The Easter Thoughts of Mary Magdalene

(Several years ago, I used this reading as part of an Easter Sunrise service. It spoke deeply to me then. It seemed I had much more in common with Mary Magdalene than I thought! This week, the first week of the Easter season, I pulled it back out, and it spoke to me again … but in a completely different and new way. Isn’t that how God works!                                                     Perhaps it will speak to you too. ~ Pastor Bob)

I have heard the words with my own ears, yet I cannot believe it. I must take a few minutes to compose myself before I run to tell the disciples what I have seen and heard. For they will surely think that I am mad — again. They will not believe me. Why should they believe me? I do not even believe myself, all that I have heard and seen this day.

Perhaps the demons have come back! People say that I was possessed by seven demons. Those are dark times, cloudy times for me. I was so miserable. I know that sometimes my whole body revealed the anguish my mind was going through. That is when I first heard of this wandering Rabbi called Jesus. They said he had the power to heal, but I had little faith or hope that anyone could help me. I was too depressed to have much hope in anything then. But the other women of Magdala were going to see him, so I thought I’d go too. Perhaps some small part of me was still able to hope. 

We went to a hillside outside of Magdala and waited for him to join us. He appeared, surrounded by his 12 chosen, and then he climbed to the top of the hill and began to speak. It was a huge crowd, but everything got quiet when he spoke. Everyone listened to him. Even though I had not been able to keep my concentration for longer than 5 minutes for years, I found myself suddenly calm inside. 

I don’t quite know how he knew me – whether someone had told him or whether he just saw the pained, crazy look on my face, but he came over and knelt down beside me. I remember I began to tremble, just as I am trembling now. But he looked into my eyes and he called me by name, just as He did today. I don’t know how, but He knew my name. He said, “Mary, Mary, be free of your demons.” 

And then, He looked at me with so much love. How could he love me, a stranger? My own family found me unlovable. I found myself unlovable most of the time. But there He stood, and the love shone in his eyes, and tears welled up in mine. Could I love myself as He was loving me? Could I trust myself as he was trusting me? 

“You are precious; you are whole” he said to me, and I will never forget that moment as long as I live. That was the moment I knew he was the Messiah we had been praying and hoping for. His look of love changed everything for me. I felt whole for the first time in my life, though the demons of fear and anxiety and self-doubt still come back to haunt me and tempt me like they are doing now. 

I committed my life to Him at that moment. I packed up and left home to follow Him. My family didn’t understand. They said I was still crazy. Men could wander around with a traveling rabbi, men could spend their time learning and speaking of the reign of God, but if a woman did it, she was crazy, possessed. But, I went anyway and I was not the only one. If I was crazy, so were Suzanna and Joanna and many other women. 

And Jesus did not send us away, he never told us to go home and be quiet. He welcomed us and taught us many things about the Kingdom of God and about what would be required of us. And then he died. 

There was still so much more I wanted to learn, so much more he had to do. How could they do that? How could our priests, our holy men, persecute him? I followed after them that night, hysterical, feeling more out of control than I had since I met him. They paraded him from one court to another until they finally got what they wanted – his crucifixion. And his friends, his noble 12, they were nowhere to be found. Oh, Peter followed for a while, but when he was afraid that they might turn on him, he too disappeared.

After they beat him and humiliated him, they nailed our Jesus to the cross and I was there – all the women were still there at the foot of the cross, following him even unto death. It seemed like forever that he hung there, suffering silently. The others were yelling and cursing, but all his thoughts were for us: He told John to take care of his mother. He asked God to forgive those who had killed him, “Father forgive them” He said, “for they know not what they do.” And they say I am crazy!

But my grief did make me crazy, then. It was terrible, overwhelming. And even though it has been three days ago, the pain has not subsided; the tears come from an unending spring. I can’t believe that he’s dead. I can’t believe they would crucify someone so loving and gentle as if he were a common criminal.  I can’t believe that I am alone again.

Or am I? 

Did I really see an empty tomb? Were there really 2 angels sitting in his place? Or was it all a dream, a fantasy born of grief. Was that really him who spoke to me? How could I think he was the gardener until I heard his voice? Why would my eyes not recognize my Lord? What if that was really him? What if I was not dreaming some strange daydream? Could it really be true? Could he be alive again? 

Oh, no, my mind is still so confused, so overwhelmed. No one will believe me, not me, certainly not me. They will think this is all grief causing me to again go crazy. But he was there. I know in my heart it was Jesus. He spoke in that same kind, gentle voice that soothed me so long ago. 

He has risen! Praise be to God – he is the Messiah. I am not alone, and I will never be alone again. My grief has turned to ecstasy; a sign of madness they will surely tell me. But I know what I saw.

Indeed, he has risen, and he has told me to go and tell the disciples. Oh Jesus, why me? Why are you sending me? Why have you singled me out from all the others? Is it just because in my grief I could not stay away from your grave? Is it just coincidence? No. You have chosen me, Master. I feel your call deep within me. I know even now that you want me to go, to flee immediately to the 12 and tell them what I have seen and what I have heard.

But I can’t. I am not the one to speak. Why would anyone believe me, a woman? Why would anyone believe me, a person with my reputation and my illness – cured or not? The men will never believe me. They will ridicule me and humiliate me. Peter and John were here, they saw nothing. They will not believe that Jesus has appeared to me, and commissioned me to proclaim his resurrection. I am afraid. 

What am I going to do?

Dear Jesus, I look at your empty tomb and I know I cannot keep this secret to myself. You have come back to show us that you have conquered death and that you will never leave us again. This message is for everyone. I must tell someone. I must tell everyone. 

After the way you have suffered these last three days, whatever they do to me will be a small price to pay. And there will be others who will believe. They will see this empty tomb and remember all your promises and their grief too will turn to ecstasy.

I serve a Risen Savior! And if I am mad, it is a glorious madness. A madness that will last through all eternity. 

I go now, Jesus, to spread the news. I go…