She stood stunned, shoulders shaking, hands clasping the bottle of oils as tears rolled down her cheeks and soaked her dress. Grief left her staring in disbelief at the emptiness of the tomb she had been waiting for three days to go to.
He was gone.
His body, the one they broke had vanished, snatched away in the night as she was coming to honor Him. She longed simply to be near him one last time before the tomb would be closed for good.
That First Easter Morning…
The twentieth chapter of John opens like a theatrical work, creating a vividly heart-wrenching picture. The sorrow Mary expresses while standing at the gravesite of Jesus is nearly palpable in just a few short words.
She was most likely physically and emotionally exhausted from the last few days. I can only imagine the despair that was battling for her mind.
When I think of Mary Magdalene I sometimes wonder that many of her emotions must have been rather new and uncertain. What did a woman who had been possessed by devils have to battle with?
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark…”John 20:1
Not until I had labored through the trenches of anxiety and depression, did I begin to be in awe of Mary Magdalene and her journey on that first Easter morning.
I was fresh from the exhaustion of life over the past few months and began to simply read His word. Focusing your mind on anything while in the pit of depression is almost impossible. However, there came a day I found myself walking that early morning path with Mary, tears rolling down my face as she wept at her beloved savior’s grave.
I could see her, making her way through the dim light, oils in her hands and the crackle of rock under her feet. Her breath visible from the chill and the anticipation of arriving at the tomb propelling her forward.
As I’m sure He has done for countless others over the last 2,000 years, God whispered hope to me through the woman who once lived captive to demons.
Seven demons held Mary prisoner before she met Jesus. Few would even dare to try to envision the degree of torture she endured.
She was a person hopelessly lost and left for dead…
Until she met Him.
What did Mary Possibly feel?
Weeping as she reasoned, who will save her from those that would seek to destroy her now?
Who will keep them from coming back? A cold chill creeps up her back at the thought.
The memories seep in, threatening to strangle her as she stoops to gaze in at the empty tomb. Hope drains from her heart and out of her eyes, sobbing inconsolably at the prospect of walking this world without him.
The men that had come to see have long since returned home, back to before.
But not her.
She stood, unable to choke back the tears; there was no going back for her.
Humanity is held captive.
We wrestle daily with any number of captors. Though they may not be demons, we have demons of our own, don’t we?
I have loved Mary’s story and can read it time and again without it growing old. Maybe it’s because I can relate on a small level.
I know a little of what it feels like to be held captive. Obviously not to the extent that she did. But I do know that the very emotion God gives us can take us captive. I have lived for years in bondage, bowing down to fear. I know first hand how ugly it can be.
There is really no emotion in the world that I dislike more than fear. I have spent a lifetime battling it, coming to a place of understanding it and finally, learning how to live with it.
Fear can blind you.
Mary saw the empty tomb and ran back to tell the disciples, however, she still remained unbelieving.
The apostle John ran and entered the tomb and when he saw the grave-clothes folded, it simply states:
“…He saw and believed.” John 20:8
The disciples went home believing but Mary stayed weeping.
…She saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 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.” John 20:12-13
She loved Jesus fiercely and knew on a profound level just how much He was capable of and yet she wept.
When she said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus… John 20: 14
I believe her feelings and fear overrode the truth that was quite literally standing right in front of her.
How often do we miss the good right here because we are too occupied grieving at the empty tomb of what was?
We can become so burdened with the possibility of the “what if” that we forget to rejoice in the freedom we have been given.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she 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!” John 20: 15-16(partial)
He spoke and she still didn’t recognize Him! She was so bound by her sorrow that she didn’t recognize the One she came to see.
Her vision didn’t clear until He spoke one simple word.
It happened to be her name.
I still get choked up when I read Him speak her name. Something broke inside of me the first time I read that after going through my valley. I heard Jesus speaking truth in one word, not only to Mary but to me as well-
“I never left you, never once. You couldn’t see me working, but I was always there… with YOU personally.”
At that moment her entire perspective flipped.
She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “…go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”
The first messenger of the resurrected Jesus was not only a woman but a woman who had been demon possessed.
I think we can all agree this was no coincidence. What better person to proclaim what Jesus accomplished than a woman who had been held captive by demons and released by Jesus.
He Releases the Captives
May we never forget His power and authority in any circumstance through the memory of the empty tomb.
He is a chain breaker.
No. Matter. What.
“He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed…” Luke 4:18