the group of women made their way along the deserted road,
Mary Magdalene’s mind went back to her life before she had
met Jesus. She had grown up in Magdale, a small
village on the southwest coast of the Sea of Galilee.
Her life had been much like that of any other Jewish girl,
until one fateful day while she was working in her father’s
shop. Without warning, she had felt an alien presence
enter her mind. Something dark and evil had wormed its
way into her brain. Shrill voices had begun screaming
inside her head. She had attempted to call out to her
father, but she could not. She had tried to reach out
to him for help, but the demons had taken control of her
limbs. She had gone crazy, tearing precious fabrics
and throwing fragile pottery to the ground. Finally
she had fallen, screaming and writhing, to the floor.
[In the following decades, the demons continued to harm
her.] . . . Then, one day—glorious day!—she had heard
a voice, a voice calling her name: “Mary . . .Mary.”
She would never forget how He had spoken her name.
. . . A mind-numbing screech had filled her head, and
then—as suddenly as they had come—the demons were gone! She
That day she had learned that her Deliverer’s name was
Jesus, and that day she had decided to devote the rest of
her life to Him. She never saw him as a husband but as
a kindly uncle. She had found other women who had been
healed by Him, and they had ministered to Jesus and His
disciples while they were in Galilee. “Now it came to
pass, afterward, that He went through every city and
village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the
kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and
certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and
infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come
seven demons, and Joanna the wife if Chuza, Herod's steward,
and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their
substance” (Luke 8:1-3). When the Teacher had come to
Jerusalem, they “had followed Jesus” to help however they
could (Matthew 27:55). Now, they walked to a distant tomb to
serve Him one last time—by giving His body a proper burial.
For the interment, they carried “spices and perfumes. . . .
which they had prepared” (Luke 23:56; 24:1). When they
came upon a merchant opening his shop, they “bought [still
more] spices, that they might come and anoint Him” (Mark
16:1). As it began to “dawn toward the first day of
the week” (Matthew 28:1), Mary set a faster pace. In
the distance, she could see the place of execution.
The tomb was not far from that spot. . . . A sword had also
pierced Mary Magdalene’s soul as she had watched Jesus die.
She had been aware of His every labored breath, every spasm
of pain, and every precious drop of blood shed. She
had longed to hear Him speak her name once more. At
noon, an eerie blackness had come over the land. Most
at the cross had left, but Mary Magdalene and one
other—Mary, the mother of James and Joseph—had stayed,
huddled together like children in the darkness. After
three hours, the sky had cleared. She had heard Jesus cry,
“It is finished!” (John 19:30); then, a little later,
“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
His head had slumped, and she had known He was dead.
As she remembered that moment, her vision became blurred.
She brushed at her eyes and urged the other women: “Hurry!
We are almost there.”
Mary had been concerned about what would happen to His body.
No calamity that could befall a Jew was worse than improper
burial. The Romans normally did not allow an honorable
burial of the bodies of those executed by crucifixion.
Rather, they carried the bodies away and dumped them in some
unknown ditch to be eaten by dogs or vultures. Family
members could ask the governor for the body, but the request
was seldom granted. She had wondered what would become
of the body of Jesus. While she was pondering, an
important-looking man had arrived. “That’s Joseph of
Arimathea,” someone had whispered, “a member of the
Sanhedrin and one of the richest men in Jerusalem!”
The man had spoken to the officer in charge, and then had
pointed to the body of Jesus. “After this, Joseph of
Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear
of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body
of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came
and took the body of Jesus” (John 19:38). The soldiers
had lowered the cross to the ground. As the nails were
being pulled out, another distinguished-looking man had
arrived, followed by servants bringing a litter to carry the
body. “That’s Nicodemus,” an amazed bystander had
informed Mary. “He’s also a member of the Council!”
“And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by
night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a
hundred pounds weight” (John 19:39). As Mary had
watched, the two men had picked up the body of Jesus with
their own hands and had gently laid it on the litter.
Mary had been startled because, according to the Law, when
Joseph and Nicodemus touched His body, they defiled
themselves for a week—during the most important religious
celebration of the year!
The sun had been near the horizon when Joseph and Nicodemus
“took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings
with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John
19:40). They had first put a thick layer of spices under
Jesus’ body. Then they had spread spices on eight-foot
strips of linen cloth and wound the strips around the body.
The fragrance of the sweet-smelling gum called myrrh and the
powdered aromatic wood of aloes had drifted to where the two
Marys stood. As Mary Magdalene had watched, words from
the prophet Isaiah had come to her mind, words she had heard
in the synagogue: “And they made His grave with the
wicked—but with a rich man at His death because He had done
no violence nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).
Joseph and Nicodemus had done the best they could in the
time they had, but Mary Magdalene had cringed at the men’s
awkwardness. “We must return and do the job right,”
she had whispered to her companion, and the other woman had
nodded. Finally, when the evening star appeared,
Joseph and Nicodemus laid a handkerchief across the face of
Jesus and had come out of the tomb. “Joseph . . .
rolled a stone against the entrance” and wedged it in place
(Mark 15:46). The two men stood for a moment in
silence; then they “went away” (Mt. 27:60).
Later, as the women drew near, Salome asked Mary, “Who will
roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
(Mark 16:3; emphasis mine). Don’t worry,” she
answered. “We’ll get the stone moved.” Actually,
she had a greater concern: she was afraid that the body
might be gone—that Joseph might have moved it, or that
Jesus’ enemies might have stolen it to profane His memory,
or even that the tomb might have been invaded by grave
robbers. There were men in Palestine whose ghoulish
business was robbing tombs. When the women finally
reached the garden, Mary Magdalene’s worst fears were
realized, for she “saw the stone already taken away from the
tomb” (John 20:1)! If she had looked more closely, she
would have seen sealing clay on each side of the tomb with
bits of frayed cord embedded in the clay. She would
have seen signs that Roman soldiers had been there.
However, she saw only the open grave. “Stay here for
awhile,” she said to the other women, and she lifted her
robes and sped off to find Peter and John. “Then she
ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom
Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the
Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have
laid Him’” (John 20:2). Peter was horrified. “We must
go to the tomb at once!” he said. “You two go on,”
said Mary, panting. “I’ll follow as soon as I can
catch my breath.”
Peter and John headed north, racing through the crowds of
pilgrims, who were now pouring into the city for the feast.
Those they passed gave them puzzled looks. “So they both ran
together; and the other disciple outran Peter and came to
the tomb first” (John 20:4). As soon as Mary Magdalene
recovered, she started after them. When at last she
reached the garden, it was quiet. She had expected the
excited voices of the women and the deeper voices of Peter
and John, but there was only silence. The tomb was
still open, but no one was in sight. She was suddenly
very tired. She had eaten little and slept less since
Friday. She not only mourned Jesus’ death; she also
mourned her helplessness. She could not save Him from
death; now she could not even grieve over His body.
Frustration and fatigue washed over her—and tears began to
flow. “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and
as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb”
(John 20:11). . . . Her eyes were fixed on two men in
the tomb—two men clothed all “in white sitting, one at the
head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been
lying” (v. 12). The men spoke to Mary gently: “Woman,
why are you weeping?” (v. 13a). The men were heavenly
messengers, but that fact did not register with Mary.
She was obsessed with a single thought: she must find the
body of Jesus. She replied, “Because they have taken
away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him”
(v. 13b). As she spoke, she had a compelling urge to
turn. Did she hear another sound? Did the men in
the tomb shift their gaze from her to someone behind her?
Did she simply become aware of another Presence? She
was never sure why, but she turned—and standing in the
garden, in the swirling mists of early morning, was a Man.
The Man asked the same question asked by those in the tomb:
“Woman, why are you weeping?”(v. 15a). Then He added:
“Whom are you seeking?” (v. 15b). Emotion stirred
within her as He spoke, but she thought it was her only
hope. Maybe this Man could help her find the body of
the One she loved more than life itself. She turned
around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know
that it was Him. “She, 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'” (John
20:14-15). She really did not know how she would move
the corpse, but she was determined to find the dead Rabbi.
Later, she would marvel that she had not known immediately
who had spoken to her. Perhaps she had not looked at
Him closely. Perhaps her eyes had been blinded by
tears. Perhaps He had been standing with His back to
the morning sun. Perhaps her attention had been so
fastened on the tomb that she was unable to see the One who
had left it forever. Or, perhaps Jesus Himself had
prevented her from recognizing Him at once, to sort of
lessen the shock.
Whatever the reason, she did not know Him; the Man, however,
did not leave her long in doubt as to who He was. “Jesus
said to her, ‘Mary!’” (John 20:16). A thrill ran
through her when she heard her name spoken as only Jesus
could speak it. She turned and looked into His
eyes—and she knew. “Rabboni” she exclaimed (Rabboni is
a Hebrew for “my Teacher”)! She fell at His feet.
When Jesus tried to raise Mary to her feet, she clung
tenaciously to Him. Gently, He loosened her fingers.
“Stop clinging to Me,” He said (v.17a). A smile took
any sting out of the words. He gently brushed a bit of
ash from her face, and added, “For I have not yet ascended
to the Father” (v. 17b). She was not sure what He
meant, but she was certain of this: her Teacher was alive!
She wanted to rush through the streets, shouting, “Jesus did
not stay in the tomb. He has arisen from the dead!”
However, Jesus, had a more pressing task for her. “Go to My
brethren,” He said (John 20:17), and He told her what to say
When the frightened disciples unlocked the door for her, she
could see that they had been “mourning and weeping” (Mark
16:10). She thought about asking them, as she had been
asked: “Why are you weeping?” (John 20:13, 15). Jesus
was alive! It was a time for rejoicing, not crying!
Her face radiant, she exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord”
(John 20:18), but they stared at her as if she were crazy.
She shared His message for them, “I ascend to My Father and
your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).
They looked at each other, shaking their heads. “And
these words appeared to them as nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
When Mary left the disciples, she smiled. Wouldn’t
they feel foolish when they discovered that she had told
them the truth? She smiled again as she thought how
their despair would vanish as hers had when Jesus had spoken
her name. His voice still echoed in her mind: “Mary. .
. Mary.” She threw her arms wide and laughed.
“Who shall I tell next?” she wondered aloud. “I know!” she
exclaimed, and she set off down the street.
When another preacher wrote of Jesus’ appearance to Mary
Magdalene, he said: “Mary had come prepared to weep—Now she
could worship. She had come expecting to see Him lying
in the tomb—She had found Him walking in the newness of
resurrected life” (Marshall). No one expected Jesus to
be raised, not even Mary Magdalene. She and the other
disciples were skeptics—but something happened, something so
earthshaking that it changed Mary and the rest into dynamic
proclaimers of the resurrection, ready to die for their
faith. That transformation can only be explained by
acknowledging the truthfulness of the biblical account: “Now
when He arose early on the first day of the week, He
appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast
seven demons” (Mark 16:9). And then . . . He appeared
to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared
to more than five hundred brethren at one time. . . ; then
He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of
all, . . . He appeared to [Paul] (1 Corinthians 15:5–8).
The resurrection can change your life, as it changed the
life of Mary Magdalene. The risen Lord can turn your
grief into gladness, your despair into delight, your
frustration into faith. It happened to Mary Magdalene
in a garden long ago; it can happen to you now. Do you
believe that Jesus died for your sins, that He was buried,
and that He came back to life again? Then, show your
faith by re-enacting His death, burial, and resurrection in
the waters of baptism. “Or do you not know that as
many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized
into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him
through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also
should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). After
you have been baptized, you will want to devote the rest of
your life to telling others about the One who gave His life
for you, who always lives to mediate before God on your
behalf—the One who also has promised to raise you from the
dead too at the last day! When Jesus comes again, you
can be as joyful as Mary was when she knew Jesus was alive!
Jesus is alive right now and invites you to become His
disciple and a new citizen in His eternal kingdom.
Just as Jesus knew Mary's name, He knows your name and your
heart as well!