Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:18
With these words, Mary Magdalene became the first missionary! Think about it, the first missionary was not a person with some special religious education, she was not part of the leadership who shaped opinion or direction, she was not known for any personal expertise or talent… on the contrary, some (albeit much later in history) began to make accusations against her moral credibility… but the point is, at the most important moment in human history, when God proved to the world that a promise God makes, is a promise kept, when Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus calls out to this Mary. It isn’t a coincidence that Jesus called out to Mary. Mary has traveled with Jesus all through Palestine from Galilee to Jerusalem, she has heard Jesus teach, she has seen Jesus heal, and she has seen Jesus suffer. She was one of the few that went to the cross and saw Jesus suffer and die (John 19:25). She witnessed the ultimate punishment meted out to the sinless one… can you imagine the pain and helplessness she might have felt standing beneath the cross, surrounded by soldiers who could care less about who was on the cross, and this kind of cruel execution had just become part of their job? What could restore her heart and mind after an experience like this? What could she be expecting to find in coming to Jesus’ tomb after such an experience like this? She heard Jesus preach about resurrection and healing, but after seeing Jesus suffer, how could she possibly believe that Jesus would actually come to life again? If “seeing is believing,” what could she possibly be thinking after seeing Jesus suffer and die?
But something did beckon her to go to the tomb, was it her own hopefulness, her own faith, or just that after seeing Jesus suffer and die, she thought there was nothing else to do, but to get as close to Jesus as possible, even if he was dead?
Like Jesus dying on the cross, after seeing Jesus suffer and die, something in Mary had also died on that Friday… It would take Jesus, and only a living Jesus; to lift her out of the death she too had experienced. And Jesus did appear, this Jesus with nail and spear scars painfully visibly fresh, called her name, and she was alive again. She was so much alive that she could not keep the news about meeting a living Jesus to herself, and she went off to tell the other disciples.
There are so many people in our community who touch our lives everyday who have lost hope, or been dashed to the ground through their own “cross experiences.” But even though we may be blinded from the pain or hardship, Jesus has never left us. In fact, like the Good Shepherd, it is at these very times, Jesus comes to us and calls out our names, just like when Jesus called out to Mary.
We are preparing for Easter this month, but before we get to that wonderful day, we will have to pass through Good Friday. We will witness the cross and hear about the suffering and dying of Jesus. We will be forced recall our own suffering, fears and doubts; but the Good News is that no matter what we experience, God is faithful, and Jesus is alive, and this same Jesus who called to Mary, is with you, calling you, strengthening you, and offering you God’s peace.
Christmas may be about Jesus’ birthday, but Easter is about the promise of our re-birth. I look forward to celebrating with you, the conquering of sin and death, and the victory of joy, hope, peace and love!
May God continue to bless us and strengthen us as a Family of Christ during this Holy Season.