Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Preface: Not only did Jesus deliver Mary Magdalene from her mental illness and cruel isolation when he first met her, he also responded to her tears as she frantically looked for his body after he had risen from the grave. You could say there must be other more important reasons why the first person Jesus appeared to was Mary. But is it possible our tender-hearted Savior felt it was important enough to take a few minutes to comfort the grief-stricken, weeping Mary before he showed himself to the disciples or even ascended into heaven? While most of his friends fled, Mary remained devoutly supportive of Jesus throughout the heart-wrenching crucifixion process, even to the point of being deeply concerned about what would happen to his body afterwards. It is easy for me to see why Jesus might have been moved to respond to her devotion and wanted to wipe away her tears. Jesus is affected by our tears. And one day, when all is said and done, he will wipe away every tear from every eye and there will be no more crying.
Mary Magdalene tells her story:
"I probably have more reasons than anyone to respond with fierce loyalty to our Lord. He lifted me out of despicable conditions, conditions so desperate they are hard to describe. I lived in terrifying darkness, plagued with despair and depression. Often I didn't know who I was, where I was--I had lost complete control over my life. I had brought shame and embarrassment to my family.
"In our culture, those suffering from madness are treated with disdain, viewed as a freak of nature and banished to the edge of town or the city dump. People would move aside and look disgusted or scared if I came near them. I became accustomed to the degrading name-calling and finger-pointing, believing it was all I deserved.
"But one glorious day, a man named Jesus saw me and took pity. He walked right over to me, not at all put off by my wretchedness. As he approached me, I backed away terrified, stumbling to the ground. I didn't know what he was going to do. I was so used to mistreatment. But he knelt down and spoke calmly to me. He smoothed my dirty hair off my face with his rough carpenter hands. I had no memory of the last time anyone had shown me any compassion. Then, in one split second, he healed my mind and filled my heart and soul with light and wonder and blessed peace!
"So it shouldn't be difficult to understand why I began to follow him everywhere. I supported him financially out of my own means. I became a part of his traveling team, sharing countless miles and meals. I knew him so well. I knew what made him smile, what made him exasperated, what made his heart heavy.
"And at the end of his life, no matter how frightening or gruesome things got, I could not leave him. I was there when they nailed him to the cross. I was there when he cried out 'It is finished!' and breathed his last breath. I watched as Joseph of Arimathea carefully took him down from the cross and followed as they carried him to the tomb. Only then did I go home, determined to come back and properly prepare his body for burial.
"While it was still dark, I returned to his grave site with a few other women. A violent earthquake frightened us out of our wits, but did not deter us as we made our way to the garden where his tomb was located. When we got there, I was astonished to find it empty. The soldiers that had been positioned to guard his body lay dead on the ground. It angered me that anyone would steal his body after all that had already been done to him. We ran to get help. Peter and John rushed back with us, saw the empty tomb and then left, confused. None of us understood that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
"I began to sob uncontrollably. I looked into the tomb one more time and was startled by an angel whose appearance was like a stream of lightening. He was so bright. Bewildered, I turned around when someone standing behind me said, "Why are you weeping?" I was still blinded by the light of the angel and my eyes were swollen and flooded with tears, so I didn't recognize who it was at first. But when he spoke my name, I knew it was Jesus! I fell at his feet and hung onto him with all my might. We were laughing and crying at the same time. My master was alive!
"Jesus finally had to tell me to let go because he hadn't yet ascended to his Father. He had delayed his ascent to heaven so he could comfort a weeping woman--amazing, yet so typical of my Lord.
"The sun popped up over the horizon and cast a brilliant glow over everything. What a contrast to the darkness of the last few days. I don't think my feet ever touched the ground as I ran to tell everyone the good news! Jesus had come back to life. I had seen the risen Lord!"
John 19:25; 38-42; 20:1-18
(c) Joyce Catherwood 2011