She had not slept, really.
O there were periods of unconsciousness, of fitful, restless nothingness, but no real sleep. It was still dark as she looked in on the Lord’s mother. This Mary from Magdala would have to awaken the Mary from Nazareth. They had to go to the tomb.
As she gently shook Mary’s shoulder, the older woman’s deep breathing shallowed into a sigh. She turned and smiled at the younger woman. Mother Mary’s eyes were as red as any in this company of care-givers. They had fed Jesus, clothed Him, boarded Him, listened to Him and loved Him through His amazing life, and amazingly, through an agonizing death. They had clothed Him one final time in the linen of the grave.
Without speaking they prepared for their journey. Mary Magdalene’s thoughts raced through her tired brain. Random words of scripture confronted her. Since she was a little girl, like all the girls in Magdala, Mary had prayed the Psalms, memorizing them. Throughout her life, at the oddest times, words from the Psalms would suddenly spring to the front of her mind. For a woman who had fallen into a life of sin, these sudden bursts of scripture were a nuisance. But since Jesus delivered her, she welcomed them.
This morning it was this:
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; My body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.
She would not let herself think of Jesus, still and cold, in that dark stone tomb. The words continued to assault her.
“You will not abandon me to the grave.”
She knew something of the grave. She had lived her own living death, like a tomb guarded by seven demons. They forced her, controlled her, used her. She remembered when Jesus found her. When she heard the voice of Jesus, quiet and clear, slicing through the hellish din of her seven tormentors, they screamed in agony at His presence but were powerless before Him. At his calm command they fled Mary’s soul. As light seeped into her darkness, she saw Jesus’ face for the first time. Her empty soul flooded with one question:
What would this strong man demand of her?
In His face she saw no reason to fear. She emerged from her private tomb into a world of peace and light, of rest and security. It was all in His face! He would not force her. He would never use her. His Lordship over her would be a reign of peace, not terror, of disciplined joy, not shackles and bruises and broken promises.
Now He was in His own tomb. Her memories shrank into the reality she had to face. The voice inside spoke again.
“…nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.”
In the darkness of her soul, her thoughts began to break down. It was all an illusion, the foolish dreams of foolish women who had believed the words of a man. As long as Jesus was in that tomb, Mary’s sins were still in her soul. The emptiness of the tomb-life was nothing compared to the emptiness she felt at the foot of the cross.
“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Silently, shrouded in black against the pale dawn sky, the women arrived at the tomb. The earth began to shake. An angel in shining raiment appeared and rolled the heavy stone away. Each feminine heart stopped as each woman ceased to breathe—a brief moment of death for each of them.
“Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come see the place where He lay.”
Their hearts started beating again as they resumed breathing, a brief moment of resurrection for each of them. The angel told them to go and tell the men.
As they went, Jesus met them. He even called Mary of Magdala by name. She fell at his feet as Jesus swept away the darkness of her soul. It was not all a foolish dream.
“Do not cling to me, Mary. But go and tell the others.”
She obeyed. But she would always cling to Him, in prayer as she found Him in the ancient psalms, and in life as His presence was with her always. There were no broken promises from this man!
Mark 16: 10; 1-9
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away — for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord,* and that He had spoken these things to her.
Lord Jesus, let this day have a touch of “Resurrection Day” in it. I will cling to You as Mary Magdalene did. You are my hope, my strength, my victory, my cause for rejoicing. May I never forget all that You have done for me and may I always remember Your unfailing promises to me. Let me live today like it is Easter morn! Amen and Amen.
Words and Music: Robert Lowry
1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved