear we ever cry.
“Who are you looking for?”
Yes, Jesus is the One we need.
To many, Mary is best known for being the first to SEE Jesus and to TELL others about Him. Personally, I’ll always remember how He saw her tears and brought His presence into her pain with His question.
I hope as you read the amazing, familiar story of Jesus’ sacrifice for us -- the one that gives us relationship with Him today and the hope of eternity with Him forever -- you might also step into the story and see His love in a beautiful new way.
May I encourage you to take some time to read the incredible Easter story, asking the Holy Spirit to use your imagination to bring a person, a situation, or a word to life in a new way?
I read the story again with you in mind. I was hoping to make a discovery to share that perhaps you hadn’t seen before.
I got much more than I asked for. The Lord gave me a question I’ll never forget. Thank you for being the impetus to my lingering quiet in this miraculous event.