By Jackina Stark
John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus includes a tender story about Mary Magdalene that can take your breath away (John 20:1-18):
The sun surely is rising—how perfectly symbolic—as Mary approaches the tomb with spices and perfume to anoint Jesus’ body. She is surprised and confused to find the “stone had been removed from the entrance.” Her heart beating furiously, she makes her way to the opening and looks in and is horrified to find the tomb empty. What travesty has taken place now? she wonders. As she runs to find Peter and John, she surmises what has happened: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”
She races back to the tomb with the two disciples. Peter rushes into the tomb and finds “the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth” that is folded up separate from the linen. What is this?
The men return home, but Mary remains standing outside the tomb crying. When she looks into the tomb again, she sees two angels in white who ask her why she is crying. “They have taken my Lord away,” she says once again, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Something causes her turn around and she sees Jesus standing there, but for whatever reason, she doesn’t recognize him. She thinks he’s the gardener.
He asks her the same question, “Why are you crying?” But he adds another question she will likely remember all her life: “Who is it you are looking for?”
Mary Magdalene has had a very frustrating and heartbreaking morning. “Sir, she says, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus’ one-word reply to her is special—but is it whispered? Does it convey his great affection? Is it spoken with immeasurable joy? The Bible does not say. We know only what he says.
A smile surely graces her tear-stained face.
“Teacher!” she exclaims.
Mary’s day has taken a remarkable turn. She returns to the disciples with incredibly good news: “I have seen the Lord!”
As we gather around the table to partake in Communion, we remember the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, but we also remember he is risen! Look for him. Hear the joy in his voice as he calls you by name. Know he is here and with you always.
Jackina Stark is a retired Ozark Christian College English professor who lives in Branson, Missouri.
The image of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene is from an 1835 oil on canvas painting by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.