Over 2000 years after the fact we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with colored eggs, mom buying a new dress and a wonderful lunch that includes an Easter Ham. Hey even our unchurched and half churched friends are usually willing to make an appearance at our worship service if invited (hint hint).
Yes, spring is in the air and Jesus isn’t dead. He is the risen savior, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the defeater of death, hell and the grave. We are the benefactors of that agonizing Friday and that glorious Sunday.
Yet we’ve heard the story so many times we barely flinch when the Roman soldiers and temple guards invade the garden where Jesus was praying. We’ve long since lost any outrage at the betrayal of Judas or indignation when the disciples flee and abandon their Lord. How about the horror of the trip to the whipping post where Jesus’ flesh was ripped off then his journey up the hill called “The Skull” to have the nails pounded into his hands and feet? Are we still moved at God’s sacrifice? I hope so! But of course we know the rest of the story, don’t we?
If you will for a moment impose a bit of amnesia on yourself. What if you stood in Jerusalem all those years ago and witnessed the brutal murder of a man you believed to be the son of God? His closest allies have hidden for fear they would be next. His big, bold right hand man, whom Jesus himself had renamed “Rock”, the brash Peter, had denied him, not once but three times in the last few hours and now he is nowhere to be found.
What insanity has grabbed the very people who received Jesus with a king’s welcome only a week earlier? Now instead of “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” the cry of “Crucify him!” is ringing in your ears.
This God in man form who had stood up to the religious leaders, commanded demons and raised the dead now has been beaten to the point that he’s not recognizable. What would you do? You’re helpless to change anything, should you run and hide as well?
Insert Mary Magdalene into this very scene. She had been the beneficiary of the love and mercy shown by the very one who was now headed for one of the most brutal deaths ever known to man. She was not a casual observer she had been delivered from seven demonic spirits through the ministry of Jesus. She had traveled with his company of disciples. In fact she was one of them and her actions over the course of those three days make her one of my Biblical heroes.
Reason 1: She Didn’t Hide
John 19:25…But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene…
While most of the boys were in hiding three women stood by Jesus until the end. His mother, his aunt and this female disciple named Mary Magdalene. It’s easy to understand a mom and even a close relative staying till the end but why her? Because Jesus had changed her life.
Mary had been the prisoner of the enemy and used as his plaything but then she had an encounter with Jesus. Her destiny was altered. The Bible doesn’t say but tradition holds that she may have been a prostitute, perhaps the very woman caught in adultery that Jesus had refused to stone.
Whatever her background Mary was in desperate need. Jesus answered that need as only God could, total deliverance! She wasn’t going to let the raging of religious people, the threat of punishment or the absence of the male disciples shake her devotion to the one who had changed everything.
Reason 2: Her Faith Was Stronger Than Death
We sometimes get the idea that Jesus only traveled around with 12 guys but Luke 10:1 states that after Jesus appointed the 12 he commissioned 70 others to do the work of ministry. In Luke 8 we are told that “many” women traveled with Jesus and supported the ministry financially, Mary Magdalene being one of them (Luke 8:1-3).
Mary had been around when Jesus was teaching the crowds and when he was speaking to the “staff”. She had heard him prophesy, “that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:1).
So on Sunday after the crucifixion…
John 20:1: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb…
If she didn’t have any anticipation for an outcome other than a dead guy in a tomb would she really have, “come early”? However she was so excited that she ran back to the disciples hide out and told Peter and John who after seeing the empty tomb “believed” but went home. Mary, true to form, stayed to find out was he really alive already or did someone move the body?
Now comes my favorite part of the resurrection story. It is such a beautiful picture of how God responds to his people.
Reason 3: Mary’s Passion for Her Lord Stops Jesus in His Tracks
Mary encounters the risen Jesus and what he says to her blows me away…
John 19:16-17: Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…
What? He hadn’t ascended to the Father yet! Why would he stop in the process of the most important event in all of human history? He stopped to let his passionate disciple know everything was just as it should be. He had kept his word to rise again and he was headed to the altar of Heaven to finish the sacrifice.
John 19:17: “…go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ “
He was ascending yet he took a detour because he loves his people. He loves you and me that same way. So let’s be like Mary, not just this Easter but always.
She didn’t hide her love for the one who had changed her life. She didn’t let circumstances move her faith. She proved for us all that our God is never too busy to respond to his people.
Easter is only two weeks away. Invite someone to come and experience the power of our resurrected Savior.